Process of a portrait

Below, you can see how I started by doing an under-painting in raw umber, sienna and white, laying down the major shapes and the lights and darks. This stage is just a very loose sketch, building a map for myself on the white surface, thinking of the composition as a whole without specific details. Then I painted the details in color, layering thin glazes to create more and more details on top of the more general shapes. You can see the left eye here is in the earliest stage of color, the first color I put down on top of the under-painting. (I usually begin color with the focal points and build everything in relation to those.)

Below is a close up of the layered colors that make the finished painting-- the eye has more shadows and light now. Because the contrasts of light and dark are high in this painting, you can still see the shapes of the different shades of color, particularly apparent on her forehead and neck. Thinking about shade as shapes of color rather than as gradients really helps to "sculpt" the face.