Learning to paint a portrait

I would love to be an effective portrait artist.
The complexities of facial expression, composition and lighting baffle and terrify me in equal measures.

Once upon a time I owned a book by the artist Don Seegmiller. I don’t remember the title but it was a fairly comprehensive study of how to construct a portrait using digital media. Corel’s Painter was the software of choice if I remember correct.

Don Seegmiller

I remember being blown away by the art that he produced and from that point forward decided that I would ditch trying to be a traditional painter. I just didn’t have the discipline for it. I tried really hard and failed to understand the dynamics of working with wet media.

I can identify the things that I like and dislike in art quite easily.
I like to see evidence of a brush’s stroke and dislike the over smoothing and airbushed effect common in digital art.
Comic books held far more appeal to me when they weren’t coloured using Photoshop. Far too much smoothing and blurring for my liking.
In photography I love to see those well lit black and white paintings that highlight the rugged, weather-beaten features of ageing rock stars.
I would love to create a similar feel to my digital art.

It’s possible that a huge part of my problem is that I don’t know which tools to use. I like texture for sure but do I start with a heavily textured brush or maybe chalk? Or do I simply block in the colour with any old bruch and rely on some textured blending with the damp brush?

Is Procreate the right app for this? Should I be looking at something like Art Rage?

Art Rage is a wonderful app but it’s somewhat less user friendly than Procreate. Everything with Procreate is smooth and you can paint at the same rate as you think. With
Art Rage is less easy and there can be some delays whilst the app “catches up”.
I use an iPad Air.

So I grabbed some coffee and scoured the web for a handful of images that could represent what it is I’m aiming for.
Punching “portrait painting” in to Google Images seemed like a good starting point.
Here’s three images that go some way to explaining for me what it is I’m trying to achieve.

Original image

I love the colours in the DeNiro portrait. The use of vibrant yellow through orange / tan to blue as a replacement for a darker shading colour. It’s effective and for me reminicsent of Van Gogh or artists of his time.
Artist’s link: http://ovidiuprotopopescu.deviantart.com/


Again I love the colours being used here. It’s how these colours are selected more than the overall composition that interests me. This is clearly the work of a seasoned and confident artist. I’m a way of that yet but it’s certainly something to strive for.


I almost want to refer to the above painting as “crude” in its execution. But that really does misrepresent the artist’s clear ability to compose an image with a true understanding of form, tone and application.
I love to see the marks of the brush and I love to see such bold colours being laid down with confidence.
This is again what I strive for.

You have to love the web :)