How To Paint A Portrait Using The Progressive Focus Method by WFMartin

I have been working with a method for creating a likeness in a portrait with oil paint.  For this process I use no drawing or sketching, whatsoever, going to paint on canvas immediately.  I first prepare a set of progressively blurred images, thus the name for my process:  "The Progressive Focus Method".  I prepare from 3 to 4 photos in proportion to the canvas dimensions, but usually smaller than the canvas, itself.  I blur these photos in steps, beginning with the most drastic "blur" in Photoshop, and I create one, or two further blurred photos, diminishing the "blur" with each, until reaching the final, sharp-focus reference photo. 

I have found that I was able to create a reasonable likeness the very first time I used this method, where I had trouble in the past attempting to use "classical proportions", and performing complicated, and detailed preliminary drawings.  This method uses none of the "drawing" operations so often recommended, but only paint on a brush.

I often turn my first one, or two reference photos upside-down, so that I am working with abstract "shapes" only, and I am not influenced by "things", such as "ears", "eyes", "mouth", etc.

I believe that my reference photos will speak for themselves.  Each image shows both my painting, on the left, with my reference photo on the right.  Enjoy:










It is at about this stage that I turn my reference photo righside-up.







The next photo represents my final painting.  I painted this on an 11" x 14" piece of acrylic-primed hardboard (Masonite), that I purchased from an art store.  I use very soft, synthetic brushes, and I use a glazing medium that I invented for myself, composed of the following ingredients, and in the following proportions:

1 portion Linseed Oil

1 portion Walnut Oil

1 portion Venice Turpentine (the sap of a Larch Tree, serving as the "resin" in this mixture.)

2 portions Oil Of Spike Lavender (This is the solvent in this mixture.)


My final painting:

Final Painting


I am writing this article with the hope that others may decide to use my method as an inspiration to create a relatively accurate likeness of a person, without the use of any sort of preliminary drawing, or sketching, gridding, projecting, and the like.  Just take out a brush, and a palette full of paint, and begin applying it directly to your canvas.  The success I've had with this method is beyond description.

Happy Painting!

Williem F. Martin



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