2. Toning the canvas/panel, and where to begin?

Where to start, this is also a tricky thing to decide. The classic rule of painting is to go from dark to light generally. Darker tones, for some reason are easier to identify in your scene, whereas midtones are deceptive, and you really don’t know how light the lights are. So start with the darkest darks, pick three areas of dark and get them working with each other first, get them in the right relation to each other. Also, if the background is one flat tone and darker than the skin tones, that is a good place to begin, which is what I did here. Always start a background away from the face and try to get it right, you can bring it to the face later. It is hard to tell, but the panel was toned first with a light grey-green ‘imprimatura’. Usually the first layer is called the ‘ebauche’ meaning sketch:

the finished painting:

3. Working on the face.

‘Creep up on the features’ ‘Don’t start on the features’ ‘Don’t paint things’ These are sayings that have been around a long time, try to get as much done elsewhere before starting on the face, especially dark areas-it will help judge the values better in the face. When you do start on the face, the last thing you want to do is think of things as mouth, eyes, nose…judge tones and values-this stage is work, hard-work. Think of all of this as preparation for the great painting coming later. You must proceed in a workmanlike manner. Start with Darks, then Middletones, then Lights in that order. It is the job of the artist here to judge cool colors and warm colors-you don’t know absolutely where they will be. Cool colors are greys and greenish colors and warms are oranges, ochres, pinks, reds, etc. In this painting, really everything around my beard area (I shaved each day while working) but it stays very cool through those areas, and is very warm through the nose, cheek, eyes, and especially the ear. In this stage, it is ok if your darks aren’t dark enough or your lights aren’t light enough, because you will darken the darks and lighten the lights in the next layer:

© 2016 All Rights Reserved. Copyright Jack Montméat.



1.To draw or not to draw?

This is one of the greatest debates in the history of art. You will have to decide how much drawing you need in preparation for your paintings. The method illustrated here is different from how I was taught. I was taught to draw out the composition in paint, usually with a sepia color and a thin brush right on the toned canvas. This method here is a modification of it, using graphite pencil right on the canvas, then spray fixing it. It yields predictable results, which is why I personally like it, I know what I am going to get at the end. Some artists start with just a few light lines and begin with paint, some artists don’t draw at all and just begin with masses with color, they have a drawing in mind in their head as they work. This method below works for any subject matter. After sprayfixing it, you can tone your canvas to any color you wish, it isn’t good to paint on white canvas (everything looks too dark):

4. Proceeding.

As hard as it is to do, you don’t want to judge the painting in this stage, in the first layer. You can later, but you are just trying to lay in all the tones, none of which look right without all rest around them. When you do get the entire canvas covered, you can begin the second layer. This is like a new start, with all that preparation underneath. Begin exactly where you began the first layer, in this case the background. Just like painting a wall in a house, the 2nd coat just looks so much nicer. Since you painted the first layer recently, you will remember basically what colors you used, it stays in your memory. The colors, even though you mixed them the same are much richer looking, more like paint is supposed to look:

5. Continuing the painting to a stopping point.

The established pattern of working Dark, Middle, Light, Dark, Middle, Light can be repeated as many times as you want. Personally, I do it as many times as is necessary to get the desired result, maybe 4, 5 or 6 times. You reach a point where you are picking areas that need more attention and you work on them. Eventually, something somewhere else will jump out as needing attention so you go there. Don’t let any part lag behind. Eventually every part is brought up and you run out of things to work on, and then you can stop. Get to the point where you are painting one section into the next, like they are merging:

Painting a Self Portrait:

Notes on procedure and technique illustrated