Core skills: Paint­ing the head

In the fi­nal in­stal­ment of his oils se­ries, Howard Lyon re­veals how he fo­cuses on see­ing key shapes, us­ing this tech­nique to paint a por­trait piece

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Iden­ti­fy­ing key shapes helps Howard Lyon to paint a por­trait in oils.

When paint­ing the head of a por­trait piece, be­gin by look­ing for the large shapes. Iden­tify the shadow shapes and make sure they’re es­tab­lished. I’ve found that if you squint at your sub­ject it can make iden­ti­fy­ing shapes and ig­nor­ing de­tails eas­ier.

I’ll of­ten tint my can­vas with a warm colour and then paint in the shadow shapes with a rich brown such as burnt um­ber or raw si­enna.

With your shadow shapes iden­ti­fied your paint­ing should look like your sub­ject. If it doesn’t, make cor­rec­tions at this stage be­cause it’s much eas­ier to make big changes now, rather than later on.

Now es­tab­lish your colour in the light side and de­velop the forms. Try to make each brush stroke count, mix­ing the right value and colour and paint­ing in the cor­rect shape. Main­tain­ing this fo­cus through­out the paint­ing will help keep you from wast­ing ef­fort and time.

Learn­ing to draw and paint is a life­long and ful­fill­ing process, so learn to en­joy the jour­ney. Howard has worked as an il­lus­tra­tor and art di­rec­tor as well as a fine artist for gal­leries and col­lec­tors. You can see his art at www.howard­

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