Day 1, Portrait Drawing with Oliver Sin

I took a workshop from Oliver Sin at the Liv and Chiu Art Studio in Berkeley this past weekend. Just on a whim…when I saw a post from the studio on Instagram. And I’m so glad I did. It was a weekend full of ways to work with vine and pencil charcoal.

On Saturday, Oliver introduced vine charcoal. He is a master! His Instagram is filled with vine charcoal portraits of which two are of his parents had won multiple awards.

Oliver stressed continuously to pay attention to shapes and planes – not the individual features.

Oliver begins with a circle about 8 inches and then a “U” shape. This is basically the Loomis method. (He highly recommend that we read the Loomis method in the book, “Drawing the Head and Hand” by Andrew Loomis which is found on Amazon.)

Then he marked off the features – eyebrow ridge and half way between the eyebrow ridge to the chin is the nose. And then half way between the nose to the chin is where the bottom lip falls.
Here Oliver points out the planes of the face; top, side and bottom planes. Plane changes occurs around the nose, forehead, cheekbone and chin.

Below is Oliver’s demo.

Oliver emphasized shapes, planes and values. Especially create a very dark value, value 5 so that it would be easier to establish the other values. I was amazed how dark a vine charcoal can make.

I expected to learn about using the stumps or tortillons for blending. Rarely does he blend. He blends just on the very light values…never the darker values.

Once the drawing is close to done, Oliver uses the willow charcoal for accent. He accented on the nasal bone, eyebrow bone, cheek bone, top of the forehead, the chin and under the tip of the nose at the three-quarter view. On the profile view, what would be accented are the nasal bone, tip of the nose, eyebrow bone, top of the forehead, the chin and the corner of the eye.

Oliver also pointed out the difference between a willow and a vine charcoal are that the willow is darker than the vine and there’s a dot in the center of the willow. Well we all discovered that our vine charcoal package was full of willow sticks instead. They all had the center dot in the center. The only package that had the right charcoal was ones made by Winsor and Newton.

Below is my drawing.


A commissioned oil painting of a little chihuahua named Dinky. What strike me of this little fellow is his alertness and compact body. He’s ready to spring into action.

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Dinky, 8 x 6 x 3/4 inches oil on stretched canvas

Below is a step by step of how I paint this portrait. This process had turned out more successful for me to follow for future commissions. And this had come out of a workshop that I had taken from Sarah Sedwick. Here’s one of her videos about her step-by-step alla prima oil painting.

I started off with a thumbnail sketch to established where I wanted to place Dinky. It should be simple enough but it was a great warm-up. Then I did a pencil block in on paper of shadow/dark and light shapes. Using the pencil drawing as a base I gridded it and laid in with transparent red oxide on the canvas. Then in the fourth stage I laid in the basic shapes and local colors. The final stages comprise of adding more concise colors and background. The eyes and the area around them were the anchor for everything else. More details were devoted there.

This one I felt was one of my best. More info on commissions click to go to my Etsy

Blue and Ballou

A recent commission of two dogs. The client is from Germany and wanted two sizes, one at 9 x 12 inches and the other is a smaller size at 3 x 4 inches for a dollhouse. Both are painted in oil on stretched canvas.

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Blue and Ballou, oil on stretched canvas, 9 x 12 x 3/4 inches

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Blue and Ballou, oil on stretched canvas, 3 x 4 x 1/4 inches

Here are the step by step.

For more information about pet commission, click to go to my Etsy shop.

Watercolor Portraits Practice

I’ve been getting up around 5. So to make use of the time, I practice watercolor portraits. My goal is 30 then 50 and eventually 100. These are done on Strathmore Visual Journal, 140# watercolor paper. These are just a sampling.

More People Sketching

My weekend was busy with people sketching. This time I went to the Square Tomato Arts and Crafts Fair this past weekend. Sketched vendors, shoppers, musicians…tried to get a couple of volunteers to pose for me but no go.

People sketching at Square Tomato 1
People sketching at the Square Tomato Fair in a Moleskine watercolor sketchbook

People Sketching at Square Tomato 2