Demo — Painting the Portrait

In this piece I decided to do a more involved underdrawing in vine charcoal on toned canvas (which I spray-fixed). There are basically three reasons for this.1.) In a double portrait things get even more tricky needing to have the two faces and bodies in proper proportion to each other. I decided to take a little extra time with the drawing to make sure I wouldn’t encounter any unpleasant surprises later. 2.) I just really enjoy drawing and I found myself getting involved in the process. Normally I fight that feeling because of time restraints, but I gave in this time. 3.) I like to do things a little different from time to time. When it comes to art making I am a firm believer in having a good solid method (that works) to fall back on if and when things go awry. But, as you know, we artists have to mix it up now and then. Granted, I’m not drawing here hanging from a chandelier or anything like it, but it did lead me to get out of my comfort zone, which I will explain next.

What’s so uncomfortable about a locked in underdrawing you say? Well, it caused me to forgo my normal underpainting and put everything I had on the line to properly execute the overpainting without the safety of a basic color scheme laid in. Sure, I could have done an underpainting. In fact, I started to do so. But I found that the underdrawing was sound enough not to need it. Also, there was a sort of “grisaille” in place as well due to my blocking in the essential value pattern with the charcoal (not just the contour, which is my normal method). So I just went after it. I do want to note that I have painted like compositions with like color schemes before. I wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary in terms of subject or color. If I would have been, I probably would have laid in an underpainting, or at least done a color study (or two).

In painting this way, it’s even more important to “keep those drawing chops working” (as I’ve said before). And it’s critical to constantly evaluate your relative values and colors. It’s too bad that the quality of video I’m currently using does not really show the color nuances that are present. In the real thing there are differing levels of chroma and neutrality as well as subtle differences in local color; all of which help to give life to the portrait and increase it’s illusion of “presence” or “reality”.

Thank you for reading this lengthy accompaniment to the video. And thanks for watching.

Until next time…

34 thoughts on “Demo — Painting the Portrait”

  1. Hello:

    Love your work! Was wondering the name of that instrumental playing in the very beginning (with the sounds of children at a playground) of your, “Painting The Portrait” video? Looking forward to hearing back. Thanks.

    Best Regards,



  2. Hi Dave,
    I like your oil painting videos on YouTube, they have helped me a bunch. Quick question about you oiling-in process. You mention you use 1-1 OMS and Walnut Oil, where do you get the walnut oil? Also wondering what glazing medium you use? I have some Winsor & Newton Blending and Glazing medium, wondering what your thoughts are on this product, haven’t used yet. Also wondering about what you think about the Liquin medium and Stand oil?


    1. I buy the walnut oil from Blick Studio. I buy M. Graham walnut oil, but the brand isn’t important. Just make sure it’s for artist use. I would not buy anything at a grocery store. I have not used the W&N Blending and Glazing medium. Might as well give it a try. Liquin works fine for my process. I actually prefer Liquin Impasto if you can get some. When you say “the Liquin medium and Stand oil” do you mean to mix the two? I’m sure that would be fine, though I’ve never done it. I think it never hurts to experiment with different mediums and recipes. I done it quite a bit. Ironically I find I don’t like to use too much of any kind of medium. Though a glazing medium of some type helps the thin color “stick” better. Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey Dave thanks for that info, big help! I’m going to get some walnut oil today. And no i wasn’t meaning mixing the stand oil and Liquin. Just wondered if you had used either and what your thoughts were on them.

        Great work by the way, I’m really impressed with your work! Thanks again, have a great one, B.


    2. Hi Dave,
      I enjoyed the YouTube video on glazing but I am stumped, what does OMS stand for? I started to use walnut oil and walnut oil alkyd medium, which is a new experience for me and I think I like it better. I used to use Demar varnish, Gamsol and Lincid oil. Thank you.


  3. You remind me of Vermeer. I have watched this demo several times. This is very instructive even with the sound off. Just to see your technique interests me. Different than mine. Do you have other video demos? Yeah, I’ll pay……


    1. Hi Greg. Thanks for the message. I don’t have anything but the youtube videos at the moment. Trying to figure out the details to do a more extensive instructional dvd.


  4. D G sir, u have an excellent technique for how to paint. I m an Indian. I want learn to u some technique that how make portraits and still life. May u me please?


  5. any chance of seeing a video of you doing the ‘ear’ of the hair demo, tried several times, but hey i’m keeping going and aint gonna quit til i get it right, cheers big man, chris from scotland


  6. First off all I love your art & your videos!
    Thank you!!!
    One question:
    When you are doing your glazing/correcting with your 1:1 mixture of OMS & Walnut Oil do you also thin your paint or do you use your paint in addition to your glazing/correcting method directly from the tube?

    Kind regards,


  7. I have watched your demo of the portrait of the young girl where the detailed drawing was first done and spray fixed. I keep coming back to it and absorb more each time. I would like to add my hope to the others I read earlier that you will produce a video. It is frustrating at times to watch the accelerated demo. It would be so lovely to watch you paint in real time. Thank you for taking the time you do to help all of us. It is very much appreciated and not wasted. Maureen.


  8. Thank you for posting this, I enjoyed your demo.

    You made a claim that:

    “It’s too bad that the quality of video I’m currently using does not really show the color nuances that are present. In the real thing there are differing levels of chroma and neutrality as well as subtle differences in local color; all of which help to give life to the portrait and increase it’s illusion of “presence” or “reality”.”

    Could I offer a suggestion? It may be that your camera is not colour balanced to your light source. I noticed a difference between the picture of the final finished work and your video that suggests to me that this might be the case.

    I hope this helps


  9. i really love this piece. and the way you filmed your intro and outro to this video was great! i felt like i was in a game about to watch some magic happen ❤

    I MISS YOUR YOUTUBE VIDEOS SO MUCH! pls come baaaack


  10. hello there. i jst want to ask u one question. What type of colour u use for skin tone? i tried many times, but i didn’t get same like you. i need help pls. 😦


    1. Hi. That’s really a tough question to answer online. There are too many factors. The key is you have to understand how light interacts with a form. And then how to use color to illustrate that pictorially. Once you understand that what colors to use becomes less difficult.


  11. Monsieur,

    Votre travail est formidable. Apprendre la peinture avec un maître comme vous doit être un privilège ! En France, malheureusement, les peintres réalistes ont déserté !


  12. Hey David,
    Stumbled upon this video today, and almost fell off my chair when the nose took shape – it was three-dimensional. Ah, the colours for the skin tone. In fact, I did wait for that girl to gingerly emerge from the canvas! This is just so moving. I’m going to share this with my artist friend right away. Thanks very much for this. Keep these coming.


  13. Thanks a lot for the video, it’s the most beautiful thing to me .I come back and see the details that I have not before.Thanks to this, I’ve done a first portrait of my son’s which they say is better than many good professionals.
    Also, thanks for the text about the projector and I tried some shortcuts and I claim that the sketch drawing is no 1 because I want a painting not photo.
    I would ask you to tell me the color palette for the portrait, I looked somewhere and I can not find it or give me a link. Greetings from Serbia


    1. Hello! Thank you for your comments. My palette (I think) for that one was titanium white, cadmium yellow, yellow ochre, cadmium orange, cadmium red light, terra Rosa, transparent red oxide, raw umber, ivory black, quinacridone violet, ultramarine blue, phthalocyanine green.


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