Painting the Calvinist

When painting portraits, I believe that there is not one silver bullet method that will result to a great painting but many. Each portrait is unique and will require different methods or nuances of one method to accomplish the task.

In this article, I listed some of the steps I did to paint “The Calvinist”. It was not the typical method I use when painting my other portraits but it does gave me a satisfying result. Now let’s get into it!

Tonal Contrast and Sketching

Typically I would start with a toned canvas. Here, I used  black gesso to cover the whole canvas while leaving out some parts as a  negative space to sketch the major features of the head. This will create the best tonal contrast at the outset.

Dead Colouring Stage

Here I mixed Light Red and Titanium White for the lit parts of the flesh and for the dark parts, a mixture of Raw Umber, a touch of Indian Red and Titanium White. Using the light red tint and shade tint and by mixing them together to find the halftones, I’m able to paint the whole head with its entire value range. Some parts of this layer will come through the subsequent layers and will form the flesh underneath the skin. I will let this layer dry before moving forward.

First Painting : Color Development

In this stage of the painting, I’m now trying to develop the color for the flesh by introducing different colors. A mixture of Yellow Ochre Light, Titanium White and a touch of Light Red for the warm highlights of the flesh, and Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson and a touch of burnt umber for the cooler shadows.

First Painting : Modelling and Corrections

When I’m satisfied with the values and color, it’s time to model or sculpt the form even further. It is also a good time to do some more corrections with proportions and placements of facial features. For example; here I realized that the mouth is off and so I did some corrections. Because I’m saving all the detail work last, corrections in this stage will not be regrettable.

Second Painting : Detail and Glazing


Finally it’s time for glazing and detail. I consider fine hairs and wrinkles as detail.

More medium is applied in this stage, following the fat-over-lean rule.
Since the human skin is not totally opaque, we can glaze over the dry paint using carmine or alizarin crimson for the blood,  and a mixture of ultramarine blue and yellow ochre for the vains under the skin.

Application of the paint must be very subtle. As much as possible I avoid overdoing the details.Too crisp details may end up looking artificial.

Done! Now I just have to wait for 6 to 12 months to varnish it. That’s it for now and as always thanks for reading.