Supplies & Syllabus for Online Portrait Painting Master Class

Hello students,

For those of you who have signed up for my online portrait painting master class which will start on June 17th 2019, below is a brief outline of what you can expect to learn each week as well a list of materials. For those of you who are interested in signing up for this class, you will find a link on my website, under my “art classes” page. I look forward to working with all of you soon!

First, I’d just like to express how truly thrilled I am to finally be offering one of the most extensive portrait painting classes online. This class goes well beyond the basics. In addition to learning about the underlying anatomical structures which make up the human face, you will become more skilled in rendering subtle nuances of form, color and texture, which will give your portraits that incredibly life-like appearance that will leave your viewers in awe. After 25 years of painting portraits, I’ve developed a systematic approach which begins with an accurate portrait drawing, followed by a limited color underpainting, and finishes with glazes (a technique practiced by the Old Masters which adds tremendous depth and luminosity to the final color).  Now I’ve condensed all of this incredible information into a 6 week course!  If you took my portrait drawing master class prior to this, you will already be familiar with a lot of the terminology discussed in this course.

1st Class

We will begin with a discussion of the materials, including panel/ground preparation. We will then create an accurately proportioned drawing from the live model using a variety of measuring techniques. This initial drawing will serve as the linear study to be transferred to the prepared painting surface using the cartoon method.  A series of additional pencil/charcoal studies will be made to emphasize the anatomical structures of various facial features.

2nd Class

A two part demonstration will be given on how to transfer the linear study to the panel and how to properly add opaque values to the underpainting. Once the linear study is transferred, the drawing may be refined in paint. Initial patterns of light and dark can be established with a single color using the “frottie” method.  Any additional drawing corrections can be made at this stage as well.

for the second part of the demo, a gradated value scale will be mixed on the palette using a limited number of pigments and then added over the frottie. This first opaque layer can be thought of as a “dead color” layer or a “closed grissaille”, and is used to establish the basic planar structures of the face. We will also take a closer look at the skeletal and muscular anatomy.

3rd Class

This is where we can begin to refine the big value patterns as well as the value transitions. As we carefully render the gradients of light to dark or dark to light value tones, we will begin to accentuate the plane changes of the face. This, in turn, will add  more three dimensiality to the inital description of form. At this stage, we can also start to analyze the relationships between local values and local colors.

4th Class

Okay, now comes the fun part!  This is where we take all of that wonderful under-structure, and sculptural form and bring it to life with the addition of  color. The first color pass is just a semi opaque layer of limited color to build upon the groundwork which we’ve already laid down. If we have a plan for applying the color, it can contribute to the nuance, mood and expression of the piece in a variety of different ways.

A demonstration will be given on setting up the palette with earth tones and prismatics as well as white and black, and then mixing up the dominant sections of the light, mid-tone and dark flesh tones that appear on the model. I will discuss tints, shades and tones. We will also examine ways to modify the chroma, value and hue by mixing in other colors. We will focus on matching the value of each additional section of color to the value of the underpainting. I will also discuss the fat over lean method and how to achieve this with the proper ratios of oil to spirits in each paint layer.

5th Class

Here is where we will begin to refine the color with an extended palette and add details such as highlights, surface textures, wrinkles, etc. This is the layer where the painting will really start to come to life! Highlights may be intentionally exaggerated at this stage in preparation for the final glazing layer. As we add these subtle details, we can also make minor adjustments to the value, chroma and/or hue to closely match the models complexion. We are going to have lots of fun with this! 

6th Class

Here is where we add the glazing, also known as the “finishing layer” which is an oiled down, semi-transparent wash which can alter the final color. It is literally like putting the icing on the cake. Through selective glazes, we can produce a radiant glow, add an overall atmospheric quality to the piece, or simply draw attention to an area (create a focal point) with an adjustment in value, chroma and/or hue. This is the moment where we step back and look over the whole image and decide if, how and where adjustments need to be made.


Oil on wood (11 x 14)


Oil on wood (detail)


Oil on wood (detail)



Jars with lids for mediums
Paper towels or cloth rags
Soap to clean brushes (liquid dish soap works well)
Palette knife (these come in a variety of sizes and shapes; I prefer the 1/2 inch wide metal triangular-shaped ones with the wooden handle)
Art bin or tackle box to hold supplies
Fine sandpaper (I would get a range of grits such as a #220, #320 and possibly even a #600 for fine sanding the gesso/primer after applying it to the board)
Tracing paper (pad or roll)
A small paint roller with ultra-smooth foam rolls (at least 3)
Artists tape


Titanium White
Cadmium Yellow Light
Naples Yellow
Yellow Ochre
Raw Sienna
Cadmium Red Medium
Transparent Red Oxide
General Rose Madder or Quinacridone Rose
Thalo Blue
Ultramarine Blue
Viridian Green
Cobalt Violet
Raw Umber
Ivory Black

*Note:  Rembrandt, Williamsburg and Old Holland are professional-quality paint brands which I like to use, but somewhat pricey. Windsor & Newton is good choice too and less expansive than the others. Feel free to mix and match brand names.


Rounds # 1, 2, 3, 5
Flats # 3, 5
Filberts (one large, one small)
Liners (at least one # 000 for details)
A soft bristled blending brush, and/or fan brush (watercolor brushes are very soft and can be used with oil paint as well)
One very wide gesso brush

*Note:  Loew Cornell and Ebony Splendor are brands which I like, although with brushes it’s more about the feel. I try to select ones where the bristles don’t feel too stiff, yet still hold their shape when touched – particularly if they have a fine tip.  Avoid brushes which look frayed or that seem to have loose bristles.


Cold Pressed linseed oil, Stand oil and turpentine (Windsor & Newton or Gamblin brand)


A 16 x 20 inch wooden panel (preferably oak or maple) primed or unprimed with a cradled back. If it is unprimed you will need to prime it using the procedure below. I will give a demo on how to do this when I discuss materials in week 1 but if you want to prepare this ahead you can follow the steps below. If bought all ready primed, then you can skip to the last step).

*Steps for priming an unprimed wood panel:

1.  Apply a thin coat of Acrylic gesso. Gesso can be thinned w/ water if necessary. Once completely dry, (it usually takes about an hour or two) sand with a #220 grit sandpaper to remove dust and air pockets.

2.  Apply a second coat in right angles to the first with the Acrylic gesso to ensure full coverage. The board should appear white without any visible streaks at this point. Let dry and sand again with the #220. If streaks are still present, apply a third coat with the Acrylic gesso.

3.  Apply a coat of oil primer (this will take longer to dry than the Acrylic gesso) with a gesso brush and finish with a roller to eliminate streaks and ridges. Let it dry overnight or longer. To test for dryness, use your palm or knuckle and lightly tap it to see if its still tacky. Usually 24 hours is a sufficient amount of time although in warmer temperatures, it may dry faster. Cooler temperatures will slow down drying time. Once dry, sand again with a fine grit paper (#220 grit if there is still some texture or #320 if it appears smooth).

4.  Apply another coat of primer. This will most likely be your final. If using a toned ground, you will mix your oil color directly into the primer until it reaches the desired tone and color prior to applying it to the board. If using an untoned ground, you will simply apply the primer following the same procedure(s) above. Once again, allow primer to dry overnight or longer. Once dry, finish with a final sanding. Usually I will sand with the #320 grit paper and then sand again with the #600 grit. For an ultra smooth surface, you can apply a little water to a soft rag and rub onto the board and then sand with a waterproof fine grit sandpaper such as the #600 grit.


Windsor & Newton oil primer
Acrylic Gesso


A gray-toned disposable paper palette (these look like pads with disposable sheets)

If you have any questions about the materials or anything else, don’t hesitate to email me at I look forward to working with you soon!


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