Mastering Portrait Shadows: A Ben Lustenhouwer Tutorial

In this video, Ben Lustenhouwer shares invaluable insights on the significance of shadows in creating lifelike portraits. He emphasizes the importance of tonal values over colors and demonstrates techniques that will elevate your portrait painting skills.

The Artistry of Shadows: Ben begins by addressing a common challenge faced by artists – capturing shadows effectively. He underscores the pivotal role shadows play in defining a portrait, transcending the mere use of color. With a thought-provoking example, he illustrates how tonal values can transform a black and white image into a compelling portrait.

Creating a Palette: Ben offers a glimpse into his palette, featuring four meticulously crafted premixtures. These premixtures include a cool light tone, a base tone for local skin color, a shadow mixture, and a darker shadow blend. Detailed information about the palette can be found in the video’s description.

Painting Shadows with Confidence: Watch as Ben fearlessly applies the shadow mixture to the entire portrait area, ensuring that his initial sketch remains visible. He shares techniques to maintain a clear underdrawing while navigating through the complexities of shadows, especially in challenging areas like the nose.

The Art of Simplicity: Ben’s philosophy revolves around keeping portrait painting uncomplicated. He encourages artists to focus on simple planes, delivering a more potent and authentic portrayal. Instead of diving into intricate details prematurely, he advises maintaining a consistent and straightforward approach.

Distance and Reflection: Ben urges artists to step away from their easels during the painting process. Taking breaks, walking away, or even capturing a photograph of the artwork helps artists gain fresh perspectives. He emphasizes that sometimes, the solution becomes apparent only when you distance yourself from the canvas.

Proportions and Grid Lines: Ben shares a vital tip – using grid lines to check proportions. He uses a ruler and a knitting needle to recreate extended grid lines on his portrait. This method allows him to evaluate and correct any discrepancies in the portrait’s proportions, ensuring accuracy.

Mastering the Balance: He advises against getting lost in the minutiae of details. He explains that a portrait’s quality doesn’t improve with an abundance of details; rather, it depends on a strong and concise statement. Artists are encouraged to focus on what truly matters, avoiding unnecessary distractions.

Parting Thoughts: In closing, Ben reflects on his journey as an artist and reminds everyone that even professional artists began as amateurs. He encourages aspiring artists to focus on personal growth rather than impressing others. He leaves us with five essential tips: prioritize tonal values, simplify surfaces, take breaks, use grid lines, and avoid excessive detailing.

Embrace Ben Lustenhouwer’s wisdom and embark on your journey to master portrait shadows. These valuable insights will undoubtedly elevate your portrait painting skills.

Portrait painting tips for beginners who want to start in oil paint.
In this short video I give you 5 tips to pay attention to. Of course there are many more.
Check out all my other videos on Youtube:

It is my intention to publish everything I know about portrait painting.
Donations are welcome. No obligation, but if you can, please do!

I painted this demonstration on piece of heavy duty linnen, I applied three layers
of gesso that I made a bit off-white with black and yellow ochre acrylics.
The canvas was stapled on a piece of chipboard.
Once finished I will cut the painting and glue it on a piece of plywood.

My palette from left to right.

Titanium White, Talens/Rembrandt 105
Cadmium Lemmon Yellow, Talens/Rembrandt 207
Yellow Ochre, Talens/Rembrandt 227
Cadmium Red Deep, Talens/Rembrandt 306
Terra Rosa, Winsor & Newton 635
Transparent Oxide Red, Talens/Rembrandt 378
Alizarine Crimson, Winsor & Newton 004
Chromium Oxide Green, Talens/Rembrandt 668
Viridian Green, Talens/Rembrandt 616
Cerulean Blue, Talens/Rembrandt 534
Ultramarine Blue, Talens/Rembrandt 505
Ivory Black, Talens/Rembrandt 701

1 Titanium White + Cadmium Red Deep + Cerulean Blue
2 Titanium White+ Terra Rosa + Yellow Ochre
3 Cadmium red Deep + Viridian Green
4 Transparent Oxide Red + Viridian Green

Later I added 3 steps of neutral grays:
Ivory Black +Yellow Ochre+Titanium White

A Mauve mixture:
Ultramarine Blue + Alizarine Crimson + Titanium White

To rinse brushes. “Titan Disolvente Sin Olor “
(This might be available in only Spain. Any odorless Spirit will do like Talens 090)

I did not use any medium in this painting


In my blog you will find even more information about portrait painting and a free eBook “One hundred portraits”:

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