'As the sitter for this portrait has dyed pink hair and rather pale skin, I decided to use warm pinks and reds as a unifying element in the painting,' says Scott Bridgwood. 'I reddened the shadows and worked on a warm ground with a relatively warm palette.'

Lydia, oil on canvas, 24x20in (61x51cm)

Before you begin:

  • The medium grain, deep-edge canvas, is primed with a standard gesso primer (white).
  • The initial stages were done using the No. 2 brush but the majority of the painting was executed with a No. 4.
  • Each time I move to a different tone I use a different, clean, No.4 flat brush.
  • Liquin was used to thin the ground, and turpentine to clean the brushes.
  • Winsor & Newton oil paint was applied impasto with no medium added.

Stage one

I applied, with a clean rag, a warm ground of yellow ochre and a touch of alizarin crimson, thinned with Liquin.

I measured out and carefully placed the various 'landmarks' that I had picked out in the preparatory sketches.

I took my time, taking nothing for granted and carefully noting the tilt of the head and eyes.

Stage two

Using burnt umber with alizarin crimson, I blocked in some of the deepest tones that I could see, while keeping my vision blurred.

I then moved up a tone by adding Naples yellow and yellow ochre to the deep shadow tone and used it to block in the main shadow pattern.

The head and neck were treated as one entity – don't make 'neck marks' or 'chin marks' – the shadow pattern is one and the same. I also worked into the hair with the original shadow hue.

It's a good idea to use the same tones for the hair and flesh because they share the same colour pigmentation – that's why you can always tell when someone's wearing a wig.

Stage three

Using alizarin crimson and ivory white, I added a pink mid-tone to the hair, treating it as a mass of tone rather than individual hairs.

I also introduced the next skin tone by adding Naples yellow and ivory white to the previous skin hue.

Stage four

Here I worked up the eyes and lips a little.

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It's important to work on the eyes in tandem rather than separately, otherwise it will show. I also developed the dress strap for compositional reasons.

Stage five

With Naples yellow and white I again worked on the next tone 'up', the light areas of the skin and hair.

I also worked up some detail with a mix of burnt umber and Payne’s grey, which I touched up by refining the highlights and basically reacted to what I'd done, blending and softening the edges.

Having considered the overall composition, I deepened the shadows, such as those on the shoulder area.

Finished painting

Lydia, oil on canvas, 24x20in (61x51cm)

After a little more touching up here and there around the jaw, eyes and lips, I was quite pleased with the outcome.

I like the sense of light and the warmth of the shaded areas. The 'slash' of umber of the dress strap works well.

I left the bottom of the painting to remain rough as it shows some of the painting process, thus inviting viewers to interpret, which always makes art appreciation more enjoyable.


Scott Bridgwood graduated from Chelsea School of Art and after a period in London, he emigrated to Rome where he worked as a portrait artist, mural painter and taught at The British Cultural Institute whilst exhibiting widely.

He now teaches portraiture and life drawing at Embrace Arts, Leicester University and Rawlins Community College. He is also the current chairman of The Leicester Society of Artists. Scott exhibits with the Lost Gallery, Aberdeen and the West End Gallery Leicester.

For more details go to www.scottbridgwood.com

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