Hair Is The Hardest Part Of A Portrait

I have been doing a lot of portraits lately and, for me, the hardest part of a portrait is the hair. This is  especially true for portraits of women.  To create hair that has volume and definition  is a real challenge. 

As much as I enjoy art when it’s easy,  I actually do appreciate these challenges. They aren’t always fun but I always learn from them because they motivate me to figure out what the problem is.

So, with this in mind I  began to practice various portraits.  This was one of the first ones. 

The first thing I learned is that black is not a great colour for shadows on a face. As far as the hair goes. The shape is accurate, it reads as hair. There is also a little value contrast in it.  It is a little lighter and redder on the right side.  Overall, however it’s just a dark blob that adds very little to the portrait.

So I knew there was a problem in the way I approached hair.  I wasn’t seeing the shapes within the hair.  So I took a new subject and did a portrait in pencil where I had more control.


This was when the light bulb turned on.  I was seeing the detail and the various shapes within the hair. All I needed to do was copy them with paint. 

So I took the ideas from this pencil sketch and painted them.


This is the portrait that I painted. I actually filmed it as a video lesson.  I’m very happy with it.  The hair has a nice feel, it appears real and it supports the subject.

Accepting A Challenge

This process of practicing a challenging subject is something I do a lot because that’s how I learn and grow as an artist.  I don’t like it when paintings don’t work out but I have to admit that I learn more from my failures than my successes.  I just enjoy my successes but I learn from my mistakes.

Happy painting!

P.S. When I finish editing the video I’ll be putting it in my newsletter.  If you are interested in receiving my newsletter please contact me.  The next edition will be coming out soon. Contact me.

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