Task 11: Portrait Photography

We are looking at Portrait Photography with the aim of having our own study to then work from for our next artwork.

Photography is a crucial tool in the development of an art and design student, as it provides the originality and personal control over your art.


In art, there is no need for colour; I see only light and shade. Give me a crayon, and I will paint your portrait.

Francisco Goya


So let’s look at portraiture and get some ideas so you can start taking your shots.


Definition: Portrait photography or portraiture in photography is a photograph of a person or group of people that captures the personality of the subject by using effective lighting, backdrops, and poses.

Selfies are undoubtedly the most popular form of portrait photography today. However, portrait photography has a long and interesting history, full of new technology and iconic images.


I do not paint a portrait to look like the subject, rather does the person grow to look like his portrait.

Salvador Dali


There are many tips and technical manipulations you could do with a fancy DSLR camera, but here are some that anyone can do with any camera, from the disposable to the Smart Phone.



Don’t be lazy with your compositions. Too often photographers stand back, thinking it’s best to include all, or at least the top half, of their subject.

Zoom in instead to fill the frame for a more inspired photo composition. Positioning your subject to one side of the frame, with ‘space to look into’, is a great technique to master.



How your subject stands, poses and looks will have a dramatic effect on your results. A slight change in facial expression – such as whether they smile or not – can radically change the entire feeling of the photograph.

You could consider setting up portrait shots where your subject looks off-camera, up or down, or to one side. Play around and see what works.

When shooting, try and capture a range of expressions so you can pick which you prefer when editing them back home on the computer. This is a portrait and, as we’ve discussed before, you can add meaning and purpose to your work with a little thought. What story are you trying to tell? What would you like viewers to see when they look at your art? Making a purpose gives your art a personal touch…and makes it more fun!



Framing gives an image depth and draws the eye to a point of interest in the image.

You could do it by placing your subject in a window or doorway, have them look through a small gap or even use their hands around their face.

Also, framing can extend to shooting with a wide angle lens. This can help create some memorable shots when you’re doing portrait photography.

At very wide focal lengths you can create some wonderful distortion. Using these focal lengths will enlarge parts of the face or body that are on the edge of the frame more than what is in the centre.

It can also give a wide open and dramatic impact when your subject is in an impressive setting.


Horizontal and Vertical framings are not the only options when it comes to shooting portraits. While getting your images straight can be important in when shooting in these formats, holding your camera on a more diagonal angle can also inject a little fun into your images.

This type of framing can add a sense of fun and energy into your shots. Just don’t ‘slightly’ do it or you’ll have people asking themselves if you might have mistakenly held your camera crooked.



The person in your portrait is the main point of interest – however sometimes when you place them into different contexts with different backgrounds you can dramatically alter the mood in a shot.

Sometimes you want your background to be as minimalistic as possible.

While other times a dramatic or colourful background can help your subject really stand out.




Not only does the quality of light affect shadows, the distance of the light source to the object casting the shadow will change its characteristics, as well as the distance of the object casting the shadow to the object the shadow falls upon. As you can see, working with shadows opens up an almost infinite window of opportunity.

A shadow can be twisted and manipulated by changing the shape of the object casting the shadow. A shadow can be almost translucent. A shadow can be coloured! You can do a lot of cool things with a shadow.

When photographers, (or all artists for that matter), think of modelling a three dimensional object onto a two dimensional medium, they think of highlights and shadows. It’s these two elements, which are created by light, that help us to see in three dimensions. You have to keep this in mind for this task as you will be painting your most successful photo next.

Photography is about expressing yourself in an artistic medium. Applying that to shadows could mean hunting down interesting shadows that already exist. It could mean creating shadows that weren’t there. It could even mean you manipulating existing shadows to satisfy your creative vision!


Have fun with your photography task!


Join our Facebook Group for LIVE lessons and friendly art community – see you there 🙂

Why not have a go at this and post your artwork for me to see. Maybe I or the community can offer support, encouragement and helpful feedback.  – share your work on TWITTER and INSTAGRAM – POST  using our hashtag #ONLINECOLLEGEART




OCAD Studio: Articulating Figure Gestures


This lesson will explain how to go about adding more detail to a figure gesture by breaking the simple curved lines into more complex articulations. You do not need to make it extremely detailed, it should be enough to break a long line into 2-4 sections.

I recommend watching the accompanying video while reading through this lesson as a lot of the concepts will be clearer if you watch me demonstrate them. Click here for the video.


Sighting Angles and Alignments to Improve Accuracy

Even if you’re using you eye to copy, it is useful to pay attention to relative angles and alignments while working. This will stop you from getting tunnel vision about any single aspect of the drawing and keep you thinking about the big relationships that govern the overall proportions.

You can compare angles by flicking your eyes between your drawing and the subject. Your eyes will spot if an angle is different because there will be a shift as your eyes move back and forth (like how an animation works). The same is true for lengths of lines between the angles.

Alignments are even simpler, imagine a straight horizontal (or vertical line) lying across your subject (you can also use any straight implement, like a ruler or knitting needle) and see what point in the subject line up. If they don’t line up in your drawing, you know that something is off and you can correct the mistake.

If you can get the alignments and angles right, the drawing will naturally fall into place without too much effort.


High Point and Low Points

When looking at natural forms you will find that most are made of gradual curves. These curves make it difficult to break down a form into simpler construct lines (or articulations). An important aspect of producing an effective line drawing that captures the essence of the subject is an ability to pick high points and low points effectively.

A high/low point is essentially the point at which the curve turns back on itself in a noticeable manner. While a curve is (by nature) always changing direction you will tend to find that there are specific point along the curve where this change in direction is more pronounced. Thing of a parabolic curve, it is gradual changing direction until suddenly reversing rapidly before becoming more gradual again. It is these marked changes of direction that we refer to as high and low points.

When beginning to articulate a gesture drawing, start by finding these high/low points along the curved lines. Only find one or two points to begin with, otherwise it will become over complicated quickly and it will be difficult to make corrections where necessary.



Any representational drawing (or painting) is a 2D interpretation of 3D reality, so there will be aspects of your drawing that omit parts of the subject that are hidden from view. In complex subjects (like the human figure), this results in a number of overlaps. Places where one form partially blocks another form. These overlaps usually result in a angle change and placing them accurately will help to give a sense of all the forms relating to one another accurately. They are also crucial when trying to capture foreshortening (a form of perspective that is caused by the aspects of the subject closer to the viewer appearing bigger).


Naturalistic Rhythm and Avoiding Repetition

The final consideration when producing an articulated drawing from a simpler gesture is to ensure that you keep a naturalistic rhythm when adding more lines. There is a tendency for humans to make things regular and repetitive, which makes for a dull (and unrealistic) drawing. Nature is full of ordered irregularity which is inherently beautiful, so an important aspect of producing an effective representational drawing is to appreciate and translate these natural rhythms into your drawing. If you notice yourself adding identical lengths of lines or identical angles it probably means you’re drawing automatically and not looking at your subject enough.

OCAD Studio Exercise: Gesture Drawing

After watching my ‘Gesture Drawing’ lesson (see below) and reading through the  accompanying notes you can try your hand at this exercise. If you’re signed up to OCAD Studio then you can scan or photograph your work and send it through to me and I’ll give you some feedback.

I’ve attached a sheet of classical figure drawings for you to use as the basis for your first set of gesture drawings. One version is lighter, to make tracing more obvious.

  1. Print out the sheet or copy them from your computer screen.
  2. Either copy by eye, trace over the lighter sheet or use a sheet of tracing paper over the darker sheet (whichever you prefer)
  3. Try to distil the images to just a few straight lines and simple curves, in order to capture the energy of the figure.
  4. When you’re done with this set, find some of your own references to keep practising, or better yet, sign up to a local life drawing class and try your hand at making these gestures from a model.

OCAD Studio: Gesture Drawing


Gesture lines describe the movement and feeling of a figure. They are a way to quickly capture the essence of a pose without focusing on the details of the contour (the specific shape of the forms that make up the figure). To see how gesture drawings are made, check out the accompanying video.



  1. Limit your lines to straight lines, C curves and S curves, to keep things simple.
  2. Look for the motion not the contour.
  3. Draw what you feel rather than what you see.
  4. You can use combinations of lines, but always try to use as few lines as possible.
  5. Tighter curves have more tension than gradual curves, this will affect the sense of energy in your drawing. A coiled figure will feel more tense than a relaxed flowing figure.
  6. Think about the relationship between the head, feet, shoulders and hips.
  7. The head will usually sit above the centre of gravity.
  8. It is common for the hips and shoulders to counter one another.
  9. I often talk about the importance of straight lines when constructing forms, but with gesture we are using curves to encapsulate tension, energy and movement.


Life Drawing Groups

Quick sketching is common at life drawing groups because the limited time forces you to focus on the general relationships and feel of the subject rather than the detail. Most groups will begin a session with a lot of very short poses, which are ideal for practicing gesture drawing. If you are able, I recommend finding a local life drawing group to practice, as working from life is a great way to get a real sense of the different types of energy and mood that different poses convey.


Other Uses of Gesture Drawing

The concept of gesture isn’t limited to figure drawing and painting, it can be applied to any subject or group of subjects as it is an integral part of composition. The relationship between objects in a still life or the elements in a landscape can also be described with gestural lines.


Task 10: Paul Cezanne Painting

Welcome back!

This week I want to look at Paul Cezanne with you… the main reasons for this is that his art is considered as being of great importance to the development of modern art. His search for underlying structure of the composition led the way for cubism and then abstraction. I hope to show you how his use of colour as tone, and his obsession with the formal elements of composition, made it possible for artists who came after to question what they saw.

Cezanne was like the father of us all

Pablo Picasso


In looking and learning from artists, such as Paul Cezanne, we can learn a tremendous amount. This task will show you how to take inspiration from an artist, and it will aid your progression; it is one of the best learning tools there is 🙂


Task 10 is to paint a bowl of fruit- inspired by Paul Cezanne

We have already discussed colour theory and how to be creative with your use of colour when painting and drawing. Now we are going to use Cezanne’s inspiration to produce our next art work.

This resource will give you some information about how to analyse Cezanne’s art and what to look out for. If you can write about Cezanne and produce a research page about him, you can later reflect on your own art and where you were successful, as well as finding areas to improve. Knowing what to look for will come from learning more about Cezanne:

Click here for a resource: Cezanne

Have a go at painting fruit in the style of Paul Cezanne

Pointers to remind you of his style:

  • Blocks of colour
  • Use colour to achieve tone
  • His pictures were solid in appearance
  • He loved geometry-geometric simplification
  • He would paint an object from various points of view


Have a look here for a quick example of how to tackle this task 🙂 It is from a Facebook Live demonstration.

Here is my Cezanne inspired painting from the video above…far from perfect but the idea is to learn from one of the greats and see what happens!

Do remember that painting is like handwriting… everyone has their own way so embrace it 🙂

Join our Facebook Group for LIVE lessons and friendly art community – see you there 🙂

Why not have a go at this and post your artwork for me to see. Maybe I or the community can offer support, encouragement and helpful feedback.  – share your work on TWITTER and INSTAGRAM – POST  using our hashtag #ONLINECOLLEGEART

OCAD Studio Exercise: Making a Value Sphere

In this exercise, you will be creating a sphere, but the same principles apply whenever you’re drawing or painting any form in a representational artwork.

Use the diagram below, watch the accompanying video lesson and read my introduction to form as guide when you create your own sphere.

The Form Principle.jpg



  • Paper
  • Pencil or charcoal
  • Eraser


  • Toned canvas or panel
  • White paint
  • Either black paint or
  • An earth colour paint (such as burnt umber or raw umber)
  • 2-3 small to medium sized brushes
  • Odourless mineral spirits
  • Palette
  • Cup for mineral spirits
  • Cleaning rag



Determining the Light Source

1. Draw a circle on the page or canvas, this will be the basis for your sphere. Then draw an ellipse on the ground plane, this will be the shadow cast from the sphere and determine the direction of light.

2. Draw the ‘bedbug line’ (the line that divides light from shadow) onto the form.

Establishing the Shadow

1. Fill in the the shadow shape with an average shadow value (about a 7 on the value scale).

2. Next, fill in the cast shadow on the ground with a similar value.

Adding Variations to the Shadow

1. The shadow isn’t usually evenly dark, because in most cases, light will be reflected into the shadow after bouncing off other elements in the scene. This will cause the centre of the shadow to lighten, becoming darker towards the bedbug line (the ‘core shadow’).

2. The shadow will also become darker where two forms meet one another (like where the sphere meets the ground). This is called the ‘occlusion shadow’, it is dark because neither direct light or reflected light reaches it.

Adding Halftones and Refining the Form

1. Begin adding halftones from the bedbug line, these are the ‘dark halftones’. As the halftones move further away from the bedbug line they will receive more light, and begin to lighten as a consequence.

a)  If you are painting on a toned panel, at a certain point you will reach a value that matches the canvas. When this happens you should stop adding dark halftones and start working out from the lightest values. You will find these values at the part of the sphere that faces the light source. Once you’ve added all the lightest halftones, they will meet the darkest halftones.

  1. If you are drawing your sphere you can just keep adding halftones gradually. The further that halftones are from the bedbug line, the lighter they will be. At some point you will just leave the white of the paper.
  • In stronger, direct light, the transition from the bedbug line will be more harsh.
  • In weaker, diffuse light, the transition from the bedbug line will be more gradual and softer.

2. Now that all the halftones have been added you should have a roughly correct sphere. At this point you should spend time correcting value relationships and neatening up your painting or drawing.

As always, if you have any questions about this exercise, please let me know.

OCAD Studio: Hue, Chroma and Value

To enhance your understanding of colour,  it helps to know about the three different variables (hue, chroma and value) of every colour that you come across. Gaining a better understanding of these three variables will make mixing, matching and discussing colours much easier.


Every colour has a specific hue, which is determined by where it falls on the colour spectrum (blue, green or red etc.). While hue is most evident in bright primary colours, such as the yellow of a McDonald’s sign or the bright red of a sportscar, most of the colours around us have a less obvious hue. This means that we will often have to describe a colour by using compound hues, such as a yellow-green leaf or a red-brown brick. There is no definite way to describe these mixed hues, so just go with what you feel best matches the colour as you see/feel it.



The chroma of a colour is determined by how intense it is. In other words, how much of the pure hue is present. Every specific hue has a maximum purity, when this diminishes, the colour will become more washed out and grey. Think of a bright red shirt, the more you wash it the more dull it will become. The shirt’s hue hasn’t changed but it has become less intense over time, this is caused by the chroma lessening.



Value is determined by where the colour falls on the spectrum of between absolute light and dark – with black being at one end and white being at the other. This means that you can mix a very dark red-brown or a very light red-brown, with the the hue and chroma being identical but the value changing. The steps between black and white are made up of a gradient of greys transitioning from light to dark. Take a look at How to Make a Value Scale in the General Skills and Concepts category on the front page for more info about value.



Hopefully this introduction helps you to understand colour better and makes it easier for you to use and discuss colour.

The way that these three variables interact is the most complex aspect of colour theory, so we will be looking at their relationship in more detail in future lessons.