The Art of the Portrait” is a demonstration by M Gallery artist, Michelle Dunaway, of her painting “Sherri”. This demonstration appears in International Artist, December/January, 2011/12 issue,  pp. 34-35.

The Art of the Portrait: Demonstration by Michelle Dunaway

Step 1

I first toned the linen with an initial wash of Ultramarine Blue and Transparent Oxide Red. I like to start at a chosen focal point, the eyes in this case, establishing accurate shapes and values in this keystone area and building everything else out from there.

Step 2

I put a thin layer of flesh tone (a mixture of Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow Light, White, and a touch of Transparent Oxide Red and Ultramarine Blue to modify the temperature), focusing on major planes of the face, structure, and a description of light.

Step 3

At this point, I’m putting in adjoining shapes and colors while all the time thinking of structure and rhythms throughout the face, noticing static areas (like the bone structure), fluid areas (like the scarf), and movement of the color within her face.

Step 4

While developing the painting and creating more refinement in the forms. I now want to really capture her particular likeness and expression, as well as the emotion.

Step 5

During the refinement stage, I want to make sure to keep in mind the structure as a whole and maintain the solidity while a creating a sense of movement throughout the painting. After to getting to what I initially thought would be the finish, I felt there was something missing


After consideration, I decided to put a hint of her red sweater in plus a suggestion of some of the greenery behind her that was hit by sunlight to compliment the light on her face.

about the artist

Michelle Dunaway is a professional living in New Mexico, and has been drawing for as long as she can remember. As a young child she was captivated with drawing people, and that focus continues to this day. “I’ve always been intrigued with drawing faces and hands. Also, capturing the essence of the human spirit fascinates me, whether it is found in the graceful movements of the human form or the eyes of the model. There is a whole story waiting to be found and revealed through the brush.”

She credits her mother’s creative influence and her upbringing in Alaska as fueling her artistic imagination. “My mother was always doing something creative, whether painting, wood carving, or stained glass. . . [T]here were always art books around the house, and she encouraged me to do charcoal drawings at around the age of seven. I think growing up in Alaska gave me a love of color. . .[A]lso, growing up in such an untamed wilderness made me aware of the beauty that is in the everyday. My father and I always went on adventure hikes in the wilderness, taking the ‘path less traveled’. I think that really gave me a joy of the process of discovery that translates into the creation of art. For me, the most profound stories are found in the simplest moments. That is something I aspire to convey in my paintings.”


About mgalleryoffineart

Owner of M Gallery of Fine Art in historic Charleston, SC
This entry was posted in Oil Painting, Painting, Portraits, Realism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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