Oil Portrait Painting Tips 1 

Background 

Young artists starting out always love painting the person but inevita­bly arrive at a point where they say, "What shall I do with the back­ground?" The best way to handle the background is to paint it along with the subject, at the same time.

 

  • Look at portraits in a museum. Because the artist purposely designs the background so you will not notice it, you usually don't. When you want the backgrounds in your portraits to be better integrated with the figure, or to set it off more, you will start to notice them. The only rule that mat­ters is that backgrounds must recede. One way or another, the background must read as if it were behind the sub­ject.

      

  • Try to keep the background very simple so that it will not compete with the central figure or figures in the portrait painting. Avoid a fussy or busy background. A back­ground in a portrait has to be there, of course, but it should not call attention to itself or dominate the figure in any way.

 

  • Keep the background color complementary to the sitter so that it will bring out the sitter’s complexion. So when painting a fair-skinned person, use a cool, blue-­green background. Use a coating of toned-down viridian green if using oil on canvas.

      

  • The back­ground does not necessarily have to be painted. Use the bare white canvas as the background. The advantage of using a white or natural painting surface as the background is that the portrait painting will go with almost any color scheme. Also, if the painting is large, the light background will keep it from becoming a heavy picture and thereby dominating everything around it.

     

 

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