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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > Sep-17 > Portraits of African lives

Portraits of African lives

Rob Wareing, who uses the same palette for both dark and light complexions, shares his hints and tips for painting portraits

One of the most exciting things about painting people with darker complexions is the way that light reflects on their skin. The contrasts are greater and the form and structure of the head more evident. Colours are also easier to see.

My studio in South Africa has a large south-facing window (the equivalent of a north-facing window in the northern hemisphere), which gives me a cool constant natural light source with no direct sunlight coming into the room. The intensity of the light can change with cloud cover but the shapes of light, half-tone and shadow remain the same.

Occasionally I paint a subject outdoors. In these situations I will either paint in a shaded area or with the sun almost directly behind the model, creating more of an edge light – the features of the sitter will then be in the reflected light. A wide-brimmed hat is essential to protect my eyes from the fierce African sun and I find that an hour is about as much as the sitter and I can take in these direct sun situations.

Palette

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About The Artist

Welcome to an inspiration-packed issue with great demonstrations to follow in all media to help practise and develop your skills, from Paul Riley's focus on how to depict glass and reflections in watercolour, Chris Forsey's mixed-media demonstration of a light-filled Australian coastal scene to Rob Wareing's feature on painting skin tones and portraits in oils. With an insight into up-and-coming Richard Burger's approach to portraiture and Richard Pikesley's use of studio objects as tabletop still lifes, we also step into the shoes of professional artists to see what motivates them and how they approach their work. Young artist Marie Antoniou urges you to express yourself in acrylics with just one brush, Robert Dutton explains the rules of perspective while Paul Talbot-Greaves shows how to achieve depth in landscape compositions, Barry Herniman paints boats and harbours, and Liz Seward suggests the perfect antidote to painter's block by turning to collage. For help with colour mixing, Julie Collins turns our attention to the variety of whites available, and Catherine Strong tells us how to keep our greens clean and vibrant. Enjoy the issue and email your feedback and comments to us at theartistletters@tapc.co.uk We love to hear from you!
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