Mim 7On Tuesday, 7th April, members and guests of Kiama Art Society were not only treated to an excellent demonstration of how to execute a portrait painting from sketch to completion, but also given an educative journey in painting techniques and art practice guidelines.

Mirjana Psakis, a self-taught oil painter, was inspired to concentrate her art practice on portraiture, after a memorable visit to an Archibald Exhibition.

To further complement her art practice and develop her style, Mirjana studied under South Australian artist John Lacey, whose artwork she admired, a well as attending a semester at The Julian Ashton School of Art.

Mirjana’s monochromatic portrait demonstration commenced with the detailing of her tools of choice.

Small, medium and large palette knives and watercolour brushes (to be used for oil & acrylic painting), a glass palette, (backed with black cloth to ensure the paint pigments can be viewed with realistic hues), odourless turps and an accompanying colour palette of:

French Ultramarine, Cad Yellow, Cad Red, Pthalo Blue, Permanent Rose and White to be applied to smooth canvas paper. (Smooth being better for palette knife application)

The initial portrait sketch of the “British as a Bowler” portrait was drawn in graphite pencil and then under-painted with acrylics. (Atelier Acrylic slowing Medium added to aid wet on wet & blending)

Mim 8Mirjana emphasized the helpfulness of eradicating the white background of portrait paintings early on in the process, this assisting the future tint and tone mixing/selections for the subject, without having the stark brightness of white dominating. She stated that the colour choice of the background is representational of the persona of the portrait sitter.

As is traditional, working from dark to light, Mirjana applied with w/c brushes and palette knife the oils, systematically layering in blocks to build up facial features.

Helpful technical hints that Mirjana shared throughout this process included –

  • Mim 9Make every stroke purposeful (prevents overworking & lost focus)
  • Work darkest to lightest in both acrylics & oils
  • The larger the brush used, less opportunity to pointless dabbling
  • Understand and use the information of the Colour Wheel
  • Palette Knives give good flexibility for adding detail, definition & moving paint around &/or over layers
  • The bigger the canvas, the bigger the palette knife
  • Pivot wrist to apply paint from palette knife
  • On portraits/faces be mindful of important role of shadows
  • A good portrait imparts emotional insight into sitter by capturing the subject’s character
  • Mim 10Continually stand back & assess the progress of the artwork
  • Employ use of soft and hard edges within artwork
  • Always begin a portrait with one side of the face
  • Study the differences between both sides of a face

Faces are not symmetrical

  • Turn artwork upside down to analyze tones & technical applications. Removes subject from the equation

Mirjana’s attention to detail, both in the practical application, and the verbal description of her Portraiture Demonstration has given all who were present a sound springboard to go off and paint a portrait.

Happy Portrait Painting                                                                                                                      Photos Lea and Doreen

Lea Tucker