Step by Step Portrait Painting Tutorial: Selfhood

We discovered the work of Jessica Oliveras when she became a Realism Today Ambassador. Here, she takes us through the steps of her portrait painting, “Selfhood.”

Step by Step Portrait Painting Tutorial: Selfhood

By Jessica Oliveras
jessicaoliveras.com

Stage 1

Once my drawing is done and correct in proportion and form, I start by covering the white canvas with a diluted layer of paint. In this first stage I use a solvent to thinner the paint, based in the fat over lean rule that allows you to build a painting that is flexible, reducing its risk of cracking.

This first layer is basically to establish the large relationships of form and to start to create depth by covering all the areas with approximate values. I always start by working on the figure and moving forward to other areas once I am happy with the facial expression.

step by step portait painting demo Jessica Oliveras

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Stage 2

Here I am working on the second layer of the face, where I need to be more accurate on the overall value of the painting and the image boundaries. This layer will allow me to create volume and a skin-like effect.

I don’t focus on the details at this stage, as in the subsequent layers I will refine the different values and shifts in hues within each specific area. It’s my chance to redefine the shadows and light areas by blending, creating soft transitions and a harmonised based. From this layer onwards I use medium to reduce the marks of the brushstrokes.

step by step portait painting demo Jessica Oliveras

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Stage 3

I revisit the underlaying form and its orientation to the light by asking myself if I am achieving a convincing 3D illusion. Now that the context is wider, my judgements can be more specific.

As the painting advances, I change my bigger brushes for smaller ones in order to be more specific with the details of the skin. This will enhance the natural quality of the small shadows, wrinkles and skin marks.

At this stage, I add lighter points and I reinforce any dark areas that might need more attention.

step by step portait painting demo Jessica Oliveras

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Stage 4

I keep assessing the forms ensuring they are close to the forms of the model. I work progressively, adding lighter tones and highlights until I achieve a beautiful sculptural feeling.

Now that I am happy with the finish look of the face, I paint the hair and the next layer of the headscarf. The same principle applies while working on fabrics, I focus on the different values and each area’s relationship with the light.

This stage would be the equivalent of the second layer of the face: I work from general to specific, therefore I am not painting yet the turban’s threads.

step by step portait painting demo Jessica Oliveras

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Stage 5

I widen the context by painting the body, in this case, using a more abstract approach. This is based on my painting style where I combine hyperrealism with abstract forms. This stage it’s my chance to finish the hair and be more specific with the fabrics.

I am obsessed with turbans and shawls and all their infinite range of colours and materials. For this reason, I paint even the threads of the fabrics in order to create this tactile feeling.

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Stage 6

My last step before completing this painting is to finish the background. I like to use my palette knife to create textures and splashes of paint.

Since the model has dark skin and the turban is made of yellow fabric, I decided I would go for a light-grey background in order to create depth. This also helps to focus all the attention on the model, which clearly has been my main priority in this piece of work.

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After adding the signature, this painting is completed.

Jessica Oliveras, "Selfhood," oil on linen, 65 x 54 cm
Jessica Oliveras, “Selfhood,” oil on linen, 65 x 54 cm

Related Article:

Realism Ambassador of the Week: Jessica Oliveras


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