Oil Portraiture - A Study In Patience

Being a largely self-taught artist means a lot of trial and error before you master a medium. Which is why it's perfectly natural that I went from cartooning and line drawing to cross-hatched illustration to the more advanced, photorealistic pencil work I've been specializing in for the last 3 years or so.

Recently, as my previous posts attest, I've been looking to break away from the series of strict pencil sketches and portraits I'd been doing to explore other styles and mediums. That is why, when asked a week before Christmas to do an oil portrait as a Christmas gift, I said yes. Never mind the fact that I wouldn't have much time to do it or that I haven't worked seriously in oils since high school (over 10 years ago).

But, hey, I figured what better way to teach myself than with a deadline hanging over my head?Add to that the pressure that, not only was this a paid commission, but would also be a Christmas gift for somebody, and I was going to learn or else.

What followed was days of torture at the easel; wrestling with color mixtures and paint consistency, becoming frustrated that the paint was either too wet or too dry to add and blend new layers, sleepless nights squeezed into a busy holiday schedule, and the general frustration that comes with working from a 1 1/2 inch high head in a photo to create an 11"x14" portrait.

Here's the photo documentation of the many (too many) layers of paint I used to create this gift. I'm proud of the end result and think I did a pretty good job. Especially considering I did it with little experience in the medium and during a very busy and hectic week. Ultimately, it was a great learning experience, and I'm looking forward to jumping into my next project. With everything I learned from this one, the next should come much easier, and, therefore, be much more enjoyable to create.

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