There are many ways to paint a painting, so it's important to know what characteristics you want your finished painting to have. When I'm clear about what I want for a certain painting, then the process to get there becomes a bit clearer. In this case, I wanted to paint a solid painting of Michael - large masses and not much transparency.
Michael - Step 1 • 12" x 16" • Oil on Panel
Step 1 - Tone, Anchor and Range
TONE - Unless I'm doing a transparent painting, I usually tone the surface of the painting to get rid of the white. In this case, I wanted a little texture since I thought that there might be some part of the background that would show through - however, I didn't want too much texture in the face since I wanted the planes to be fairly large masses. Why tan? So the face could be built up on analogous colors.
ANCHOR - There are billions of humans on the earth and word is that we all look different. I am taking this on faith since I haven't checked everyone . . . though some research indicates that there are certain people who look like each other. In any event, most all of us have two eyes, two ears, one mouth and one nose. The reason we all look different is that each individual's features and the distances between them are slightly unique. When you paint a portrait, it is usually implied that you obtain a likeness of the subject, requiring accurate depiction and location of that individual's features on your painting. I've found that I can do this best by establishing a point of reference against which I measure the other features. I call this my anchor and I generally use an eye. The reason for this is that the eye contains several points (like the tear duct) and distinct contrasts (like the iris against the white of the eyes). The mouth moves too much and the nostrils are usually too small. You can see in this image of Step 1 that I'll often paint vertical or horizontal guidelines to help me line up the other features of the face according to the anchor point.
RANGE - Once the features are in place, I need to establish my value range. I'll try to find the large value masses and indicate these roughly. I also indicate the darkest darks and the lightest lights of the painting, then I know that the other values must fall between these parameters.
. . . Next up - Filling the canvas - no surprises.