Critique: Portrait Backgrounds


The composition of this painting is very effective—the shape of the subject sits nicely against the background. However, the artist may want to consider painting the background a darker shade to enhance the dynamic shape. Differentiating the background color from the color of the skin tone will make the portrait stronger.

About the Critic
Dawn Whitelaw has studied painting with Scott Christensen, Cedric Egeli, Jim Pollard, and Everett Raymond Kinstler. In 2002 she received the Award of Excellence and Best of Show in an international competition sponsored by the Portrait Society of America, and she has exhibited her portrait, landscape, and still life paintings in juried shows organized by the Cumberland Society of Painters, the American Academy of Women Artists, and the Phoenix Historical Museum.

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About BrianRiley

Brian Riley is the managing editor for the American Artist family of titles (American Artist, Watercolor, Drawing & Workshop) and has been part of the AA team since 2003. He first became interested in art as a child, specifically drawing, but drifted away from the visual arts as he grew older, gravitating towards writing while in college. His position at AA has offered him the opportunity to reinvigorate his early passion and continue his education.  

One thought on “Critique: Portrait Backgrounds

  1. Creating a portrait with strong angles from left or right corners is extremely effective. The sample provides energy and movement for the viewer. The sample draws your eye from the face, to the hand, down to the bottom of the page and back up to the face with the red locks of the subject. This technique is very effective and most great layouts understand this use of movement.

    Another great thing is the negative space created. 3 great negative spaces define this shape. This artist has an understanding of portraits and composition. Even if this woman was in a room of people, the artist effectively accomplished a great portrait.