Painting People: How I Do It
Painting People Takes Preparation
I love being an artist and sharing my passion with others is something that I find very fulfilling. I teach art courses online and at a local art school so I have some experience inspiring students with the joy of creating art. Most people think that a painting just happens because someone is talented. If only that were true. A lot of preparation and planning go into a painting. Join me in the step-by-step instruction that shows you the behind the scene process I use for painting a person in an environment. There are no shortcuts in solving the problems of a complex composition like this but they can be managed if you know how.
Sharon Weaver Painting in the Eastern Sierras
First Take Lots of Photos
A Digital Camera Means Unlimited Photos
I prefer to paint from life but sometimes, like when I am painting people or animals, it just isn't possible. Those times I rely on my digital camera to capture the scene. With the convenience of a large memory chip I will click away and worry about editing out the bad shots later. Sometimes I know when I take the photo that it will make a great painting. Other times I will crop the photo until I am happy with the composition. Either way I take a lot of reference photos and always have my camera handy. I never know when I might see that perfect image for a painting just waiting to happen.
Step One - Find Your Photo Reference
I took a trip to the Pacific Asia Museum with my husband and as usual took my camera with me. The museum has a great garden and koi pond and I must have taken dozens of photos outside but when I took this photo inside at the exhibit, I knew it would make a great painting. The shapes created by the beautiful kimonos and my husbands silhouette were very interesting. With just a little cropping the composition worked perfectly.
Photo taken by Sharon Weaver
Find a Great Little Camera - Panasonic with a Leica Lens is My Camera of Choice
Having the right camera is critical. I look for something that is small, easy to use but with a good quality lens. I want to have the ability to zoom in, have settings for different lighting conditions and fast action for capturing moving animals and people.
I use the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8. with a Leica lens. Every photo on my website is taken with this camera or its predecessor, also a Panasonic. I take zillions of photos so I need a couple of large memory chips and I always carry an extra charged battery, just in case.
This is the camera I use to photograph all the images on my website. I is rugged, small, easy to use and has a great quality lens so even though it isn't fancy it takes great images.
I try to carry a few memory chips so I never have to worry about how many photos I take.
I keep a back up battery just in case I need it.
I always carry a charger when I am on a painting trip so I can recharge the battery for my camera. It's easy, just plug it in overnight.
Step Two - Convert Your Photo To Black and White
In order to see the basic shapes of the composition I like to eliminate the color. This helps me decide if I need to make changes or adjust something which will improve the layout. The best way to see the basic design is by reducing the photo to its simplest form so I eliminate all the "noise" by polarizing it to only two values: black and white. I use my Photoshop program for this effect.
Step Three - Add Detail With A Midtone Value in Grey
With Photoshop I refine the image by adding a third value: grey. The third value connects the dark shapes, defines the important design elements and allows me to emphasize the figure. Note how I created interest with the use of values and consolidated the shapes.
Photo enhanced by Sharon Weaver using Photoshop
Step Four - Sketching the Image Helps with Visualization
Sketching the composition is the last step before I actually start to paint. I find this is the best way for me to understand the subject and see it in my minds eye. As I sketch, I visualize the finished painting. I work out the more complex aspects of the values and really start to understand how to approach the image on canvas. The more clearly I visualize the finished painting the easier it is to complete the painting.
Sketch by Sharon Weaver
Sketching Materials I Use
A good sketchbook is essential. I like one that is small enough to carry with me everywhere but big enough to do a nice drawing. For me 9"x12" is perfect.
I like to use four different pencils, from a harder, lighter HB to the softest and darkest 6B.
Step Five - Finally: The Painting
Once I completed all the preliminary work, the final painting was easy. Having worked out many problems before taking paint to canvas and establishing a strong visualization of the image in my minds eye, the actual painting was completed in just one sitting. Because of my preparation, I quickly got in the zone and three hours later had my completed painting
You may wonder why I need so much preparation to do a painting. The extended preparation allows me to execute the painting with confident, bold strokes. I can work easily with the paint because I don't have to worry about the composition, details or values. Those have been worked out before hand and now all I have to do is feel the paint.
"Dragon Stance" by Sharon Weaver 14x11 Oil on Panel
Oil Painting Supplies I Use
You don't need a lot of colors but you need the right ones. M. Graham makes great oil paints.
You don't need anything fancy but wood makes the best palette.
My favorite brushes are hog bristle flat in every size. Paint with the largest first and work down to more detail with the smaller brushes.
Some artists like a stretched canvas but I love canvas panels. They don't sag, never tear and are very durable.
Spend the extra money to get a good easel. I prefer one with wheels because in good weather I will wheel it out onto the back porch and paint there.
Sharon Weaver's Art Advice - For more art information and tutorials try the links below.
- Sharon Weaver's Art
My website were you can see many more of my paintings.
- Reflections of an Artist: Sharon Weaver's Blog
Tutorials, tips, gallery openings, marketing ideas, new paintings and much more........My thoughts as I continue exploring my art.
- Sharon Weaver's News
Sign up here and you will receive a monthly update with new paintings and stories from the field.
- Learn to Paint with Color
Complementary colors are a great way to achieve vibrant colors and movement in your art. See how.
- Water Painting
Water is amazing to paint. Whether the ocean, a stream or in this case, a lake it is every changing. See this step by step tutorial on how to paint water and it's reflections.