Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf? a blog about portrait painting

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Many of my clients will ask me on our first meeting, “Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?” And I say, “That’s not the question.”

Let’s face it. There are so many things that can go wrong with a portrait: unforseen technical issues, client issues, weather issues, and my own personal favorite, self-doubt issues. It’s not unusual to sit in front of a portrait and think, “I can’t do this. What if I ruin this painting? The client is going to hate it.”

The question is: Whose fear is holding you back from creating work that matters? The answer lies in your vision. You have to find a way to expand your vision beyond fear and into making work that matters.

I have been teaching portrait painting for over 20 years. My students come from all over the world and throughout the UK. I teach both adults and children. The students range in age from 10 to 80! I also visit senior citizens’ homes and art associations on a regular basis to give demonstrations and help with the art classes that take place there.

Life drawing is my favourite subject to teach, but I also have fun teaching still life and portraiture classes too! I mainly work in watercolours and gouache, although I do use oils for some of my other paintings.

All my classes are small groups so we can get plenty of one-to-one time. Classes are tailored to suit each individual student’s needs, so whether you are a complete beginner or an experienced artist wanting to learn new techniques, one of my watercolour classes will be right for you!

Currently, I am working on a series of portraits that I am calling “Animal Farm” — portraits of my friends, animals and inanimate objects. I have completed about half of the paintings for this series and am taking them around to galleries to show them off and hopefully sell a few. I haven’t sold any yet, but one gallery owner said how much he liked them and how he thought they were “richly imagined”. Another gallerist said she really loved it, but thought that it was out of her price range and she would like to see what other collectors thought. My husband loves it, so that’s nice.

Trying to sell my art has been an interesting process for me. I’m used to selling my paintings as a percentage of my income at art fairs. This time around I’m trying to sell them at their retail value. I’ll probably end up settling somewhere in between once I get more comfortable with this idea.

Nowadays, we associate the word “graphic” with the visual arts, particularly with drawing and painting. But the word has its origins in ancient Greece, where it referred to an inscription or lettering carved into stone or wood.

The art of painting is called “graphics” because it was once considered a lesser form of art than sculpture, which involved the creation of three-dimensional forms. Painting was merely applied decoration.

The French Revolution changed all that. Painters such as Jacques-Louis David created massive canvases that depicted historical events and patriotic scenes – and did so with a sense of drama that previously had been reserved for sculpture. The paintings themselves became the subjects of art and were judged by a new standard: realism.

In this video, Claire O’Neill introduces us to a portraitist who helped define that new standard: Thomas Eakins (June 24, 1844 – June 25, 1916)

It’s a bit challenging to draw a convincing portrait of an animal. We often don’t know exactly where an animal’s features are. They’re just sort of there, somewhere, and the artist has to figure out where.

There are three basic ways to approach the problem. One is to use perspective; draw from a specific angle, so that you can see the whole head clearly. Another is to simplify the face until it loses all its personality and becomes a kind of mask – this is what we do in caricatures. The third way is to make your best guess based on general knowledge and some clues provided by the sitter – this is what we try to do when drawing animals or cartoon characters.

I have a friend who, when I told him that I wanted to paint people’s portraits, said that it sounded like fun but really hard and then asked if he could just send me his picture, and I could do it for him. I said yes, thinking he was joking. He sent me an email with two pictures attached – full-body and head-shot. The first problem was that the background of each picture had a different color scheme. The second problem was that he didn’t look particularly like either of the two people in the pictures.

No matter how many times you see someone’s face, you never stop thinking about how they look in real life. In painting there is a term called “the character line” which means the line formed by their eyebrows, nose and mouth. The character line is what makes one person look different to another; their eyes are the same shape and size but different colors because of it.

I started looking at my friend’s character line and as soon as I saw what was happening I started laughing out loud. When I saw his face in real life, both of us would start laughing because we knew exactly what we were seeing. He has a very distinct character line that makes him look like himself no matter what he’s doing

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