The Portrait Project: Update!


After a week+ of being too sick to paint (the worst!), I'm back at it and The Portrait Project is going strong! Hurray!!! I have a beautiful lineup of portraits to paint this week and next, including this one from yesterday! To everyone who submitted--I'm BLOWN AWAY by your portraits! Every time I get a new submission I just scream "YESSS!!!!" Ahh! They're perfect! Thank you, thank you! I love seeing your beautiful faces! 

It is not too late to submit your portrait! I will be taking submissions until the middle of November. If you missed it, see this post on how to become a part of The Portrait Project! Be sure to read it thoroughly. All questions should be answered in that post, but if you have a question, please email me. :) 

I've been getting asked what my schedule is for this project, and although the end date is tentative right now--my goal is 50 portraits! YAY! I'm painting Monday-Saturday and typically have four or five portraits scheduled a week, and I'm LOVING it. Maybe I'll write more about my process for these portraits soon. What would you like to read and see in regards to this project? (Answer in comments below!)

Shown above: my palette at the very end of this portrait. I think it's so fun at the end of a painting to look at all the chaotic messes of color on my palette that match the colors in the painting. It feels like a really complex puzzle and takes on much more meaning to me. I always wish I had an endless supply of palettes so I didn't have to "clean" off their beautiful messes and that they could stay with their painting. Also, I found this leaf when I went for a walk after being so sick. It was cheerful to me, in every sense. This year it seemed that the leaves went from green to beautiful reds, yellows, and oranges in just a few days! So it stuck with me in my studio while I painted this cute girl. I can only image was she was looking at while looking out her window into this beautiful world.

If you're checking this blog for PP updates--you're in the right place! I'll be posting here frequently as well as on Instagram (@SarahCNightingale) and my Facebook Page (Sarah C. Nightingale Art.) 

Become A Part Of The Portrait Project


The Portrait Project has really taken off! I am so grateful for everyone who has supported it in any way. Thank you! Since day one, I’ve been getting many inquiries about how to be involved in this project, so I’ve created this guide to help us all out! Afterall, I can’t paint portraits if I don’t have people to paint! And I want to paint you!

It’s very simple, take a photograph following this guide, submit it via the form on my projects page at, your photo will come right to me, I will send you an email if I choose to paint it, and viola! You have a portrait!! Exciting, right? I think so!

Please note that although I would love to paint every single photo that is submitted, for style consistency in my work, I will only be selecting certain photos that fit the style and essence of the project. If your photo is chosen, I will send you an email the day I begin working on it. The painting will be posted to this blog for you to see upon completion.

-You must submit your own photos! This is so important, so please be honest. If a professional photographer shot them and you don’t hold all copyrights, I cannot paint them. Please read “Terms and Conditions”. By submitting photos you are agreeing to these terms and conditions.

If Your Portrait Is Painted: After I complete your portrait and post it to my blog, you then have the option to buy! All portraits will be painted 1 face/portrait per painting, 8x8in. with premium quality oil paints on Arches Oil Paper. (By submitting photos, you are not obligated to purchase the finished project if I choose to paint, but this could mean that your portrait sells to another buyer.)

Pricing: 1 Portrait $250 | 2+ Portraits $220 each | 4+ Portraits $175 each

As much as I love selfies, please have a friend take photos for you. Or set a timer and stand far away enough from the camera. I think this goes without saying, but make sure your photograph is a portrait of you or your child's human face. No pets for this project. Sorry!

Only high quality photos will be accepted. Photographs should be taken with an SLR or DSLR camera. If you don’t own one or have access to one *some* point and shoot cameras, including phones with cameras will work (ie. iPhone 4S or newer.)

Option A.) Photograph inside near a large window, and make sure that the light is only coming from that window. Turn off all lights inside and close curtains on any other windows besides the one you are using (even ones across the room.) Only photograph from 45 minutes after sunrise until 45 minutes before sunset.

Option B.) Photograph outside. If you choose to shoot outside, be careful of bright, overhead light. Usually this type of poor lighting happens around noon. If the nose and eyes have deep shadows underneath them, wait until the sun begins to fall a little more.

Tip! Most photography guides say that “soft light” is the very best! I agree, but I also love a great contrasting light in my portraits. Between outside and a window, you can get that type of light any time of the “day.” If you photograph a good shadowy/highlighted portrait--it’s likely I’ll be painting your submission.

Examples: The images below are examples of great portraits! Although, there are hundreds of different poses, expressions, lighting situations, etc. that can make a beautiful portraits. See what you come up with! These guides apply when photographing anyone at any age. Not just my beautiful  friends.

Any position is great so long as the majority of your face is in the light. Ultimately, It’s up to you!

Just make sure your whole head is in the shot, a little room above, and about midway down your upper arm.

Tip! Whether you are shooting indoors or outdoors, be aware of "strange" shadows on your face that may be caused by blinds, leaves of a tree or anything else. They shouldn't be there.

Don’t show your teeth! A soft smile is always best for paintings of portraits. (However, naturally parted lips show character, and sometimes I love to paint a portrait with naturally parted lips.)

Important! Please don’t wear heavy makeup, especially on the eyes. Any under the eye eye-liner or strong “cat-like” eye-liner I steer clear of when selecting photos to paint. Mascara is a yes, but go bare or light for any other. Also, lipstick is great, as is a hint of blush, but it’s not necessary.

Tip! Watch this great video on “squinching” your eyes! I wouldn’t recommend this look for children, I love to paint their big, bright eyes full of expression, but it is helpful for adults who might feel like a “deer in the headlights” in front of the camera.

Examples: The images below are examples of great photos (Left) and poor photos (Right.) Although the examples show mostly side profile views, this applies to frontal views (like the top right) as well.

-Do not crop your images! I want to see the whole picture, and it allows me to crop images for paintings with consistency. Also, please do not edit your photos in any way.

-If you have multiple photos to submit, please submit them separately. That way it is easier to communicate which one will be painted if it is chosen.

-Please do not submit more that 4 photos per person that is photographed. Choose the best! (If you are submitting photos of your children, just 4 per child will do.)

IMPORTANT! -I'm mentioning this again because it's so important. You must submit your own photos! This is so important, so please be honest. If a professional photographer shot them and you don’t hold all copyrights, I cannot paint them. Please read “Terms and Conditions”. By submitting photos you are agreeing to these terms and conditions.

-Files should be original or large size and submitted as a Jpeg, or TIFF.

Click here, enter your information, upload your photos, and you’re done! I am so excited to see what great images you submit!

I can't wait to paint you! If you have questions, please contact me. Thanks for being a part of The Portrait Project!

 photo 1477955_690074461026444_487983149_n_zps0a85e7ed.jpg

For more reading on this subject, see this post about capturing great photo reference for paintings!

The Portrait Project: Three + Four


I don't know what it is about setting a goal, a solid goal, to create something whole every day, but it seems to be so incredibly inspiring the moment I do. The Portrait Project is very time consuming, as you could imagine, but there's a drive behind my work right now that is unmatched to any other project of mine. I think the drive comes from a specific desire to learn and an equal desire to grow. After all, that is exactly why I started this project, to learn and to grow; to learn more about portraiture, and to take my technique and abilities to a new level. And of course, to share my art with you and capture you in paint!! Portraiture has always been my great love when it comes to making art, and I could guess that it forever will be. 

Highlighted in this post are paintings from day three and four. Day three (shown directly above) is a portrait I have been wanting to do since December. I shot the reference for it out under a large tree just before the sun dipped below the horizon. You know, that moment just after the golden hour has passed when the light turns brilliantly cold, and then it's dark in an instance? That was this hour, and it was beautiful. Additionally, this sweet girl couldn't have had a more harmonieous expression. She was a great model! 

Day four (shown above) is of my niece at nine months old. I wanted to capture the innocence and the quick cheerfulness of her. I debated for a long time to paint this one or one of her in full grin, but I love the anticipation for the viewer of this. It's almost if you smiled at her as she is painted here, her face will light up and she'll smile hugely back at you. I'm not sure, what do you think?

Sometime next week I will be posting about how you can be involved in this project! I want to paint you and your loved ones! I want to capture you with paint. Stay tuned! You can sign up for blog updates to the right under "Subscribe" if you want to be one of the first to know! Or, as always, follow me on Instagram or Facebook (links are also to the right.) Thanks for following along. :)

The Portrait Project


Six years ago, I painted 50 portraits in 50 days in conjunction with a gallery in downtown Sacramento, CA. I still see that as one of the BEST projects I ever undertook. It was a blast! And I was able to learn and grow so much as well as share my art with many friends and family who still own those portraits. (You've probably heard me talk about it before!) Diving into this world of being a full-time painter now, I couldn’t think of a better time to do it again! Below you can see day one and day two. I can't wait to start on day three tomorrow! As I get further into this, I’ll need more faces to paint, and I love a variety! So stay tuned, I have more details on that later!! I want to paint you and your loved ones. Here we go!!!

Above: 2/50
Below: 1/50


Oil Painting Basics: Part 2 | Getting Started & Setting Up


Every artist has their own routine when it comes to getting started. My personal routine has evolved over the years and includes cleaning up my space before I get started and finding a great playlist, audio book, or movie to listen to while I work. Whatever yours is, or whatever yours evolves into as you start your artistic journey with oil painting, do what works for you. To get you started, however, here are some basic guidelines:

Getting Started

1. Have A Check List
Before you even think of “getting started,” start with making sure you have everything you need. If you’ve missed it, Part 1 is all about supplies and things you will need. Click here to check it out. If you’ve “been there, read that,” below is a list for you to double check. One of the saddest things you can experience with oil painting is being so excited to get started all to find out--you forgot to buy a canvas! Click here for a free printable version of this checklist!

2. Know Your Subject  
Next to having all your supplies, knowing what you will paint is important, so I’m going to break this second point into a few points in itself. (Of course, this subject is much more complex than just a few points.) Additionally, I find that once I get one idea of something to paint--I get 10 more ideas! So I always keep a list of "To Paint." That way, when inspiration is lacking--I can turn to this list and not be lost.

2.1 Know Your Subject & Keep It Simple . . .  Simple Enough  
While you’re just beginning, and even if you’re not beginning and it’s just what you like, you don’t need elaborate subject matter full of meaning and intrigue. Don’t be shy of painting something simple. If a single object such as a lemon or apple is what you wish to paint--paint away! You can make it beautiful no matter what. Be clever. However, if super simple subject matter, like a single apple, isn’t your thing, maybe try a basket of apples. Simple can mean a few objects or one face. Don’t start with something overly ambitious like a multi-figure painting, a huge still life with every fruit imaginable in it, or a city scene next to a creek with a million trees and a few little fishermen waving to their wives and children who are flying kites. Keep it simple. Simple enough.

2.2 Know Your Subject and Don’t Fear
Most importantly, start with something that you’re drawn to. If that be a portrait or still life, go for it! Try a landscape if that intrigues you. My grandma, an artist herself, taught me a great lesson when I was a little girl about painting. She told me to draw her night lamp across the room. “Draw it as perfectly as you can” she said. I probably sat there for far longer than you’d expect someone of that age to, but I did, I drew it as perfectly as I could. My grandma then told me if I could draw that lamp “perfectly” then I could draw anything perfectly if I just looked at it the same as I had just looked at the lamp. The lesson here isn’t, “if you can draw a night lamp perfectly, you can draw anything,” but instead, it is, if you can draw or paint one thing perfectly that you see in front of you, there is no stopping you from drawing or painting something else perfectly in front of you. All of the sudden, nothing you draw or paint is easy, and nothing is hard. Drawing is drawing . . . is drawing. Painting is painting . . . It was one of the best lessons I learned. Don’t fear a subject matter just because it is “hard.” Let’s remember this great quote from Van Gogh “If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”

3. Know What To Paint From
Once you know your subject, decide whether it will be best to work from life or from a photograph:

Paint From Life
Painting from life is invaluable. (Painting from life means simply painting from objects or a subject in front of you, not painting from your imagination or from a photograph.)  Nothing is a better teacher than your own eye observing objects or a subject in front of you and painting it from life. At any time you can, paint from life. Especially if you’re really trying to mature your skills. Take your paints outdoors to paint a landscape. Set up a still life in your studio to work from. Have a family member or friend sit for you while you paint. Though it may seem more difficult than working from a photograph, your eye will show colors (as well as hard and soft edges and patterns) infinitely better than any camera. Any time spent painting from life is time well spent. I cannot stress it enough.

Paint From A Photograph
Painting from a photograph is far more convenient than painting from life. Not to diminish the importance of painting from life in any way (it will always be number 1,) but if you don’t have anyone to sit and model for hours, you have a vase of wildflowers that will die in a day and you need longer, or even if you see a beautiful landscape while out on a drive--this is when photography is a wonderful resource. I love the article from NY Daily News on Norman Rockwell and his experience with painting from photographs. Also, if you need a guide to photographing great images to paint--check out this post from yours truly!

Setting Up

1. Your Work Space

Whenever possible, set up near a window with natural lighting. If you are right handed, the window should be on your left so that the shadow your hand casts doesn’t cover the very spot you’re working on, and visa-versa for those who are left handed. If you don’t have natural lighting, a couple of 100W “day-light” bulbs will suffice. Just avoid any yellow light.

Make sure you are comfortable. This seems like a no-brainer, but there are still many times when I walk away from my easel after a couple hours stiff as a board, not wanting to return.  

Don’t forget to position your palette, subject, and supplies well. For me, I will always have my handheld palette in my left hand (as I am right-handed) or to my right if it is sitting on a table so I don’t have to reach across my painting and body. I position my easel directly in front of me, and my model or subject to the right of my easel so that I can mix colors on my palette as close (in eyesight) to what it is I am painting. (If I am working from photos, I usually tape them to a board immediately left of my canvas so that I don’t cover them with my arm as I am painting.) Additionally, I keep all my supplies to my right. My brush will be in my right hand, and I want to access my “medium,” “brush cleaner,” or anything else quickly and easily.

2. Laying Out Your Colors

I will be the first to agree that, yes, paints are expensive! But don’t shy away from putting enough out on your palette to save a buck! I would say a good rule of thumb for knowing how much is enough is “nickel size or larger.” If you’re nearing dime size or less--keep squeezing! In the moment when you’re 45 minutes into your painting, completely in another world, you won’t even notice that you’re fresh out of bright red. It’ll just so happen to be in that moment that you need to rosey up the cheeks of the little lady you are painting, instead of stopping, stepping out of your zone, and restocking your bright red, you’ll reach for that “darker red” which is actually the wrong color, and that’s when mistakes happen. So put out enough paint. If you don’t use it all, that’s ok. There are many ways to save it for another day. 

As you lay out your colors, be aware that the order in which you lay them is also important. Not only does it help you logically remember the attributes of each color, but over time, it helps you reach quickly for colors so you can focus on mixing them rather than finding them. It becomes habitual.

My palette habit reaches for this order of color from left to right.
Titanium White
Cadmium Yellow (Cool Yellow)
Cadmium Yellow Medium (Warm Yellow)
Cad Red Light (Warm Red)
Alizarin Crimson Permanent (“Cool” Red)
Dioxazine Purple (Warm Purple)
Ultramarine Blue (Cool Blue)
Cobalt Blue (“Warm” Blue)
Sap Green (Warm Green)
Viridian (Cool Green)
Burnt Sienna (Warm Toner)
Burnt Umber (“Cool” and “Warm” Toner)
Ivory Black (“Cool” Toner)

3. Canvas Prep
You will love the painting process if you have great surface to work on. You can read more about what canvas or surface you select on Part 1.

Before you begin your painting, it’s helpful that your canvas or surface is “toned”, or, in other words, that it isn’t white. A quick way to tone a white canvas is a light, transparent wash of burnt sienna or ivory black over the entire canvas. Mixing some paint thinner into a little bit of paint on your palette will do just the trick. Apply it with a brush, and use a paper towel to spread it out so that it covers the whole canvas. (A transparent sheet of Duralar will already be “toned” as it is not white.) You should be able to leave finger prints, but it shouldn’t be dripping. I like to set mine out in the sun for about 10 minutes and let it dry a bit--or I prepare my canvas the night before. Note: When toning with black--it should be a light charcoal and not a rich deep black.

You’re ready to start painting now! I can’t wait for you to get started! Good luck! Be bold! Check back for Project #1 soon, or follow along on Instagram @SarahCNightingale for updates. If you've learned from my posts and want to share your work, hashtag #PaintingWithSCN. We would all LOVE to see!
| mlekoshiPlayground |