If you have never painted a beard before, you might find this exercise a little intimidating at first. Lots of painters think it is easier to paint men who are clean-shaven, because beards tend to hide the underlying form of much of the head. Just follow these simple steps and it should turn out well.
1. Establish The Halftone
Prime the canvas first with some acrylic gesso. When the gesso dries, you can sand a bit if you prefer a smoother surface. Then mix a good halftone for the flesh colour. Burnt sienna mixed with white and cooled down with a little ultramarine blue or viridian will do. Mix the colour with turpentine and wash it over the entire surface.
2. Establish The Drawing
When the halftone dries, you can draw in the contours and form of the head with charcoal. Look also for the shapes of the shadows and find the line between light and shadow. Look carefully at the beard and how the shadows in the beard are unified with the shadows on the face. You will want to pay attention to how the beard is sculpted and variations in the drawn texture according to an expert from The Art of Shaving. Notice how the line between light and shadow describes the form of the head.
3. Laying In The Colour
Mix a good shadow colour. It could be the rather standard burnt umber, or you could experiment with more adventurous blues, purples or even black for a contemporary effect. Painting the neared man will be easier if the shadow colour is just slightly darker than the halftone. Lay in the shadows. Then, mix a colour that is lighter than the halftone and lay in the light tones.
4. Establish The Background
The background can help draw attention to your bearded man. An old convention is to paint the background a little darker behind the light side of the head and a bit lighter behind the side of the head that is in shadow. This helps to achieve a three dimensional effect.
5. Refine The Portrait
By now, you’ve probably established a good looking portrait of the bearded man. Finishing is just a matter of refining the painting. You can work on tonal transitions, modelling, colour variety and accents. Keep in mind that even on a well-shaven face, the colour of the beard area will be cooler than the skin color.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this exercise! With a little practice, your portraits can only get better.