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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Mixing skin tones

Oil painting with Melissa Clements

Sunday 11 September 2022
Live online
Melissa Clements

Join Darling Portrait Prize 2022 finalist Melissa Clements and discover the alchemy of colour mixing to create varied and luminous flesh. The key to a realistic and lifelike portrait is perfecting the art of mixing skin tones, Melissa Clements will walk you through her personal colour palette, letting you in on her secrets for creating a variety of flesh tones. Participants will be guided through the process of mixing colours before being invited to create their very own alla prima portrait.

Melissa Clements is a portrait artist based in Perth, Western Australia. She was a finalist in the 2022 Darling Portrait Prize and the Lester Prize in 2021 and has completed commissions for important institutions including the Supreme Court of Western Australia. Passionate about the power for art to sublimate human emotions, Melissa communicates contemporary narratives through classical painting techniques which she has learnt and perfected at residencies including at the New York Academy of Art. She has since begun sharing these techniques in Fine Art workshops in Australia.

Here is a list of suggested materials to have ready:

  • Canvas panel (25 X 30cm)
  • Canvas panel (12 x 17cm)
  • Pencil and eraser
  • Paint palette
  • Assorted brushes, synthetic works well!
  • Palette knife
  • Painting medium, any thin medium will do!

Oil paint

  • Titanium white
  • Alizarin crimson
  • Lemon yellow
  • Cobalt blue
  • Burnt umber

‘For a reference photo I suggest a colour photo of portrait, 3/4 view is best with some light contrast. Any skin tone is fine. It is suggested to work from a self portrait or from someone known to you, as you will know the facial structure already, but this is not essential. If you do not feel confident free hand drawing a sketch of a reference photo on your canvas, you may choose to use graphite paper to save time and ensure your initial sketch it accurate. You will only need to draw a sketch on the larger canvas, we will use the small canvas to swatch our skin tone colours that we mix up together during the workshop.’ – Melissa Clements

Putting a reference photo drawing on a canvas:

  1. Print the reference photo to the desired size.
  2. Place a sheet of graphite paper on the canvas, graphite side down, and place the printed reference photo on top.
  3. Using a pen or pencil, trace the outline of the reference photo.
  4. Remove reference photo and graphite paper. The outline you drew will have transferred onto the canvas.
© National Portrait Gallery 2022
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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