The Story of a Portrait

The Finished Portrait measuring 90 cm. x 90 cm. was done in oils on fine linen canvas It is of a friend of mine, Nicola, and the aim was to be as informal and relaxed as possible to express her youthful personality and outlook on life.

Preliminary Sketch

After trying numerous poses and sketches, this composition with its informal attire and element of playfulness was chosen. An artist herself, Nicola loves modern art and minimalism. To suggest this I reduced it to clear ,simple shapes, with an emphasis on the strong diagonal and a recurring use of the Golden Section. At this stage it is roughed - in in charcoal.

You can select the slide you want to view by using the buttons below the picture.

The Outline

Here, the initial drawing is strengthened and refined with paint diluted with turpentine.

Adding Detail

The canvas has already been stained with raw umber, which I can use as a mid tone as I begin to apply colour. My palette is Titanium white, raw sienna, yellow ochre, cadmium red light, burnt sienna, French Ultramarine, alizarin crimson, raw umber, burnt umber and sap green. The medium is distilled turpentine and Poppy Oil.

Colour is added

The remaining slides show the gradual build up of detail of both figure and background.


John is aware that commissioning a portrait is a very important matter for any potential client.

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Demonstrations & Tuition

John is often invited to talk about his work and demonstrate his talent to interested parties.

John has run many successful courses over the years both at home and abroad. Individuals or groups should contact him with their requirements. Keep up to date with the latest information by reading his Blog.

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The Completed Portrait

This has demonstrated one method of painting a portrait in oils. For others please check out my Blog. January 2009 "A Bold Approach to Painting a Portrait." February/ March 2009 " A Traditional method of Painting a Portrait". December 14 2008 "Using acrylics as an under painting". See also the video of me painting a portrait in 80 minutes.

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"The investment of time from commissioning a portrait to its completion will give pleasure for generations..."

Artist's Statement

John Glover
 Self Portrait
Oils 14"x18" 1995

I have been a professional portrait painter for over twenty years, but with the benefit of hindsight can see its roots stretching back even further to childhood and school exercise books littered with Leonardo-like caricatures and sketches of friends, teachers or imaginary beings. Coming from generations of farmers however, portraiture was not a career even dreamt of. Only much later, when researching my family tree did I discover an artistic gene going back centuries and a close family link with Kirkcudbright, Scotland's Artists' Town, home to "The Glasgow Boys". My own chosen route took me to art school, teacher-training college and into the world of illustration in all its forms - whether it be educational, romantic fiction or fairy tale. It was a marvellous discipline, learning one's craft whilst at the same time having to fulfil the requirements of authors and meet publishing deadlines.

However the human face and what made people 'tick' fascinated me more and eventually lead me to the profession I am now in. As a portrait painter I find myself in a very privileged position. I am invited into people's lives however briefly, to witness their work, their aspirations, their successes and sometimes their failures, indeed their humanity.

People have their portraits painted for all manner of reasons. There are those who have reached the pinnacle of their career and wish it to be acknowledged, but there are many who simply wish to celebrate a relationship or capture a family moment in time.

In this increasingly transient age, portraiture with its variety of mediums, is accessible to all and an ideal vehicle for capturing such significant occasions or people for posterity. Whether it be the permanence and power of oils, the softness of a pastel, the delicacy of a pencil drawing or the luminosity of a watercolour, one often finds that the character or age of the sitter suggest the medium best suited to express it.

The few short weeks or months it may take from commissioning a portrait to completion is an investment of time that will last and give pleasure for generations.