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In the Studio This Week – Portraits and Learning How to Drive (Again)

In the studio this week, I was focused on a couple of portraits, but also distracted by trying to resolve my traffic citation from the accident I was in nearly three weeks ago. I decided to take the Defensive Driving course and that way the wreck wouldn’t show up against my driving record. It was a painful process and like learning to drive again – fifty-three years after taking Driver’s Education in high school!

Charcoal Portrait

The lesson for a charcoal portrait from the Mastery Program called for doing a charcoal portrait with a live model. Not having a live model readily available, I decided to use the reference photo I had used for a previous painting I did a few weeks back. I thought if I did it again in a different medium, I would have better luck replicating the portrait. Here was how I painted her in oils. I can see her mouth is too big/too close to her chin. I might work on this again at some point to see if I can correct some of the errors I see.

Oil painting portrait of a oung woman looking straight ahead

I think the charcoal portrait below turned out pretty well, but still isn’t a true replica of the model. She does have a personality, though. I find most every portrait I do begins to talk to me at some point during the process.

Charcoal portrait of a young woman

Alla Prima Oil Portrait

The next portrait lesson was supposed to be done Alla Prima meaning a painting technique in which a canvas is completed in one session. Again, this was intended to be done using a live model. Not having a live model, I chose to paint from a photo of my daughter.

I did NOT complete this in one day. In fact, I agonized over it and probably overworked it in the end. Here’s the first go-round:

Oil portrait of a young woman wearing glasses

I worked on correcting issues with the proportion around her nose, mouth, and jaw. It’s better, but her mouth still isn’t quite right. I’ll probably need to do a portrait of my son soon to complement this one.

Finished oil portrait of a young woman wearing glasses


Since Halloween was on the horizon, I thought I’d do a quick portrait of the character Maleficent using some of the techniques I learned in the Kaleidoscope class. I wanted to put a raven on a limb beside her but quickly saw that I didn’t leave enough room, so I added the cartoon-style bats. This was done with acrylic paint on watercolor paper.

Whimsical painting of the character Maleficent in front of a full moon and flying bats


I like portraits and have done many in the past. I like to see faces turn into personalities as I paint or draw. I don’t always get the proportions correct and that affects the ability to capture the exact likeness of the model.

I think I prefer to do whimsical portraits or portraits from my imagination.

Thank you for reading about my progress and let me know what you think.

By the way, I did learn new information from taking the Defensive Driving Course such as the proper way to set your mirrors and that you should keep your thumbs in a vertical position on the steering wheel because that would limit the injury to your hands in the event the air bags deployed. I am now certified as a Defensive Driver!

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