Black & White Portrait study

Hi Guys,

I have been really busy recently, nervously getting myself ready for a Photography Workshop with the beautiful Brooke Shaden, which is being held in Melbourne later this week, as well as launching my online Black & White Portrait painting classes.

During the live Skills Sessions held at my art studio, that these online sessions are based on, I have enjoyed guiding small groups of students step by step through creating their own life like portraits.

As I demonstrated the techniques to be put to use, I was able to create my own Portrait as a guide for those attending. This was so awesome, because it is a rare opportunity for me to be able to just enjoy painting for the sake of painting as opposed to creating a series of works for Gallery representation.

The sense of relief was grand and I think eminent in the feeling that comes across in the finished piece. I love its rough edges and deep eyes and I especially love the freckles:

B & W Portrait of Zoe

The following is an image of the finished piece in full:


B & W Portrait zoe in full

At just $20 you can sign in for the first part of this course. If you would like to take part in this online course please fill in the form below to join in the fun!

A red what?

Why / How… the red wash.

red wash 1

This was a technique that I was taught by fellow artist “Warren Haney” when I had lessons with him some years ago, and it is a technique that I really love to work with . Originally taught to me for the use in acrylic painting, it is still a technique that I use today with oil painting. In fact… I really wouldn’t know where to start without it!


The red wash is done primarily over your sketch as the very first step to your painting process.

By brushing a streak free ‘tint’ over your sketch you are setting a ‘mid-tone’ to your work. From this mid-tone it is much much easier to begin the actual painting of your subject as all the lights are knocked back a tad.

Now you can start to ‘bring in’ or ‘paint in’ all the whites and lights in your painting. Set against the tinted background, this gives your painting a much more immediate ‘finished and rounded look, as the highlighted areas are really popping right off the canvas already! Using this technique also gives you a lot more feedback and a better suggestion of what your painting is going to look like when it is finished. I find it is much easier to stick to completing your painting when you love it at EVERY step, not just at the end!


Using the ‘red wash’ to underpaint your painting also seals in the graphite of your drawing so as not to stain the paint when you begin painting.


red wash 1

After finishing your drawing, either on paper OR on canvas… prepare your ‘red wash’. For my red wash, I use a small dab of Pyrolle Red Aterlier paint, roughly enough to just cover the tip of your finger. Place paint into a high sided container. I then add Atelier clear painting medium. This medium is milky white, but dries clear. Add around 80 mls of the medium to the paint. The consistency should be such that when you spread the medium over a sketch with a brush, that you have a nice, light tint over your sketch and can still see all the details of your sketch clearly.

red wash 2


When mixed, pour the wash over your sketch… very dramatic… I know!

red wash 3


Using a soft and hopefully ‘streak free’ brush like a Hake… spread the tint over your entire sketch…

red wash 4

Don’t panic… but DO continue to spread the tint without stopping. If you allow this stuff to even partially dry before you finish it can get very gluggy and patchy!

red wash 5


Hint: the larger your brush, the less streaks. Continue until you have a beautiful even coverage of your tint.


A beautiful ‘red wash’ over your painting to seal in your drawing and create a perfect mid-tone from which you can paint.


Oh well, I guess you will have to wait for my next post! But in the mean time, I would love to hear how you go with this technique if you try it 🙂

Warm Regards,

Tara Spicer.