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For today’s class, we had to bring in a picture of someone. Anyone. We had to paint a portrait of the picture using only one color — burnt umber. 

We could use the paint straight out of the tube or thinned with Gamsol. (We’re painting with oils.)

Gamsol is a brand of odorless mineral spirits. Odorless mineral spirits are considered less toxic than regular mineral spirits. They’ve been refined to remove the harmful aromatic compounds.

Paint and brushes

The jar on my cart contains the Gamsol. It’s labeled with my name and the contents. Even though it doesn’t smell, you should still handle odorless mineral spirits with caution.

It’s not likely to cause breathing problems with normal usage unless someone has a preexisting condition. High concentrations might cause nausea, a headache, dizziness or other problems with the central nervous system.

It’s also a potential fire hazard, so needs to be stored in a safe place. And it needs to be disposed of properly. More on that in another post.

On to today’s painting.

Painting in progress

We had to start large. Blocking in landmarks, negative space, etc. To help lighten up areas that were too dark, we wiped away paint with with a clean rag. I’d never done that before. On one hand, frustrating because I felt clumsy. On the other hand, thrilling because it was something new to try.

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I decided his nose was too long, so shortened it up a bit. Guess it’s a common problem when you start doing portraits. Made the lower half of his face too long as well.

So many details to consider. You have to look carefully and then you have to look again. And you have to translate what you see. Constantly measuring distances and considering angles, curves, and lines, darkness and light. Learning as you go along. Artist and teacher extraordinaire Lucy Ellen Smith calls her drawing class Drawing to Learn instead of Learning to Draw. Makes sense.

Nearly finished portrait

End of the class, and this is what I’ve got. Proud of my accomplishment even with all the little things I see that need to be fixed. I won’t bother to list them, but they are bugging me!

I’m not going to tell you who it’s supposed to be. I’m hoping I managed to capture a glimmer of the person and that you will be able to guess who it is. Can you?

About the Author

Diane Atwood ()

Website: http://mylatestart.com

6 thoughts on “Painting a portrait with only one color”

  1. You are SO talented, Diane! Love seeing all the different pieces you’re producing as you learn. When are you going to have a show (even if it’s at your home)??? I’d love to see your work IRL!

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