Painting Portraits in Oils


Capturing character from life by Rob Wareing

An inspiring, direct guide to painting beautiful portraits alla prima.

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Rob Wareing has built a formidable international reputation as a portrait artist. This is his first book, and here he draws on over 40 years’ experience to provide a complete guide to painting portraits in oils.

In Rob’s view, the most effective way to capture character is by working from life rather than photographs, and to follow the alla prima method to create a painting in one sitting.

Starting with a fascinating overview of the subject, Rob then guides the reader through the materials he uses, explains how to pose and light the sitter, and how to prepare the work area before starting to paint.

This is followed by detailed coverage of design and composition, the importance of proportions, and the painting process itself from colour mixing through to finishing a painting without over-working. With clear, step-by-step demonstrations and numerous examples of the author’s work throughout, this book provides both an expert guide to portrait painting and a unique insight into the working methods of one of the world’s leading portrait painters.

‘It wasn’t Rob’s technical prowess alone that won me over. I asked him for advice, which he shared readily, and his passion for and commitment to his chosen pursuit sealed the deal. This is what the best teachers do: they share, encourage and inspire. Portrait artists at every level will benefit from his insight and expertise.’ Tinus Horn

Table of Contents

Foreword 6
Introduction 8
Working from life 10
What makes a portrait? 12
Materials 22
Composing your paintings 34
Preparation 36
Drawing and painting 56
Drawing skills 58
Painting alla prima 70
Values 82
Colour 92
Skin tone 106
The sitting 116
The Portrait 118
Going further 134
Other types of portrait 136
Settings and background 156
Index 160