Thursday, November 1, 2012

Painting Portraits with Kevin Bielfuss

Portrait of Christie, Oil on Gessoed Hardboard, 16x20"  Ann Feldman

On the next day in the Kevin Bielfuss workshop, I attempted a looser, more painterly portrait.  I'm not happy yet, but I'm getting happier!  This portrait was painted on a hardboard (masonite) that was coated very thickly with gesso applied with a palette knife.  I love this surface because it forces an impressionistic feel from the very beginning, since there are so many cracks and crevasses in the gesso, and the oil paint sinks into them so beautifully.

Below are a few portrait "starts" by Kevin.  Notice that he starts very loosely (he doesn't measure), and he switches from raw sienna to pink as he moves ahead.  I think it's really helpful to see how an artist starts his paintings to understand the process underneath it all.

Here are a few notes that I found in my notebook after the class:

1. If a painting isn't going well, try doing the opposite of what you see going on.  Is it too soft?  Add impact.  Is it tight?  Loosen it up.  Dull?  Try a shot of color.

2.  Paintings can be thought of as cakes-- you need the "cake" or the structure before you can add the "icing", or the flourishes at the end.

3.  He thinks of his paintings as drawings; his work is very linear.  In the end stages, he brings his lines together and softens areas that need it.

4. His goal is to suggest rather than render his subject, because he finds this technique more interesting to look at.

There was so much to learn in this workshop!  I recommend Kevin's workshops to anyone interested in learning to paint the figure more abstractly, or anyone interested in taking their figure painting to the next level!


  1. Beautiful portrait and Thank you for the really interesting post on Kevin Bielfuss!

  2. Lovely portrait--thanks for sharing the demo. Love your palette knife landscapes too.