Francien Krieg, "Skin Deep," 2009, oil on linen, 40 x 47 in.

When Dutch artist Francien Krieg was intrigued especially by a woman’s white hair, she found a way to emphasize it in a 40 x 47-inch portrait painting, using perspective to make the head “monumental.” Here’s how.

Skin Deep, In Progress


1. As an artist I try different ways to build up a painting, never for a long time in the same way. That keeps it more exciting and fresh. For this oil on linen painting I took photographs of a woman whose hair I thought was very intriguing; I wanted to emphasize that by choosing the perspective for this work, which makes the head look very monumental. The size is 40 x 47-inches.

In this painting I started with a rough pencil sketch. Not over-defining the details yet, still searching for the correct position.

In the beginning I concentrated on the tones and not so much on the color. I put time in the painting to look for the right position of the features of the face and looked for resemblance. I used semi-transparent white to build up the skin.

how to paint a portrait in oil - contemporary realism - Francien Krieg step-1
Step 1

2. I defined the shapes more and more in this step because I felt they were in the right position. Also I added more and more color in transparent layers.

I made small brushstrokes and kept the pattern light and open so the layer underneath stayed visible. Sometimes I felt I let my brush dance over the canvas, very loose and vivid.

Step 2

3. Giving more attention to the smallest details and adding little brushstrokes in different colors, through the many years of painting skin I learned to see that if you put a lot of different colors in the skin tones, it makes the skin lively. I played with complementary soft colors.

Also I made the skin color more warm to have a nice contrast with the cool colors of the background. I play all the time with the cool and warmer colors, waiting until the very end to choose which side will be warmer or colder.

Step 3

4. In this stage I kept working until I felt it was finished — that can be a difficult moment, as sometimes you have doubts about it. The pictures before showed that I painted the details very precise and now I gave more attention to the skin.

In the last stage, I added more and more colors to the skin, making the light side of the face very warm — something I never do in one time. The lightest side I also built up, jumping from cooler highest light to warmer, making transitions with small brushstrokes.
Through that warm skin tone, I drew some lines to make a suggestion of “jumped veins spots” and other marks of the aging process.

Francien Krieg, “Skin Deep,” 2009, oil on linen, 40 x 47 in.

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About the Artist

Dutch artist Francien Krieg (b. 1973) lives in the countryside in the middle of The Netherlands with her two children and husband, working full-time in her studio.

She graduated from the Royal Art Academy in The Hague in 1998, with a degree in Monumental Art, which encouraged her to think conceptually. During these studies Krieg discovered her fascination for the human body and expressed her thoughts through meat installations and human skin made of rubber.

A few years later, she developed her passion for painting at the Free Academy of The Hague. She now expressed her fascination for the human body in paintings with unusual perspectives of the body.

Quickly her work was discovered by art collectors and art galleries, becoming part of important Dutch art collections like the ING Collection and the former Scheringa Collection. A prestigious gallery in The Netherlands, Gallery Mokum in Amsterdam, notices the quality of her work and initiates a collaboration.

Krieg’s developing career sees her work exhibited at art fairs Scope Basel and Realisme Amsterdam, Robert Lange Studios in Charleston, SC, From Motion to Stillness at Zhou B Art Center in Chicago, IL, Women painting women [r]evolution in Townsend Atelier in Chattanooga, TN, and recently the exhibition Stark Realism at Beinart Gallery in Brunswick, Australia, featuring Effie Pryer and Ville Lopponen.

In 2017, she was nominated for the Dutch Portrait Award and shortlisted for the Figurativas 2017 at MEAM in Barcelona.

Her work has been featured in Austrian art magazine MilionArt Kaleidoscope, and in the family issue of Poets and Artists, curated by Shana Levenson and David Kassan.

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