Archive for category Subject: Children

Painting Portraits of Children || Simon Davis

Children are a popular subject for anyone who wants to paint people. Although photographs are ubiquitous, getting the right pose or expression is tricky and school portraits are rarely satisfactory. Although far from instant, a painting can capture character and expression in a way that photography fails to.

Simon Davis is Vice President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and, the blurb adds, uses the square brush technique. This, and the frontispiece photo, are a clue to the fact that the medium here is oil. This matters, as techniques in other media (other than, perhaps acrylics), will be different. It’s doubly important as the main meat of the book is a series of demonstrations where the methods of application are to the fore. Workers in other media may find useful tips about working with their subject and the various considerations of pose, skin tone, expressions and so on, however. The examination of the historical development of child portraiture is also of interest.

This is quite a slim volume that majors on the practical demonstrations. Simon includes useful tips on the use of initial sketches, but does not work from photographs, which would have been a useful addition, for the amateur especially. The illustrations are also held back by a slightly muted reproduction which makes it a little difficult to see some of the details.

For all that, this is a useful manual that doesn’t over-elaborate or confuse with unnecessary detail. If you work in oil, it’s the perfect introduction and would take you well beyond the first steps. If you want other media, the appeal must be limited, but it’s still worth a look.

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Colored Pencil Painting Portraits || Alyona Nickelsen

Thorough and comprehensive, this is more than just a practical guide. Aloyna includes historical examples that set modern approaches in context and show how portrait painting has developed over the centuries. As well as exercises and demonstrations, there are example poses, explanations of skin tones, facial features and structure, and extended consideration of the medium itself.

The subtitle refers to “a revolutionary method for rendering depth and imitating life”, which is a harmless enough strapline to aid sales. The blurb glosses this as “new layering tools and techniques”, although I do seem to have heard similar claims elsewhere. I’m not debunking the claim or the superb quality of the book, but I suspect that the author hasn’t in fact discovered something completely new, but rather adapted the glazing-like approach that coloured pencil artists have been using for some time. For all that, the results are impressive and the explanation of how to achieve them well executed, so you’d have nothing to complain about.

Watson Guptill books are characterised by their assiduous approach and detailed explanations and this is no exception. It’s one to read as well as work along with and an excellent masterclass in its subject.

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Portraits of Babies & Children || Giovanni Civardi

The sheer variety of this ongoing series is breathtaking, as is the quality that actually seems to improve with time.

Children are difficult subjects, not least because they’re hardly ever still and Giovanni acknowledges this with a short section on the use of photography. As ever, the main part of the book is a series of worked examples that demonstrate techniques with children of all ages – as the title implies.

What is particularly impressive is the depth of character that Giovanni manages to get into his work. Children are very much a work in progress and features, expressions and poses are constantly fluid. Picking the right moment is very much an exercise in observation and Giovanni is also sound on this – it’s getting to know your subject, as you should, but in particular detail.

Although this is not an in-depth study of a what is certainly a complex subject, it is nevertheless an excellent primer that includes much more than its 64 pages implies.

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Lee Hammond’s Big Book of Acrylic Painting

The above-the-title billing gives you a clue to Lee Hammond’s popularity in the US and, if the title suggests a bind-up, you’d be correct. The material has previously appeared in four other titles, but the selection here provides an excellent introduction to the medium. More substantial than many similar books, this one covers still lifes, landscapes, animals and people as well as the basic techniques. Each section is admirably thorough – the one on people includes exercises covering all the main facial elements as well as demonstrations that deal with both male and female subjects as well as babies and toddlers. Overall, there’s a good sense of your money’s worth here.

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Vibrant Children’s Portraits || Victoria Lisi

There’s a slightly saccharine quality to the results produced here, but it’s not something you couldn’t tone down in your own work. Books on portraiture are thin on the ground and on painting children even more so, so this is a particularly welcome gap-filler. There’s a good variety of hair, skin and facial types, as well as sound but simple notes on how to deal with the main facial features and step by step demonstrations that are thorough without being over-worked.

All in all, this is an excellent place to start and would probably also carry some welcome hints for the more practised artist.

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