Portrait Media Options

Oil paint tends to be the media of choice when commissioning a portrait, but other fine art products are equally beautiful at depicting the human form and features.  Click on the tabs below to learn about other media used in the portraiture profession.

Thomas - by Brenda Hash, PSAThe noted champion of soft pastel was Edgar Degas, while Mary Cassatt is credited with its introduction to the United States. Some refer to pastel as chalk, but do not be deceived. This fine art product is made of the same quality pigments as oil paints and watercolor, but without the drawbacks of these mediums. Oil paints my crack and yellow over time due to oils used as the pigment binder.  Watercolor may fade due to the diffused use of the pigments.  Pastel is applied as almost pure pigment with very little binder, so the pigment stays as fresh as the day it was applied. Of course, exceptions do apply to those pigments that are already classified as having weak light fastness. These pigments have the same problem regardless of the medium they are used in; oil, watercolor, pastel, etc…  Care should be taken not to use products labeled with such weaknesses. Read more about soft pastel here.


Ms Hash’s soft pastel portrait of Thomas won First Place in the prestigious Portrait Society of America – 2009 Members’ Only Competition in the Pastel Category.

Ford in Tux Shirt - by Brenda Hash, PSAAux Trois Crayon is the technique of using only three colors to create a drawing.  It is fascinating to see the illusion of color that can be created with only red (sanguine), black and white.


It is said that Leonardo da Vinci was the first artist to use this technique.  Art history is especially complementary of Antoine Watteau’s work using this technique, but his predecessor Francois Cloute was creating beautiful portraits aux trois crayon of French Royalty before Watteau’s time.  In fact, many famous artists practiced this technique including Rembrandt, Michelangelo, El Greco, Rubens, and more.


Ms Hash’s aux trois crayon piece at left started as a demonstration and was meant to remind other artists not to neglect their study of historical compositions.  This portrait mimics the famous painting by Vermeer titled Girl with a Pearl Earring.  The lighting was changed, but the pose is timeless, no matter the subject.

Joshua's Guitar - by Brenda Hash, PSAThe use of red chalk or hematite in drawing is as old as picture making.  It became popular with the Early Renaissance painters.  Rubens used it to produce the preparatory drawings for his large scale history paintings and landscape paintings. It would be difficult to find a classically trained artist that has not drawn with this medium.


In Ms Hash’s red chalk portrait titled “Joshua and His Guitar”, she takes red chalk well past the stage of drawing.  Most of the line work has given way to a complete value scale, pushing the medium to its limits and resulting in a beautifully rendered portrait.  It is hard to believe that it was achieved with only a single color.


Combined with beautiful handmade papers, this monochromatic approach to portraiture takes on a lovely, vintage look.

Austin - by Brenda Hash, PSAOil painting was not the chosen medium of painters until the 16th century. Creating oil paints was a painstaking process involving mortar and pestol to grind pigments and cooking oils with beeswax and lead oxide. What a glorious day it was in 1841 when a portrait painter, John Goffe Rand, invented the paint tube. No longer would oil paints be transported in pig bladders or glass syringes. The tin tubes with screw caps allowed paints to be manufactured in bulk and stored for future use. Pierre-Auguste Renoir said, “Without tubes of paint, there would have been no Impressionism.”


Oil paint is a classic choice no matter what the subject matter.



Whidbey Model - by Brenda Hash, PSAFor something really different, how about an oil portrait on 1/16″ thick, pure copper.  Historically rigid surfaces rather than fabric canvases were the support of choice for oil paintings.  A rigid surface protected the paint layer from cracking and punctures. Most often woods were used, but metals, copper in particular, were also used in these applications.  Traditionally, rigid surfaces would be completely covered with gesso and primed with white or tinted paint to ready them for the artist’s use.  This technique would hide the beauty of the metal beneath.


Ms Hash prefers to paint directly on the copper leaving evidence of the copper surface visible.  This provides a beautiful glow to the artwork as can be seen in her painting titled “Whidbey Man”.  Ms Hash offers this option by special request only, as the price of copper fluctuates and must be special ordered. It should also be understood that copper is quite heavy and should be reserved for smaller artwork or where proper reinforcement can be installed where the piece is to hang.