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Love and passion for art, inspires by the books entitled - The Old Masters and Toulouse-Lautrec, the mastery portraiture of Rembrandt van Rijn and Leonardo da Vinci becomes an inspiration that one day I will paint my own self-portrait.

The Flemish Painting Technique
To achieve such level of oil painting is a discipline of a distinct method of seven layer painting technique.

Richard Ancheta self-portrait oil painting on canvas, Flemish 7 layer painting method, old masters technique.
Self-portrait - oil painting on canvas

Element of Composition: old masters technique, golden mean, symmetrical and simplicity, triangle, rhythm, tilts, arrows, fibonacci spiral, umber colors, impasto and textures.
Richard Ancheta self-portrait oil painting on canvas - detailing.
Self-portrait - oil painting on canvas

Detailing layer

Details added with fine lines and details of the anatomies, full casting contrast of reflected light and balancing of colors. The series of glazes illuminates in each layer resulting of overlapping of colors. The hologram of 3D effect and raising the solidity of the lighted form are defined. The design of values is subtle and the bathing of lights is vivid and luminous reflected lights.

Oil portrait, second color layer flemish painting technique- self portrait by Richard Ancheta.
Self-portrait - second color layer

Second color layer

Second glaze color tones, chroma and hue. The 3 color zones of the face, the standard glazing of yellow ocre on the forehead, ear, cheek, nose is redish hotter colors with highlight of alizarin crimson, chin and jaw are cool colors of blues, green and grays.

Oil portrait, first color layer - self portrait by Richard Ancheta.
Self-portrait - first color layer

First color layer

First glaze color tones, chroma and hue. Cool and hot color combination, the brownish orange is the paring harmony color of marine blue. This stage is completed rapidly and freely in full session, glazing both colors in transition, adding brush strokes and patches are final.

Oil portrait, second umber layer - old masters technique, self portrait by Richard Ancheta.
Self-portrait - second umber layer

Second umber layer - monochrome shades and shadows. detailing touches, pulling the shades and shadows,

Shades and shadows in umber colors and sepia tones. Once the imprimatura had set, transparent glazes were applied scrubbing the paint on in thin layers. Transparent paint was then added to the shades and shadows, variation of colors, burnt umber, raw umber, beige, van dyke brown, amber, sepia, ocre and sienna. The light source and highlighting were always the final step and always opaque.

Self-portrait of Richard Ancheta, first umber layer
Self-portrait, first umber layer

First umber Layer

Glazing 2 times with burnt umber sealing the textures of the canvas.

Self-portrait of Richard Ancheta, posterize and imprimatura
Self-portrait, posterize and imprimatura


The texture of the canvas is prepared with a series of textured effects of rough tangible palette knife textures, this texture which is underground, helps the solidity of the form.

Imprimatura is the preparation of toning the canvas and a hallmark step in the Flemish technique, this toning does several things in the oil painting, mixtures of white, a tint of transparent orange and brown as I posterized the outline and block-in.


Forecasting the portrait in pencil drawing are seen at this stage of grayscale drawings.

Self-portrait of Richard Ancheta, pencil sketch
Self-portrait, pencil sketch
Shades and shadow begin, locating the highlights and main intensity of light and the reciprocal of the shaded part.
Self-portrait of Richard Ancheta, ball and plane method step 3
Self-portrait, ball and plane step 3

Adding details is each section maintaining proportion in each detail.

Self-portrait of Richard Ancheta, ball and plane step 2
Self-portrait, ball and plane step 2

Proportion and locating the placement of details is the automatic resemblance of likeness, drawing in this stage is keenly observed, the center line that the face is divided into 3 envelop divisions.

The cranial is added by a jaw plane and divide in half projecting the center line, the face is also divided equally 1/3 one third, the standard measurements in drawing and sectioning of facial form. Brow lines, nose and chin are obserd equally and the hairline can varied in the proportion. Section of each thirds are map the place of details.

Self-portrait of Richard Ancheta, ball and plane step 1
Self-portrait, ball and plane step 1

Composition and drawing techniques:

Construction Lines in Angles

The ball and plane method is precise a drawing technique when the head is in head turns, angles and tilts. Andrew Loomis precisely illustrates by drawing of a ball and chop the sides, as a basic shape of the cranial and added a jaw plane.


Flemish painting technique:

The Method of seven layer steps
I - Imprimatura
II - First umber layer
III - Second umber layer
IV - Grayscale layer
V - First color layer
VI - Second color layer
VII - Detailing layer

The Flemish or Flemings (Dutch) are a Germanic ethnic group native to Flanders, in modern Belgium, who speak Flemish Dutch. They are one of two principal ethnic groups in Belgium, the other being the French-speaking Walloons.

Word of the Flemish technique soon spread, it was quickly adopted by the German artist Albrecht Dürer after he travelled to the region, and by Antonello da Messina, who was thought to have studied in Flanders. Giovanni Bellini picked up the method from Antonello, and thereafter schooled Giorgione and Titian. Flemish oil painting expert Rogier van der Weyden travelled to Italy in approximately 1449 and aided a number of Italian artists, such as Piero della Francesca. Titian (Tiziano Vecellio), on the other hand, was an early fan of the method, and innovated greatly upon it.

Painting Materials:

Winton Oil Colour:
Bright and beautiful, range of 47 colours all of the tones have been carefully made to bring out the best of each pigment, can create bold and vibrant artworks.

Palette Knifes:
A palette knife is a blunt tool used for mixing or applying paint, with a flexible steel blade. It is primarily used for mixing paint colors, paste or for marbling, decorative endpapers. With the range of sizes and styles, it gives an infinite texture effects.

Oil paint - a type of slow-drying paint that consists of particles of pigment suspended in a drying oil, commonly linseed oil. The viscosity of the paint may be modified by the addition of a solvent such as turpentine or white spirit, and varnish may be added to increase the glossiness of the dried oil paint film. Oil paints have been used in Europe since the 12th century for simple decoration, but were not widely adopted as an artistic medium until the early 15th century. Common modern applications of oil paint are in finishing and protection of wood in buildings and exposed metal structures such as ships and bridges. Its hard-wearing properties and luminous colors make it desirable for both interior and exterior use on wood and metal. Due to its slow-drying properties, it has recently been used in paint-on-glass animation. Thickness of coat has considerable bearing on time required for drying: thin coats of oil paint dry relatively quickly.

Self-portrait pencil drawing by Richard Ancheta
Self-portrait pencil drawing, winter in Montreal 2016

About Self-portrait:

A self-portrait is a representation of an artist that is drawn, painted or sculpted. Self-portrait is also refers to a portrait included in a larger work of group portraits. Many painters are said to have included depictions of specific individuals, including themselves, in painting figures in religious or other types of composition. Such paintings were not intended publicly to depict the actual persons as themselves, but the facts would have been known at the time to artist and patron, creating a talking point as well as a public test of the artist's skill.


Introduction to Portraiture:

Portrait art was ranked number 2 in the hierarchy of the genres (behind history painting) by the great European academies of fine art. The other types of pictures (in order of importance) were History, Genre-Works, Landscape and Still Life. The high ranking given to portraiture was because of its high human narrative content. The work was supposed to convey the "noble" attributes of the sitter, either as an individual or a symbol of humanity.

Portrait art was practised during the earliest civilizations, as exemplified by the wonderful collection of Egyptian Fayum portraits. From the Italian Renaissance era, the evolution of portrait art has mirrored the evolution of society in general. At first, Christian deities were the principal subjects, then Popes, Kings and Cardinals, then nobles and other important citizens. Complex rules evolved concerning pose, angle and background of the sitter, while the overall effect was progressively enhanced by the introduction of oil paint, as well as the painterly techniques of varnishing, sfumato and chiaroscuro. Increased middle-class commercial prosperity during the 17th century opened up this genre to a new range of patrons. Portraits can sometimes take considerable time. Cezanne, a notoriously slow painter, sometimes required more than 100 sittings to complete a portrait. On rare occasions, a completed canvas is completely rejected by the sitter. Graham Sutherland's portrait of Winston Churchill was famously rejected by the sitter who kept it in storage until he died, whereupon it was destroyed.

Self portraiture, an independent artform, has been explored by nearly all portrait artists, not least as a way of honing their painterly skills. The greatest exemplars of self-portrait painting include Albrecht Durer, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Egon Schiele, to name but a few.

The Top 10 Portrait Artists

This list of famous portraitists has been compiled by our Editor Neil Collins MA LLB. It represents his personal view of the ten best exponents of portrait art. Naturally, like any such compilation it reveals more about the personal tastes of the compiler than the creative practitioners being ranked.

For more information about
exponents and styles of portrait
art see these resources:
Renaissance Portraits
Baroque Portraiture
Rococo/Neoclassical Works
19th Century Portraits
20th Century Portrait Artists
Portrait Art by Picasso
Expressionist Portrait Painters
Surrealist/Pop-Art Portraits

For a list of masterpieces
of painting & sculpture,
by contemporary artists, see:
Greatest Paintings Ever
Oils, watercolours, acrylics,
by the best painters.
Greatest Sculptures Ever
Top 3-D art in marble, stone,
bronze, wood, steel and
other media.

Best Artists of All Time
The greatest painters & sculptors
Best History Painters
Top 10 exponents of allegorical,
mythological, narrative art.
Best Genre Painters
Top 10 exponents of genre
painting, notably Dutch Realists.
Best Landscape Artists
Top 10 view painters and
plein-air specialists.
Best Still Life Painters
Top 10 exponents of still life

For a list of the greatest exponents
of painting and sculpture, see:
Old Masters (1300-1830)
Great European painters.
Famous Painters (1830-present)
Greatest painters of modern era.
Best Contemporary Artists Top 20
World's top postmodernists.

For a list of the greatest
painters and sculptors from
Ireland, see:
Famous Irish Artists
Great exponents of visual
art from Ireland.
Best Irish Artists
Top living painters/sculptors
across all the genres.
Best Contemporary Irish Artists
List of exciting new talents
in fine art, photography, and
Best Irish Portrait Artists
Review of the top exponents
of portraiture in Ireland.

For information about the world's
most highly priced works of art
and record auction prices, see:
Top 10 Most Expensive Paintings
Top 20 Most Expensive Paintings
Most Expensive Irish Paintings

For a list of the finest public
art galleries in Europe, America
and worldwide, see:
Art Museums: Greatest

For details about the development
of Western painting and sculpture
see: History of Art Timeline.

For more information, see:
History of Art

No 10. Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593)

After a conventional start as a religious painter in Milan, Arcimboldo was appointed court painter to the Imperial court in Prague, where he was able to give full expression to his range of artistic talents. He became involved in costume and stage design, wrote a treatise on the theory and practice of fine art, and became the official art agent for the Emperor. He also invented a completely new genre of portrait painting, which involved the arrangement of flowers, fruits, animals, books and other everyday objects - into a recognizable human portrait, typically with allegorical meanings. The results of this naturalist-Mannerist style are nothing short of amazing, and - as a piece of creative visual art - rank with the finest examples of Surrealism, if not at times Dadaism. Considering that all this was achieved some four centuries before the arrival of Salvador Dali, Arcimboldo must surely rank as one of the greatest and most innovative of portrait artists since the Renaissance.

Famous portrait paintings by Arcimboldo
- The Librarian (1566) oil on canvas, Skoklosters Slott, Sweden
- Emperor Rudolf II as Vertumnus (1591) oil/wood, Skoklosters Slott, Sweden
- Spring (1573) oil on wood, Musee Louvre, Paris
- Winter (1573) oil on wood, Musee Louvre, Paris
- The Gardner (1590) oil on panel, Museo Civico, Cremona

No 9. Theodore Gericault (1791-1824)

Best known for his modern history painting "The Raft of the Medusa", the talented and highly influential, if somewhat indolent, French romantic painter Theodore Gericault was also an outstanding portraitist. In the early 1820s, he was commissioned by Dr Georget, head of the Paris asylum, to paint a series of portrait studies of the insane. These portraits, with their infinite compassion and sensitive characterization have rarely been bettered. A monumental study of humanity.

Famous portraits by Theodore Gericault
- Woman Suffering from Obsessive Envy (1822) oil, Fine Arts Musrum, Lyons
- Woman Addicted to Gambling (1822) oil on canvas, Musee Louvre, Paris
- Kleptomaniac (1823) oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent

No 8. Sir Anthony Van Dyck (Flemish, 1599-1641)

The second greatest Flemish painter after Rubens, whom he excelled only in portraiture, Anthony Van Dyck was court painter first to the Archduchess Isabella, governor of the Netherlands, then King Charles I of England (of whom he painted dozens of portraits). His success as the leading North European portrait painter of his age, rested on his keen observation, his life-like portrayals (none of his subjects appear stiff or artificial), and his unique ability to convey the majestic dignity of his sitter, albeit with occasional flattery. Van Dyck was also a skilled etcher, who produced a series of 100 large scale portrait etchings of famous contemporaries.

Famous portraiture by Sir Anthony Van Dyck
- Portrait of Cardinal Bentivoglio (1623) oil on canvas, Palazzo Pitti, Florence
- Portrait of the Painter Frans Francken II (1630) etching
- Queen Henrietta Maria (1633) National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
- King Charles I of England in Hunting Dress (1635) oil on canvas, Louvre, Paris

No 7. Hans Holbein The Younger (1497-1543)

The greatest portrait painter of the 16th century Northern Renaissance, the talented Hans Holbein eventually settled in London at the age of 29, where he specialized in painting portraits of the Tudor Royal Court, and the merchants of the continental Hanseatic League. Characterized by meticulous attention to detail, together with a combination of clinical detachment and perceptive characterization, Holbein's masterpieces include portraits of the astronomer Nikolaus Kratzer, Henry VIII, The Ambassadors, The Merchant Georg Gisze, Erasmus of Rotterdam. The Gisze picture, in particular, illustrates Holbein's fusion of Renaissance simple grandeur with Northern European detail: the latter exemplified by the still-life quality of the objects and items depicted.

Famous portraiture by Hans Holbein The Younger
- The Astronomer Nikolaus Kratzer (1528) tempera on panel, Louvre, Paris
- Lady with Squirrel & Starling (1526-8) oil on panel, National Gallery, London
- The Ambassadors (1533) oil on oak, National Gallery, London
- Portrait of Henry VIII (1540) oil on wood, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte, Rome
- The Merchant Georg Gisze (1532) oil on panel, Gemaldegalerie, SMPK, Berlin

For some of the most important
portrait artists, during the
eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries, (1700-1900) see:
Best English Painters.

No 6. John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)

In a curious if unintentional confirmation of John Singer Sargent's growing stature as arguably the greatest portrait painter of the modern era, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art at a recent exhibition juxtaposed the works of Velazquez with those of some of his admirers, including Edouard Manet and Sargent. While the Frenchman's paintings were made to look quite weak in comparison, those of the American retained all their robustness and style. Sargent's acknowledged masterpiece is "Madame X", painted in Paris when he was 28. Aside from exemplifying his unsurpassed hand-eye coordination and his classical "au premier coup" technique (one precise stroke of the brush, no reworking), its bold composition gives this work intense value and interest. His quite different group portrait "The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit" is a masterful mixture of classical form and Impressionist brushwork, and ranks as one of the greatest Impressionist portraits.

Famous portraiture by John Singer Sargent
- Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (1882) oil, Boston Museum of Fine Arts
- Madame X (1884) oil, Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Mrs Adrian Iselin (1888) oil, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

No 5. Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520)

Raphael is traditionally considered to be the finest painter of the High Renaissance. In addition, he was regarded as the leading portraitist of the Renaissance in Rome. His contribution to the art of portrait painting includes his Madonna portraits, and at least two individual masterpieces: "Portrait of Baldassar Castiglione" and "Portrait of Pope Leo X". Whereas the Madonna portraits had brought the classical triangular composition to its culmination, that of Baldassar Castiglione - the first great portrait of the Italian Renaissance - is based on circular forms. The papal work is more complex: Leo is sitting, framed by the presence of two cardinals in the background, and each man is looking in a different direction. The effect is unsettling, and generates a significant degree of underlying tension.

Famous portraiture by Raphael
- Agnolo Doni (1506) oil on panel, Palazzo Pitti, Florence
- Portrait of Baldassar Castiglione (1514-15) oil on canvas, Louvre, Paris
- Portrait of Pope Leo X (1518) oil on wood, Uffizi, Florence

No 4. Jan van Eyck (Dutch, 1390-1441)

Active fifty years before Leonardo and some two hundred years before Rembrandt and Velazquez, Jan Van Eyck pioneered the use of oils, using them to create a number of outstanding true-to-life portraits. His most famous work is probably the double-portrait "The Arnolfini Wedding", a fiercely complex picture replete with symbols and clues of hidden meanings. Other portrait masterpieces include "Man in a Red Turban", supposedly a self-portrait, which exemplifies the brilliance and luminance of van Eyck's oils, and the figures of Adam and Eve from the Ghent Altarpiece, two of the earliest and most naturalistic nudes. Considering the antiquity of these works they are surely evidence of a remarkable talent.

Famous portraiture by Jan Van Eyck
- Adam/Eve from The Ghent Altarpiece (1432) oil on wood, St Bavo, Ghent
- Man in a Red Turban (1433) oil on wood, National Gallery, London
- The Arnolfini Wedding (1434) oil on wood, National Gallery, London
- The Virgin of the Chancellor Nicolas Rolin (1435) oil on panel, Louvre, Paris

No 3. Diego Velazquez (Spanish, 1599-1660)

Any list of the world's best portrait painters must surely include Velazquez among its number. The greatest artist ever produced by Spain, outshining even El Greco, Goya and Picasso, Velazquez produced at least two unforgettable masterpieces: "Portrait of Pope Innocent X" and the group portrait "Las Meninas". The former perfectly captures the penetrating gaze of a deeply ambitious man, while the latter is a stunningly complex portrayal of Margarita, daughter of Phillip IV, and her attendants, which weaves illusion with reality. Like both Rembrandt and Leonardo, Velazquez was a huge influence on his contemporaries and subsequent generations of artists, notably Edouard Manet and Francis Bacon.

Famous portraiture by Diego Velazquez
- Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1650) oil on canvas, Galleria Doria Pamphili
- Las Meninas (1656) oil on canvas, Prado Museum, Madrid

No 2. Leonardo da Vinci (Italian, 1452-1519)

Probably no other artist has produced so little and received so much praise, and here's why. Leonardo was a universal genius. In fact he was so clever that he got bored too easily, which was why he finished so few works. Even so, I challenge anyone to see his tempera and ink drawing "Drapery Study for a Seated Figure" (1470s) in the Louvre and not feel the presence of genius. Moreover, his portrait of the "Mona Lisa" is by most reckoning the best example of portraiture ever produced, and "Lady with Ermine" (Cecilia Gallerani) isn't far behind. Nevertheless, despite his outrageous draughtsmanship, oil painting skills, mastery of sfumato and more, I feel he doesn't quite have Rembrandt's degree of empathy with the sitter.

Famous portraiture by Leonardo Da Vinci
- Lady with Ermine (c.1490) oil on wood, Czartoryski Museum, Cracow
- Mona Lisa (La Gioconda) (1503) oil on wood, Louvre, Paris

No 1. Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)

The greatest ever portrait painter in the history of art, Rembrandt was the most sensitive and perceptive painter of the human face - the gateway to the soul - while his complete mastery of shadow and light lent his portraits an added drama - even super-reality. It is this combination of profound humanity and master craftsman which lifts him above the other great portraitists, into a class of his own. The Mona Lisa may be the finest individual portrait, but Rembrandt in my view is unquestionably the greatest portrait painter: a gallery of Rembrandts has almost every human quality from supreme confidence to suicidal despair. And no list of portrait masterpieces could exclude his group portraits "Syndics of the Cloth-Makers Guild", and "The Nightwatch". As for self-portraits, I can think of no other artist who chronicled his aging with greater honesty or realism. His pictures may be dark, but Rembrandt's unique genius shines through regardless.

Famous portraiture by Rembrandt
- The Nightwatch (1642) oil on canvas, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
- Syndics of the Cloth-Makers Guild (1662) oil on canvas, Rijksmuseum
- Self-Portrait (1669) oil on canvas, National Gallery, London