Painting a portrait can be daunting, especially when you approach it as a whole. But what if you break it down into smaller parts? In this article, we will focus on how to paint a nose and explore the process of capturing this particular feature in a portrait. By understanding the techniques involved, you’ll be able to approach portrait painting in a more manageable way.
Reference Image for Nose Painting
For this tutorial, I have used a self-portrait painting by Rembrandt as a reference. Take a look at the image below to see the painting we will deconstruct and study. Following along will help you grasp important principles in portrait painting.
Beginner’s Guide: How to Paint a Nose
Before mixing any colors, start by sketching out the nose you plan to paint. This preliminary sketch gives you an idea of the shape and placement on the canvas. Don’t worry about perfection at this stage, as you can make adjustments throughout the painting process.
Creating a basic painting sketch to start your nose painting
Mixing Your First Three Color Values
To ensure a strong sense of light and dark in your painting, begin with three main values: dark, medium, and light. Starting with these values sets the foundation for the overall lighting. Notice that these values are placed adjacent to each other. This creates a convergence of light and dark values, where all three values meet in one area.
How to paint a nose by applying first color spots
To create these light, medium, and dark values, it is crucial to prioritize value when mixing colors. Refer to the color chart below to guide you in mixing the desired nose colors.
How to paint a nose color mixing guide
Paying Attention to Edges
Edges play a significant role in any painting, especially in portrait painting. They allow us to depict subtle details and nuances. At this stage of the painting, it is essential to be mindful of the edges. Softer edges indicate similar values, while sharper edges create contrast.
Painting a nose with attention to creating edges
The image below provides an overview of the different edges present at this stage. By understanding edge variations, you can enhance the realism and depth of your painting.
Diagram of how to identify hard edges and softer edges
Arranging Color Spots
The arrangement of color spots within your painting significantly impacts the final result. As the painter Charles Hawthorne said, “Let color make form, do not make form and color it.” In other words, prioritize mixing colors and values accurately, rather than focusing solely on creating a nose. By paying attention to the color spots you see, the overall portrait will naturally fall into place.
Three-quarters of a nose in process
Creating Volume for Realism
To achieve a sense of volume in your painting, consider the role of edges. Softer edges can push an area further back, while sharper edges bring it forward. In the case of a nose, ensure that the lower right side has a soft edge blending into the background shadow, while the left lower side has a sharper edge where the light highlight is. These contrasting edges contribute to a convincing sense of space.
Using a palette knife to create edges in nose painting
Moving Beyond the Nose
While this tutorial focuses on painting a nose, it’s essential to view the nose as part of the entire face, rather than a separate entity. Aim for cohesion in your portrait by seamlessly transitioning from the nose to other facial features. By continuing the painting directly from where you completed the nose, you establish a strong color relationship between different areas. This approach ensures that your painting appears cohesive and harmonious.
Starting to work on the eye area just beyond the nose
Expanding Your Color Range
As you progress beyond the nose, you will create a full portrait painting. Remember, the colors you choose are influenced by the adjacent colors. Therefore, it is crucial to maintain a seamless transition from one area to another. Take a look at the color chart below to see the mixtures involved in this stage of the painting.
How to mix additional colors for painting noses
Practice and Experiment
Now that you’ve learned the fundamentals of painting a nose, I encourage you to practice with bite-sized portrait painting studies. You can use a mirror to paint your own nose or choose a master painting as a reference. Google Arts and Culture offer high-resolution reference paintings that are perfect for creating studies. Embrace experimentation, and you’ll be amazed at how much you can learn!
Have you tried painting a nose? Share your experiences and challenges in the comments below.
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