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  • Publisher: Search Press
  • Edition: BB Hardback With dust jacket
  • Publication: 07 January 2021
  • ISBN 13/EAN: 9781782217961
  • Carton Qty: 14
  • Size: 216x280 mm
  • Illustrations: 400
  • Pages: 160
  • RRP: $29.95
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Painting Portraits in Oils


Capturing character from life by Rob Wareing

Edelweiss Buy Now
Book Description

An inspiring, direct guide to painting beautiful portraits alla prima.

Rob Wareing has built a formidable international reputation as a portrait artist. This is his first book, and here he draws on over 40 years' experience to provide a complete guide to painting portraits in oils.

In Rob's view, the most effective way to capture character is by working from life rather than photographs, and to follow the alla prima method to create a painting in one sitting.

Starting with a fascinating overview of the subject, Rob then guides the reader through the materials he uses, explains how to pose and light the sitter, and how to prepare the work area before starting to paint.

This is followed by detailed coverage of design and composition, the importance of proportions, and the painting process itself from colour mixing through to finishing a painting without over-working. With clear, step-by-step demonstrations and numerous examples of the author's work throughout, this book provides both an expert guide to portrait painting and a unique insight into the working methods of one of the world's leading portrait painters.

'It wasn’t Rob’s technical prowess alone that won me over. I asked him for advice, which he shared readily, and his passion for and commitment to his chosen pursuit sealed the deal. This is what the best teachers do: they share, encourage and inspire. Portrait artists at every level will benefit from his insight and expertise.' Tinus Horn

Table of Contents

Foreword 6
Introduction 8
Working from life 10
What makes a portrait? 12
Materials 22
Composing your paintings 34
Preparation 36
Drawing and painting 56
Drawing skills 58
Painting alla prima 70
Values 82
Colour 92
Skin tone 106
The sitting 116
The Portrait 118
Going further 134
Other types of portrait 136
Settings and background 156
Index 160

About the Author

About Rob Wareing

Rob Wareing was born in South Africa. After finishing his education he travelled extensively, receiving private tuition from various portrait painters in the USA and Europe, as well as studying the techniques of traditional classical painting. He became a professional portrait painter at the age of 23 and his subsequent career spanned more than four decades.

During that time, Rob painted numerous portraits of people of all nationalities, and received many commissions to paint dignitaries, CEOs and their families in countries including the USA, Mauritius, Botswana, South Africa and the UK. He also gave live portrait demonstrations on TV shows in the USA, Mauritius and South Africa.

Rob gained a considerable following on YouTube, and wrote articles for various art publications including The Artist (UK), Paint (SAA), Artists & IllustratorsInternational Artist and The South African Artist. His first book, Painting Portraits in Oils, was published by Search Press in January 2021.

Sadly, Rob died in August 2021, but his legacy will live on for many years to come.


The Artist

Painting portraits in oils is often regarded as the highest form of art, and also not to be tackled by any other than the specialist. In this book, Rob - who has some four decades of experience - takes on a massive and daunting subject and, without trivialising, succeeds in making it manageable. This is an achievement that should be celebrated in itself. There are no sleights of hand, quick fixes or shortcuts. Rather, from a deep understanding of approaches and working processes, he adopts a methodical path that breaks everything down into a series of comprehensible steps. From getting to know your sitter to mental and technical preparation, basic skills, colour and values, everything works up to a final study and sitting. Each stage is packed with examples and exercises and, by taking a visual approach, Rob leads from the front, allowing the build-up to appear before your very eyes. 


This beautifully produced book takes us through the stages of painting oil portraits from life. From materials and equipment, choosing a model, composition, lighting, achieving a likeness, values, edges, and colour, to step-by-step demonstrations of the whole process, the book is packed with great tips and advice.

The sections showing how to avoid common mistakes, like making the nose too long, are particularly useful.
Everything is well illustrated with photos, and explained clearly. Anyone wanting to learn to paint portraits from life, or to improve their skills, would find lots of advice and inspiration here.

Although the book is primarily concerned with painting 'alla prima', (in one sitting), there's plenty of information which would equally apply to other types of portrait, and to other subjects and mediums.

It's a book that I'm sure will become a well used friend in future.


Oil portraits are often regarded as the highest form of art, certainly one to be taken with the utmost seriousness. Capturing a likeness as well as the character of yout subject requires planning, preparation and persistence and is not for the faint-hearted.

Rob's four decades of experience have imbued him with a deep understanding not merely of the subject, but of the processes involved. This is a thoroughly researched and presented course that teaches you everything you need to know progressively. Explanations are succeeded by exercises until the final sitting, so that you understand what you're trying to do and how to work before getting to grips with real people. Such a solid grounding can only lead to confidence and success.

Rob makes light of learning and his thorough approach is never hard work, but rather a journey of discovery. If you've ever wanted to try your hand at portraiture, there's no better place to get started.

Crafts Beautiful

Acclaimed portrait artist Rob Wareing shares more than 40 years of experience in his first book, Painting Portraits in Oils. If you're ready for a new challenge, discover how to paint a subject from life, beginning with the materials needed, how to light and pose your sitter, to the painting process itself.

Painting portraits in oils is generally regarded as one of the highest art forms, something refined, complex and generally best left to the specialist. Thats hardly surprising as oils do require a fair amount of equipment. Finding suitable sitters, as well as the little matter of getting a worthwhile likeness, are considerable obstacles for the amateur.

So how do you set about getting started? Until now, thats been the conundrum. There have been few books and those that exist have been, well, rather so-so.

This is different. Rob is a portrait artist with considerable experience, but he also has a YouTube channel where he posts demonstrations, and this experience shows. This is a book aimed at the needs of the learner rather than at the subject of portraiture itself. Its a subtle but important difference. Open the pages at random and youll find yourself in the middle of a complete project. Look further and youll struggle to find the smaller lessons and exercises youd be expecting. This is, in part at least, an extension of his online method. However, the idea of not having to wade through pages of eyes, ears, mouths and hands has an appeal, as long as it works. Portraiture is a language and has a grammar there are technicalities you need to know as part of the foundations and to short-circuit those can be dangerous.

Rob, however, is a patient and thorough explainer and all these foundations are here, but he manages to make them interesting. All those details come up both in the projects and also discussions of various approaches mixing colours, preparing canvases, getting to know your subject. There are examples on every page that precisely illustrate each point thats being made.

The whole process is intensely practical and Rob manages to make what is genuinely a complex subject seem, if not easy (that would be sleight of hand), at least manageable. Knowing the limits of what you can teach is perhaps Robs greatest skill and this is a truly remarkable piece of work.

Amazon Customer Review

I am quite new to oil painting and have only ever attempted landscapes. This book is well written and contains just about everything you need to know about painting portraits. I cant wait to get started.

Illustrated with lovely coloured photos the author gives step-by-step instruction on how to construct your painting with whole chapters on composition, materials, mixing your colours, using light and dark values, capturing light, angles, edges, proportions and common mistakes.

The only other thing that I felt could have been included is a section on the painting's background, how and when to paint it without distracting from the main portrait etc

Paint Magazine

Portraiture in Oils. Difficult, messy, best left to the professionals. And, you know what, I wouldn't disagree. Until now, right up to the moment I discovered this amazing guide.

Rob is a portrait painter with an international reputation and some four decades' of experience. 

What impressed me most about this book is how Rob breaks what is indeed a complex subject, down into easily-understood parts. You can (and should) get the sense of a book by flicking quickly through its pages. This one is not just phenomenally unintimidating, but actually welcoming. So how is this sleight of hand achieved? Simple lessons  one thing at a time, carefully graded stages. Let's look at the first few: Materials (of course), Planning, Preparation, Composition, Lighting, Studies. There are plenty of examples and illustrations, but this is about getting to know them. This not only puts both of you at ease, but also helps you understand character and expressions. Groundwork, you see.

The rest of the book proceeds in the same way. Rob teaches specific painting skills  facial features, hard and soft edges (even how to keep the sitting the right length) through examples and simple exercises. 

Rob is nothing if not a patient teacher and we're some 100 pages in before a full sitting appears and, by now, you'll be ready for the heavy lifting. Even here, Rob takes things slowly (you can with oils), taking time over drawing, initial paint layers, construction of features and the final refining.

This is a careful and believable book; perhaps its greatest trick is to convince you that you really can do what you thought wasn't possible.

The Artist

Sought-after tutor, and The Artist contributor, Rob Wareing, draws on 40 years of experience for his first book, Painting Portraits in Oils. Working from life, Rob encourages students to complete their painting in one sitting. His alla prima method is explained here in great detail, from the initial overview of the subject and preparing your work area to how to post and light the sitter. Every stage of the process is covered composition, proportions, colour mixing and skin tones, to finishing touches  with clear step-by-step demonstrations and plenty of the artist's work included throughout.

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