Archive For: Portraits – Adults

My Van Gogh

Oil on Canvas Panel

I read somewhere that in his earlier years, Vincent Van Gogh vowed to never be photographed again – that he would only paint self portraits. I have no idea if that’s true, but it sounds like something he would do. I recently stumbled upon this WAY cool “photo” that Lithuanian photographer Tadao Cern somehow electronically morphed from one of Vincent’s famous self portraits. How amazingly cool is this?!

van gogh tadao cern 1 My Van Gogh

I thought it would be cool to paint my own Van Gogh from this “photo”. Although (like most of us) I do somewhat remember the original self portrait, I didn’t refer to it before beginning because I wanted to pretend I was painting him from life – then compare mine to his.

So this is my Van Gogh…

Van Gogh My Van Gogh

And here is Van Gogh’s Van Gogh…

van gogh tadao cern 2 My Van Gogh

Of course, there’s no comparison, but this was such a fun experiment, and I think I’ll be framing this one for my own wall.

Thanks for stopping by!

Pastel Portrait Painting Tips

I’m regularly researching how to make my portraits a good as they can be, and I’m often finding the same ol’ advice. But I just stumbled on this fantastic set of tips from artist Dan Slapo on the Pastel Journal Blog, some of which even I haven’t heard or thought of..

Pastel Portrait PaintingTips | Dan Slapo

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Slapo Painting Pastel Portrait Painting Tips

Study (pastel) by Dan Slapo

Getting Started 

- Use a life-size or larger reference photo, if at all possible. A reference smaller than 2 inches makes it difficult to get the correct proportions.
- Avoid using a flash on your camera when taking a portrait reference photo. The flash eliminates all shadows on the front of the face and cancels out the shadows and mid-tones.

Principles of Drawing

- Learn the principles and techniques of drawing. You can’t create a good portrait if the proportions are incorrect.
-Use vertical and horizontal plumb lines to place the features correctly in relation to one another.
- Use the correct angle of a line. If your angle is incorrect, the distance of a line will change and negatively impact proportions.
- Avoid drawing a pastel preliminary sketch with graphite, because pastel won’t cover graphite. Instead, draw with a pastel pencil or stick with a value that’s darker than the paper on which you’re drawing.


- Place a subject off center to provide more visual interest.
- Avoid allowing the crown of the head to touch the top of the paper. It makes it look like a ceiling is resting atop the head. There should be a space above the top of the head that’s the same height as the forehead.
- Divide the face in half vertically. The half that turns away from the viewer gets narrower.
- Refrain from assuming that both sides of the face are perfectly proportioned.
- Measure the distances between facial features in relation to the center line.
- Work from big shapes and planes first and then add the features.

Drawing Eyes 

- Compare the width of the “wings” of the nose with the width of an eye, including tear ducts, when measuring.
- Compare the outside corner of the eyes with the inside corners. Usually, the outside corner is higher.
- Note that the top and bottom of the iris is slightly covered by the eyelids. This is because the pupil is closer to the top eyelid than to the bottom eyelid.
- Avoid making the value of the iris lighter than the mid-tone average. The highlight on the eye should be half in the pupil and half in the iris—and placed on the same side from which the light source emanates.
- Avoid painting the whites of the eyeballs pure white. Use values that give the whites three dimensions.
- Note that eyelashes are curved in the direction of the sides of the eyes. They’re never vertical or horizontal.


- Paint the background early so you can relate the values of the face to it. You can use the value of the paper surface as a reference.
- Avoid painting the background all the same value and color. Mix some colors, but don’t make the background too exciting because it will detract  from the portrait. When painting the background, the light side of the head should have a darker value behind it, and the dark side of the head should have a lighter value behind it.
- Ensure that the background color touches the hair and face shapes.
- Turn the portrait upside-down when painting the area over the head so that the pastel dust doesn’t fall over the face.

Shadows, Highlights and Details 

- Avoid making shadows too dark on women and children, as it ages them. – Paint what you see. If you can’t see the details, don’t add them.
- Note that reflected light can only be seen in dark areas. It’s always lighter than the value of the shadows on the face.
- Keep in mind that highlights on metal, jewelry, etc., can only be seen if the supported color underneath is dark enough.
- Avoid adding too many details in the ears. You want the viewer’s attention drawn to the face, not the ears.

Self Portrait #1

Pastel on paper

Self portrait 1 copy Self Portrait #1
Just playing around one night with my new pastel pencils. I started this one in all red. It actually looked pretty cool without adding other colors. So cool that I contemplated for several days just stopping there! But I just couldn’t resist the overwhelming urge to carve out the shadows with tons of black. So there you go. I like my self portraits to be somewhat dark and mysterious, although I couldn’t be further from that in real life!

A few detail shots:

Self portrait 1 Detail 1 copy 300x233 Self Portrait #1 Self portrait 1 Detail 2 copy 300x144 Self Portrait #1

No Necklace

Oil pastel on paper

Pastel Portrait No Need No Necklace

This 9×12″ oil pastel painting is on blue Canson paper. That paper is two sided, with one side textured and one smooth. I hate using the textured side, but I often forget to check the tooth before starting the initial sketch. By the time I’ve started with the colors and realize I’m on the wrong side, I usually just say a curse word or two and stick with it. This is one of those times I’m glad it happened. It was a “b” to fill all of those blasted holes, and it ate up much of my expensive Sennelier pastels, but the final effect is worth it, I’d say. Here’s to the best laid plans. Cheers!