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How to Paint a Portrait in Acrylics

Posted by Tom on

Hi everyone,

I had little bit of time this week and so I quickly put together this video to show you how I use the Mont Marte Abstract Expression Brushes in my own paintings.

The video demonstrates how I use larger brushes to loosen up my paint application. Personally I find this a really useful exercise when painting portraits as it help you to not get too bogged down in creating a likeness, at least for the early layers of a painting.

Below is the transcript from the painting demonstration in the video!

The Mont Marte abstract expression brush comes in 3 sizes. You have got 25mm, 50mm and 75mm. All of these are great for different types of applications but you will find they feel pretty similar - now let's get one of these 75mm brushes out of the packet that I can have a closer look

Ok so the first thing you notice about this brush paddle shaped handle. They have an ergonomic design so they feel really good in the palm of your hand. The bristles are glued really well with inside the ferrule which is maybe a stainless aluminium perhaps, so it doesn’t tarnish very easily, but I would suggest that you wash your brushes our regularly and wash them often as the paint I find can get trapped inside the ferrule as it is quite large.

Now the bristles themselves are a soft but stiff synthetic hair, so when you apply the paint you will find you don’t get the bristle marks or bristle stroke through you paint application. This is what makes them really good for blending - and I use them for Acrylic and Oil painting also. Anyway, so you can see it in action - I am going to do a quick painting using all 3 brushes. Let's go!

So I am going to do a quick portrait using the abstract expression brushes just to demonstrate some of the ways that you can use these in your painting. First I apply basecoat of acrylic using the large brush and I apply it pretty liberally and gesturally to get some texture in the background.

From this point I’ve quickly sketch up my portrait using some acrylic paint - I'm using the 25mm brush to lay in some of my mid-tones. You will find that the 25mm brush has a bit more flexibility in the bristles because of the way the brush is made. I personally prefer the larger sizes as they have stiffer feel to the bristles and they give you a bit more control when you are making marks like this. But the 25mm brush has its advantages for soft blends and finer detail.

Painting in this method is a really good exercise if you want to loosen up your painting - just grab some large brushes like these ones and work with a limited palette, of greys, or complimentary colours like I am. This forces you to focus in on the tone and loosen up on the canvas.

It can be good to challenge your self to not get too bogged down in the detail sometimes

So from here I am just applying a mix of magenta and titanium white and you will see with this 50mm brush I’m getting a nice smooth cloudy blend with the green background which is still a bit wet

These brushes are really good for getting smooth blends - I generally use them now for paintings of skies - for paintings of sunsets for example when I need to get a smooth colour shift I find that the stiff bristles of these brushes really help with get a nice smooth bristle free blend.

As you can see - again - using the larger brush can be quite a challenge to get the detail that you might with a smaller brush - but as I said its a really good challenge to help you look at tone and not get hung up on getting a likeness in the portrait or subject from the early layers of the painting.

The subject of this portrait is actually one of our team members at Art Shed - Troy. Troy is actually more of an acrylic paint aficionado than myself - so I hope I have done him some justice in capturing a likeness in this painting.

If you have any questions about materials that I have used here - or any of my personal techniques please leave us a comment below or get in touch with us. It's always great to have discussions about different methods of painting.

At this point I am just using the smaller of the brushes to get a bit more detail and darker tones in the beard and face. This painting took about 4-5 layers in areas of the face, to get the level of likeness that I was looking for.

As the name suggests - these brushes lend themselves well to abstract painting too. They’re great for bold mark making and moving around thick buttery paint. And also as I have demonstrated for smoother applications of paint when you're working representationally. They’re a really versatile brush in that regard. They are definitely a good staple to have in your artists toolbox anyway.

So as I'm nearing the end of the painting I am just going to add some more detail and contrast in the highlights and shadows.

I hope you've taken something from this demonstration - If you have any questions please jump on

Thanks to the Abstract Expression brush!

Cheers and bye for now.

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