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I am not a teacher, so I understand. It is great if you have had years at art school but I have not. I did get some art tuition when I left school at 16 and the rest I have worked out, so my aim is to show you how I do it using the grid system.

I have used a small amount of paints, my first mistake when I started painting was to cover my palette with every paint I had in my box but you can get an excellent painting from very little colours, depending what subject you are painting, for example there are earth colours used a lot in landscapes, and skin colours.

I never use black. You can make a very good near black with Burnt Sienna/ Vandyke brown and blue it looks more natural.

  My pallete is listed for this subject as      
          Acrylic            Oils  
  • White
  • Cadmium Red
  • Cobalt blue
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Cadmium Yellow
  • Viridian Green
  • Yellow ochre
  • Brown
  • Zinc White
  • Cerulean Blue
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Cobalt blue
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Burnt sienna or Vandyke brown
  • Viridian Green
  • Cadmium Yellow
  • Light red

  Or a small set of mixed colours.


Paintings are built up so do not get disheartened if it looks awful for the first few layers. All the best bits are left till last, and then it will look so different. Patience is the key, and relax have a glass of wine.
If you get stuck email me for advice at

  • 1 Daler Board or canvass
  • 1 sheet of Artcel, can be purchased in A4 pads from art material suppliers It has a special surface which will take water based art materials such as markers, Acrylic, and watercolours.
  • 1 black fine overhead projector pen, waterproof.
  • 1 HB pencil
  • Masking tape
  • 1 Ruler
  • 1 eraser
  • Flat hog hair brushes,various long handle.
  • Fine brushes short handle
  • Acrylic paint Burnt Sienna.
  • Set of Acrylic paints
  • Pot for water
  • Staywet palette or make your own. Instructions listed.
  • Oil paints
  • Double dipper or two singles (receptacle for oil medium and turps/white spirit)
  • Painting palette either wooden board or a tear off pallete.
  • Turpentine or white spirit, the latter is cheaper but is not kind to brushes.

Oil painting medium I use a drying one as oils take 6 months to fully dry before a varnish can be applied I donít use linseed oil. I like to paint over what I did the day before, the drying oil medium allows me to do this.

Select a photograph or image that you would like to paint and get an A4 copy if possible, I took a photo and printed it out in A4 from the printer on my computer.

Use a canvass 18Ē x 14Ē or you could use a Daler board or canvass board, which is cheaper and are all ready primed.

Put 1Ē squares on the artcel using the overhead projector pen and a good ruler. Lay the photograph on to a hard flat surface and tape down at the corners with the masking tape.


Lay the squared film over the photo and centre the image behind it, and tape that down also. Trace the image on to the Artcel, and let it dry.


Take the canvass/ Daler board and put 1 and three quarter inch squares on it with a pencil, not too heavy you donít want to make an impression on the surface, you may make mistakes which can be rubbed out if necessary.

Tape the Artcel to a white background and using the squares as a guide transfer the copied image square by square on to the canvass/ Daler board using the pencil, just like a jigsaw puzzle. Treat each square individually making sure the lines are in the right place in the square so that they follow on to the next one, and tidy up after.

Tip: Top of the ear lines up with the eyes and bottom of the ear lines up with the bottom of the nose.
Remember the pencil drawing is only a guide.

Tools for first cover of surface

Using Burnt Sienna acrylic paint and a medium size long handled hog hair brush.


Cover the whole surface with the paint watered down a little in the stay wet palette so that the image shows through If you donít seal the surface first, then when putting on the oil paint it will sink in using twice as much. Also this warm colour will give the finished article a glow.

Later on when you get the hang of it you can change the under painting colour to cool colours if you want but this will effect the finished result.


But remember you are the boss and there are no rules in painting only guidelines. People have done their own thing with amazing results


Still using the Acrylic paint take smaller brushes and the stay wet palette, or if you want to make your own take a very large margarine tub with lid, lay a piece of blotting paper or thick water colour paper cut to size in the bottom and then put a sheet of greaseproof paper on top. Wet the blotting paper so that it is moist but not swimming and replace the lid. This will keep Acrylic paint wet for at least two weeks if not longerif the lid is replaced each time you use it. I gave up on Acrylic for years because I did not know about stay wet palettes. I am ashamed to say.

Mix colours cobalt blue white and a little alizarin crimson be careful with this red it is a dye and can ruin clothing or carpets and bedspreads as I found out when my cat stepped in some and took it all over the house. Use these colours to fill in the back ground if you are not putting in the original. I decided that as this was a portrait the background was too distracting and so left it plain.

But remember any background colour must be a mixture of the colours that are in the rest of the painting or it will look out of place. That is one of the secrets, no strange out of place colours, always use the same colours in different variations everywhere and then it will gel together.

Shirt Cobalt Blue and White and jeans same with a little Viridian, always use a little water with the acrylic.


Start putting in the features of the subjects with acrylic, Yellow Ochre and burnt Sienna for the mans forearm and more blue white and light red for the elbow.

White and blue for the rear of the babyís body suit and socks,with the front same colors but much lighter with more white added. Faces are a combination of Alizarin Crmson, white, yellow ochre for the light areas and blue, burnt sienna, white for the shadows. Mans Hair Blue white and little burnt sienna.

At this point you can see if the painting is going to work and the dimentions are right. I usually decide to keep or scrap at this point when not a lot of effort is wasted.

The Acrylics are now finished and continue with oils after it has dried usually overnight.

Use the wooden palette or tear off one and fix dipper to it, putting spirit into one and medium in the other

Squeeze out a small quantity of the same colours as acrylic but you may wish to use Vandyke brown instead of Burnt Sienna but basically they are the same.

Go over the background again you may have to do this several times but very importantly always end by putting the finishing touches to the foreground last. That way the people or the main subject will stand out and the background will stay that way.lok at your original image and decide what makes up the particular colour say on the tip of the nose or the eyes. Pay attention to the shadows what colours make them experiment on your pallete to get the right colour.

A little line of pale pink on the edge of the nose or dot of white light in the eye makes a big difference. Add a little alizarin crimson to the blue and white of the shirt but not too much it is rich stuff and highlights are in the same colour but more white added.

The next 3 images shows adjustments in colour and sizes raising or lowering ears or making the babyís face smaller, his feet larger finishing off fingers adding buttons to the manís shirt tilting his face back and generally sculpting the picture.

The spaces between figures are important, as are shadows. Study the original picture see the colours that are in it and mix them on to your palette.Skin is transparent and reflective so the manís shirt is reflected in the corner of his left eye,and under his chin.

If some of it does not look right it can be wiped off with a cloth, or painted over the next day.The babyís face and arms are very pink with bluish red for the skin shadows but there is blue/ white/ light red and yellow ochre in all of his face.


I enjoyed painting this picture as it is part of my family so if you chose a painting in a similar way try a school photo, and if you succeed let me know!

Sylvia Hankin