So you are determined to reach your goal to be a portrait artist, then this article is for you. It’s a sort of basic advice that might help you in starting your art journey. If you are not an artist, you can also gain insights from these and apply the same principles to the endeavor of your choice.
Just like me and other artists out there, you dream of becoming an expert in your chosen art field. Just as a landscape painter works hard to produce a striking, awesome work of art that captures the nature’s beauty on a canvas, in the same way a portrait artist must work hard to learn new techniques and strive more to gain additional knowledge and develop skills to be able to put his or her subject on the canvas “alive”.
I am not yet in the level of being an expert in portrait painting but I have advices I can share with beginners like me which I believe is crucial for an artist to be able to reach his goal.
1. Be Inspired to paint. Inspiration fuels an artist and keeps him going. It may be your dream to be known, your need to earn money, your desire to please your subject, your hope to win an art competition, your love for art or whatever it is that inspires you, inspiration is an energy that gives zeal to an artist to work hard and produce an art piece. So think of that primary reason why you wanted to paint and let it motivate you.
2. Ask God’s guidance. Before you start, pray and ask God to enable you to have keen and deeper perception of your subject’s unique personality. Unlike other object of painting, a portrait requires the artist’s keen eyes to define specific details to ensure the likeness of your subject. You can paint a landscape or still life from a photograph and it will still look amazing though it is not exactly the same as the original photo you copied but for a portrait, it has to look like the subject and you have to capture the subject’s personality on your working surface or canvas. But we cannot just rely on our own ability, we need guidance from the Great Giver of abilities. That’s what I do before I start working on any portrait. I acknowledge that I cannot make it unless God help me, so it is from Him and He deserves all the glory whenever we have finish a portrait successfully.
3. Be teachable. We all need advice and comments from others. Do not be discouraged for any negative comment you might hear about your finished work. Instead take it constructively and learn from it. Truth hurts but we need to know where we lack and what we need to improve on. Sometimes we cannot see our own flaws and we need to hear it from others. Set aside being emotional but take negative comments as a ladder to climb up higher.
- Be persistent. As a beginner, it is indeed hard. You may experience numerous mistakes and unsatisfactory artwork but do not give up. Even those well known, excellent portrait artists experienced failures while they were in the learning stage of their portrait painting career. Persistence is a value that we need to possess to succeed in any chosen endeavor.
5. Do not stop acquiring knowledge. Continue learning. I thank God for the technology, we have advantages nowadays than the great painters of past generations because we can easily access all the informations we need just by the tip of our fingers. We can quickly get answers to any questions we have by just typing the words in Google search or other online search engines. You don’t have any excuse from not acquiring additional knowledge. Tutorials, instructions, tips, advices are available, take advantage of these treasures online. You can also learn by observing other artist’s work, and their methods.
6. Believe in your own ability. There’s nothing wrong to admire portrait artists that really excels in their artworks. Actually I admire a lot of them, especially those who can paint realistic portraits, they inspires me and I want to emulate them. Be motivated by their inspiring stories, their humble beginnings. As a beginner, do not expect your works to be instantly like theirs. Do not despise your own ability because what you have now, when properly nurtured and developed would probably result into a beautiful master piece, a marvelous work of art in the future. Every artist have unique method of creating arts, so appreciate yours. Say to yourself “if they can do it, why can’t I!”
The above points are purposedly written for encouragement because I know many talented people out there who have kept their abilities in a box for long time because of discouragement. As the saying goes “It is always never too late to do the right thing.” Revive that sleeping golden hands of yours and use it to bring blessings to many.
From experimenting through mixing of paint colours by subtle mixes, scumbling and glazing I eventually learn few techniques that I applied to my recent portraits. Still, I have farther way to go. I need to improve my portrait backgrounding, the dark and light effects, tones and values but I am happy with my improvement. Not so striking though but I am inspired to continue working on because I can see the possibility of growth. I believe that the points I have enumerated above can help me develop my portrait skills and lead me in achieving classical looking portraits in the future. Below are photos of my portraits arranged chronologically from the first time I tried portrait-painting to the ones I’ve just recently finished.
To the beginner who is reading this article, you and I have just started this journey but we have the potentials. Every morning given by God is an opportunity. Don’t stop there, the future holds promises if you believe. Believe in what God can do to help you grow, believe in His given talent and work hard to achieve your goal.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”
James 1:17 NKJV