Portrait painting tips – Norman Brodeur

Norman Brodeur is an artist vastly influenced by the Spanish arts. His love and specialty is the portraits, a genre in painting where the artist illustrate a person or an animal subject. Most portraitists presently create the portraits by commission, and it can be ordered for public consumption or private individuals, also can be done just by inspiration or affection for the subject.
Historically, portraits are often remembrances for a family record, and have primarily memorialized the rich and powerful, especially in the times of kings and queens. Today, the portrait paintings are still generally made for the rich and powerful, as governments, corporations, groups and clubs, but are more and more being ordered by middle class individuals as a form of record and entering other areas of art, like tattoos.
Before, a well-executed portrait was supposed to demonstrate the inner essence of the subject in question, from the artist’s point of view. A flattering representation was expected, so artists looked for almost photographic realism. Nowadays, portraits can relate to caricatures, where the character of a person or animal represented is shown through the exaggeration of physical features.
Norman Brodeur, with all his years of experience in portrait paintings, brings us many tips of how to make the perfect portrait.

HTML5 Icon
How to prepare the canvas?
Norman Brodeur uses the type of canvas with the highest quality, which he stretch himself. Painting on a cheap canvas can stress you out before even starting it. You don’t need to start with the most expensive canvas, go after one that can handle what you need and that you can afford.
The difference between linen and cotton is the weave of the cotton that can be too automatic, when the linen have more random weaves. Linen is the most expensive one, but many artists say that linen is more willing painting surface than cotton. Both of them are primed with acrylics (giving a bit more friction or more brush control) or oil (giving a more slippery surface). This depends on your personal preference.
Norman Brodeur usually uses the heavy duty neutral primed linen, already coated. What he does is adding another three layers of gesso and black and ochre acrylics and that way he obtains a neutral gray primer. He puts the canvas ready for use under the stretch bar, and with a staple he starts with just one staple on the middle of each side to make the base of it. After you just need to continue with the staple until the end of the stretch bar, from the middle to the corners. Be careful to keep the canvas stretched during the entire process.

How to start with a portrait?
Norman Brodeur states four ways to start with a portrait. The first one is the classic one, drawing just by observation, usually with the object live in front of you. For that you need to measure precisely the size of the width and the height of the portrait so you can subdivide the face and start drawing it.

The next way that Norman Brodeur does is that he portraits with a projector. You just need a projection, and pay attention if the picture doesn’t have any distortion. One way to do is drawing a square in the canvas and adjusting the projection on it. Another way is to crop the picture on a computer to the exact same size of the real canvas and divide both on 4 squares of the same size on every side. When the picture is projected, you just need to make sure that the squares fit perfectly so you can copy the image on the canvas.
A third option is to follow a grid to draw the picture. Norman Brodeur says you can use a tracing paper above the image or make a grid on Photoshop. With the program you can also trace four ‘x’ on a particular face to increase the support when you will copy the image to the canvas. Norman Brodeur points out that the canvas needs to be in the grid too.
The last way Norman Brodeur uses to do portraits is through a photograph. You need to enlarge it so you can see the details, stick a transfer paper on top of it to trace the outlines of the portrait, you just need the main lines and shapes of the photo. On the back side of the transfer paper, cover all the lines with charcoal and place it on the canvas.
Now place four cross marks on each side of the canvas and line them on the paper so you can place it at the exact same spot if required. The next step is to trace the lines again with some strength, making the charcoal pass the canvas. The lines are weak, so you can use a red pencil (a color that won’t pass through the paint) to redraw the portrait. As soon as the drawing is ready you can start painting the portrait.

HTML5 Icon
Do you know more ways to make portraits? Share with us!