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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > August 19 > Contemporary portraits

Contemporary portraits

Hashim Akib introduces his method of painting portraits in acrylic by applying blocks of paint. Follow his demonstrations to discover how to de-clutter your brain and concentrate on the bigger picture, rather than the details, to achieve a likeness

Applying blocks of paint – as opposed to blending and layering – is a great way to begin streamlining your portrait painting technique. Making a few marks is also a good way to acclimatise to using a large flat-head brush. It may seem clumsy at first, but dexterity will come with practice. For a beginner this may go against the grain, as smaller brushes provide more control, but they will also inevitably restrict your arm movements, resulting in less expressive marks.

If you begin with refined detail, it’s extremely difficult to loosen up thereafter as your perception becomes fixed. Instead, begin big, moving your whole arm to find the overall shape with your largest marks. Next, turn to a medium brush and use pressure from your elbow to locate the main features; then end with your smallest brush and pressure just from your hand to add the final details.

The robot

An approach I’ve developed as a way of establishing the overall composition and main features in a portrait is to begin with a ‘robot’. This has many advantages. Firstly, even someone with very little drawing experience can replicate a simple robotic outline – think of it as a step up from a stick man by incorporating simple box and triangular shapes. This makes it easier to work out proportions as you have something simple to measure against. The other advantage is that it makes you more direct as no curvy lines are used. It’s far easier drawing straight lines than circles. This approach builds discipline and de-clutters your brain, helping you to avoid concentrating on every aspect of the face from the start.

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About The Artist

Welcome to our August issue, packed with inspirational features to help you explore and enjoy your creative skills in all media this summer. Our professional artists and tutors show how to capture summer trees in acrylics, deal with all those greens in the landscape, choose and use the best pochade box for your needs and paint watercolour landscapes both near and far. There are also demonstrations on how to achieve a portrait likeness in charcoal, apply the 'robot' method for painting people, use the patterns of animal coats to help describe their form and capture a radiant sunset in oils. Our interview with Sunday Times Watercolour Competition winner Jayne Stokes provides an insight into the secrets of her success and her working methods in water-based media, while a group of artists reveal how they set up an Open Studios event and offer their top tips for success. There's plenty more, including the latest news, views, product review, competitions to enter and advice on how to create and publish your own book! Enjoy!