Robert Liberace Child Portrait Workshop

Initial Drawing by Robert Liberace

Initial Drawing by Robert Liberace

This weekend I attended a workshop on painting a child’s portrait taught by artist Robert Liberace.  Robert has used the same family for models during several of his workshops.  The models were five girls who range in age from a wriggly 8 year old (who is a total delight) to a serene 17 year old. The sisters were very sweet and playful and you could tell that they really enjoyed posing together.


Initial Drawing by Robert Liberace

Laying in the Grisaille, by Robert Liberace

When I first looked at the girls I didn’t think any of them looked quite the same. After painting them I realized their skin tones and hair colors and textures varied but their eyes, noses and mouths shared almost identical structures.

On the first day, Rob spent the morning lecturing about how a child’s anatomy and facial structure differs from a full grown adult.  He then gave demonstration in charcoal using one of the models. 

Finished Grisaille, by Robert Liberace

Finished Grisaille, by Robert Liberace


We spent the afternoon working on several 20 minute sketches to warm up and then a longer pose.  The goal was to create either a preliminary drawing using charcoal or a grisaille (a two-toned) under painting. 



Application of color

Application of color


One the second day, Rob started a two-day painting of the oldest daughter.  He seated the model on a platform and was slightly below and to her right. 

Because it spanned two days, this was one of the best demos I’ve gotten to witness (I’d say witnessing him at Zoll Studio ranked as the best-but man this was a close second). 

color to the grisaille with initial cool and warm midtones

Initial cool and warm midtones applied to the grisaille


Rob started with a quick sketch, working out angles of her face and placement of her features as well as mapping out the darks/shadows. 

Once these were established he quickly sketched in the model’s basic features paying particular attention to the eye socket and the angle of the shadows around it.  He continually checked his placement. 

Once satisfied he started working laying in the grisaille.  Rob wanted this layer of his painting to dry overnight so he mixed raw umber with flake white (lead white) and used galkyd (by gamblin). 


strengthening shadows

strengthening shadows

 Rob started with a mid-tone and worked from there to model the face.  He started with basic shapes taking care to use angles and lines to describe the model’s features.

One the third day, Rob went to work.  After double checking his painting from yesterday he lightly wet the surface of the painting with a mix of gamsol (an odorless mineral spirit)  and stand oil. Rob mixed his first midtone using permanent rose with cadmium yellow and titanium white.  


Finished Portrait, by Robert Liberace

Finished Portrait, by Robert Liberace


After applying paint to the area of the cheek, forehead and chin, Rob began modifying the mid-tone for a little cooler/warmer as well as slightly lighter tones. 

One of the students asked how much the underlying grisaille affected or impacted the layer he was working on.  Rob explained that it served to provide the basic terms of reference for applying the color. 


detail of the finished painting

detail of the finished painting

Although that sounds pretty obvious he explained it far more elegantly (I didn’t get to write it all down unfortunately) but what I got out of it was that the first layer is critical in developing the second layer of the portrait.  It serves as a map or a point of reference for the color layer.

Rob worked on the portrait throughout the morning and the finished painting was amazing.


11 responses to “Robert Liberace Child Portrait Workshop

  1. I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate you providing information on Rob’s teaching and methods. Where can I find information about Rob’s workshops?

  2. Hi Frank,
    Glad to help, I will be posting the pictures tonight or tomorrow.

    Information on Rob’s workshops can be found at his website ( or at the Alexandria Virginia Art League ( Follow the link to the school and select Robert Liberace from the instructors list.
    Rob is a great teacher, he loves teaching folks of all skill levels and abilities.

  3. Mongoose,
    Can’t wait to see the pics!
    I am missing Rob’s class already. Missed you at the make-up.
    Anyone I know buy the demo?

  4. Umm maybe… Rob worked on one color study on Sunday which really popped. It reminded me of Joaquin Sorolla’s work. I was also rather fond of the 2-day painting 😉

    • I’m Javier from Spain ,Valencia,(Xativa) were was born Jose de Ribera (El Españoleto).
      Sorolla was born in Valencia to 50 Km from Xativa, and I know his paintings very well.
      Yesterday I dicovered to Robert Liberace and It has been a very pleasure to do it, beacuse I have here a friend as a great draftsman wich remember me a lot to R. Liberace and I think you like to know his paintings,drawings and carvings beacuse both has a lot things in common in his works. His name is Joan Castejon. I would like to know more about R.Liberace if it is possible.
      Tank you.

      • Hi Javier,
        I look forward to seeing some of Joan Castejon’s work!
        You can find Robert’s work at Robert is represented by Arcadia Fine Art on Greene St in New York City.

  5. Pingback: Newest Additions to my Painting Collection « Skating at the Edge of Infinity

  6. Hey ! Thanks for posting this! His figure workshop was super fun.. Rob was great and I learned so much from him.. I may, at some point try to figure out how to study w/him for a longer term.. who knows ? 😉 kevin

  7. Glad you had fun Kevin, he’s such a great teacher.

    He teaches all day on Fridays, drawing in the morning, painting in the afternoons and he rotates drawing/painting in the evening classes. This term its drawing but we can paint if we prefer.
    BTW, am still interested in what I mentione in the last email (commission wise).
    Let me know

  8. Rob Liberace is an amazing artist.
    Is there a book or way of getting instruction if you live an ocean away?
    There is no better figure artist today to learn from .

    • Anna, Robert has been working on several instructional DvDs. if you go to his website you should be able to purchase his three color chalk one and they should be releasing his new one, the figure in motion by the end of the month.

      Robert is also working with American Artist (I received an email about this last week) for an online course that begins 1 Sep. You can either take the class with or without two critique sessions. Recommend the critiques if you can afford it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s