I thought it might be useful to visually document the progress of one of the portraits that I’m currently working on in a series of blog posts. This first blog in the series shows key shots of the very early stages of an oil portrait on canvas.

The double portrait features a newly married couple on their wedding day. I will provide background to the painting and the people in the portrait in a later blog and focus on the stages of development in this series. While sketches and studies of the couple were made, I am understandably reliant on photographic references for this painting.

Early Stages of a Wedding Portrait Painting in Oils

Image 1: After careful planning of the portrait composition I started by making a simple but accurate line drawing on a primed canvas. I then blocked in key areas of tone with a thin wash under-painting.

Initial underpainting of an oil portrait

Image 1 | Initial under-painting

Image 2: When I was happy with the general composition I started to quickly pick out key areas such as the facial features and hair. The brushstrokes at this stage are deliberately loose and fluid.


Loose early layer of an oil painting

Image 2 | Loose early layer


Image 3: I picked out more details such as the outline of the tiara and refined the facial features further. I started to establish the skin tones and the lighter values of the wedding dress and lilac waistcoat.

Oil portrait in progress

Image 3 | Establishing skin tones and key values

Development of Skin Tones

The images of the bride below provide a closer look at the development of the skin tones. While the quality of the photos aren’t fantastic you can still see how the layers of oil paint are built up and gradually refined.

Early Development of Skin Tones in a Portrait Painting

Early development of skin tones

Between image A and B you can see a real jump in progress as I quickly started to block in the detail over the initial under-painting wash. At this stage the brushstrokes are ‘blocky’ with only some areas slightly blended.

In image C you can see how I have started to refine the eyes, nose and mouth further and softened the skin tones compared to the previous layer of paint (in image B).

I’ll share some more shots of the portrait in progress in the coming weeks where you’ll be able to see the painting develop further as more layers are built up and fine detail is worked in.

Other Progress Updates:

Part 2 – Building up of oil paint layers and consideration of background
Part 3 – Reworking the sky and blending clouds
Part 4 – Improving the skin tones of the bride and groom
Part 5 – Refining the detail of the bouquet and wedding dress
Part 6 – Painting the tiara and a bold change to the background
Part 7 – Finishing touches and oiling out

You can now view the completed wedding portrait in my portfolio and find out more about it here.