Today’s submission is an acrylic portrait by artist Katie Gray. Katie has only painted 7 things before this! She has drawn for years but is new to painting. First, great job on your drawing. This is not an easy perspective to get right but you did a really good job!

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Taking a look at some things we can do to improve on this one even more. First, it’s not finished. Now I know what you’re thinking “yes it is! I finished it!”. No, it’s really not. This is an underpainting.  A pretty good underpainting, but not a finished painting. You’ve blocked in approximately where things go, but there is no shading, no contrast and no depth. I love this submission because I see this SO often in newer artist’s work. They call things finished that are maybe 1/4 of the way done. There is nothing wrong with the work other than that they got to a point where they didn’t know how to improve it and stopped, afraid to “mess it up”. You can’t mess it up because it’s not finished yet!!

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Right now everything is flat because you’ve not added highlights and shadows yet. Now the drawing is a bit off, but The biggest issue is how flat everything is and how the baby is blending into the background.

Look at the color swatches I’ve added to the photos above. The line on the left is from the photo, the line on the right is from your painting. There are SO many values on the photo, but the shades you’ve used on the painting are all almost exactly the same. There is no difference…or not enough to matter anyway. Now I’m not so concerned that the actual colors are different. You could paint her purple and she will look good as long as you have your values right. You said in your submission that you wanted this to look as realistic as possible so these values are step one in achieving that goal.

Next, let’s look at your background. When you look at this piece, all your eye is really drawn to is the green dress. The baby’s skin is just too close to the background, then because there is no shading on the baby, she blends in even more.

Taking a look at the dress and bow, you’ve outlined the bow. We’ve got two things going on here. First, things in life aren’t really outlined. There are shadows and highlights.  Second, when you outlined it you used a lot of short strokes. While this isn’t an area I would use thin outlines like this, I do want to talk about how to get nice smooth lines when you do want them. I suspect you didn’t have your paint thinned down enough and were using a small brush with short bristles. When you want thin lines, use a liner brush with long bristles. I’ve got a video showing you how to do this. Short bristled brushes not only can’t get as fine of a line, but they don’t hold as much paint, so you have to do a lot of little brush strokes like you have here, which makes the edge look rough or “fluffy”.

My last tip is for your finer details. You haven’t really spent any time cleaning up edges, or adding shadows uner things like the bow, or the baby, or the creases in her neck, arm or back. Taking the time to make sure you have all of these things will help you to achieve your goal of realistic paintings.

I know this is a lot to take in, but you’re off to a great start! Just spend quite a bit more time working on your paintings before calling them complete! 😀