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How to make your portraits stand out?

As a portrait painter, I believe that there’s more to a portrait than just resemblance. We always have the big challenge of making the portrait interesting, different and experimental - to make it STAND OUT.

In this contemporary art world we have so many options to explore with the availability of various new materials and paints. So I’ll be majorly discussing about 3 terms changing which we can change the whole look of a traditional portrait - which are SURFACE, MEDIUM and COMPOSITION.

Let's find the more experimental alternatives for the term ‘Oil/acrylic on Canvas’
In place of canvas or paper, we have many surface options like Glass, acrylic sheet, mirror, wood, etc. and many artists even reject the traditional shapes of canvas today and go for more ‘avant garde’ options like round, hexagonal or combining multiple canvas to make a desired surface of their own. Size of surface is also a significant thing now, as artists are exploring from big wall size canvases to showing their portrait skills on small surfaces like jewellery pendants or palm size wooden slices.

Ever tried ‘Glow in Dark’ paints or painting on gold leaf base? This is how innovative it can get when it comes to painting with a non traditional medium of painting. When painting portrait, there is no medium yet that can offer these many shades and smooth application and result as oil, acrylic, watercolor, gouache or encaustic. But we can always incorporate more interesting mediums and materials with them like fluorescent paints, gold flakes, metallic paints/powders etc.

Using acrylic, oil and gold leaf in the painting along with texture white to add texture, by Aashi Jain. 2024

Texture is another wonderful thing to experiment with. It can be created on the base using texture white, marble dust etc, or even at the end of the process by pasting various materials like beads, parts of jewellery, lace or fabric to support your work of art and make it more interesting.

Portrait can be as simple and as complex as we like to keep it, as it's a subject with endless exploration and adornment. Depending on what we want to say through that portrait, the expressions can come from face, clothes, background, rhythm or even the style of composition. What can make a portrait stand out is how these elements are used to narrate the story or depict the emotion without just being there unnecessarily.


By Aashi Jain . 2024. A lonesome and enigmatic background like the starry night can express the mood of the painting more aptly as compared to abright sunlit day or flowers.

Keep looking for new materials and mediums, and the inspirations around you. We never know what our next painting may use!

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