Tips for Portrait Artists

Tips for Portrait Artists

In the time-lapse video below, watch as Mario completes a portrait from start to finish. (NOTE: holding the pencil toward the back as he does, allows Mario to use expressive cross hatching and other mark-making techniques that are more difficult to achieve when tightening up your grip near the pencil’s point).

These quick tips from Mario Robinson are key components to drawing realistic portraits:

1. Know your models. Painting friends and family members can save you money and time. Plus, your intimacy and familiarity with your subjects will shine through in your work.

2. Limit your social networking and marketing to set periods of time. Waiting for someone to comment on the latest painting you posted online is like watching water boil. It won’t help your artwork.

3. It’s all about momentum. There’s no silver bullet for launching a successful career, but no matter what, you have to keep working. It may happen for you 10 years from now or it may happen tomorrow.

Lighting is very important to see shapes. It’s preferable to use a single light source or natural light. Good lighting means you can see a wide range of tonal variations on the portrait. This is easier to see in a black and white version of your picture. Ideally, you will have many different tones of gray ranging from white to black.
My advice is to not use a flash, as it tends to flatten all the shapes. A simple, uncluttered background will help to see the face more clearly. And it’s always a good idea to use the white balance setting on your camera to take into account the color temperature of your light source.

4. Don’t try to do everything yourself. If you can shop certain aspects of your career out, such as the framing of your work, do it to save yourself more time for painting.

5. Set yourself apart. It’s a very competitive field and a retail-based market. Lock into your mission and passion and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.

Capturing Expression in Portraits

In addition to the vital drawing techniques outlined above, beginners and advanced artists alike must know how to tell the story behind the face when drawing a lifelike portrait.

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