Skin tone 1

The complete guide to mixing and painting skin color

During the painting courses that I teach, I am often asked how to mix skin colors. Painting convincing skin color (or skin tone) can seem like a skill only an expert can master but I will show you how anyone can do it once they understand the principles at play.

commissioned Portrait of a baby

Here is what we will look at to learn how to make brilliant life-like skin colors.

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Portrait in oil of Ginette

The price for a commissioned portrait

Artists often ask me what to charge for a commissioned portrait and clients want to understand the price structure before ordering a painted portrait. I will explain how to price a commissioned oil portrait so that both artists and clients have a solid base to enter into an agreement.

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color wheel w primaries secondaries and tertiaries

What oil paint colors are unique, and cannot be achieved by mixing others

The three primaries are unique colors and cannot be mixed, but a few others as well.

mixed medias

Many artists are told that they only need the three primary colors, blue, red, and yellow to paint. In theory, we can create all the colors by mixing these three primaries, even black. In reality, however, some colors are not possible to mix with the primaries available on the market. Let’s look at these unique colors in order. Primary (red & pink, blue, yellow), Secondary (Orange, Green, Purple), Tertiary (red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet) and the black monster!

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Painting a portrait by Eric Vanasse

How to paint a portrait from a photograph

Painting a portrait, step by step process and useful tips!

Painting a portrait requires similar skills and methods than any other figurative subjects. However, the artist needs to be more attentive to drawing details and colors nuances. I have done commissioned portraiture for many years and along the way, have developed techniques that have worked well for me and for my students. Here are the steps and tips that will help you paint a good portrait with a faithful likeness.

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How to mix paint to get black

How to make black with oil paint colors

By mixing your own black you get more than the saving of a tube of paint. Your chromatic black will allow you to shift your color temperature when you need it. The black that you mix can also adapt to the color harmony of your piece. What color to mix to make black? I will show you 5 recipes to help you add a new level of refinement to your work.

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sphere and box painting course

How to choose a subject for a painting?

The best subject for a painting is the one that is just challenging enough for you so that you can complete it and be happy with the result.

We never feel good at a new skill without technique and practice. I teach painting to students of all levels and my goal is to make them succeed at each painting they do, even their first.

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frames for paintings in a gallery

What is the Best Way to Frame a Painting?

Frames for painting, how to choose?

You have 3 main choices to frame a painting:

  1. Floating Frame
  2. Traditional Frame
  3. No frame!

I will tell you the pros and cons of each and add a little insight that I learned while I was working at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Painting frames on gallery wall

I took the picture above recently in my gallery. You can see 4 paintings unframed, 3 with traditional frames and 2 small canvases at the top with floating frames.

I have seen many paintings come and go in my gallery and the frames have had very little importance in regards to appreciation or sales. Most buyers will re-frame the pieces they purchase or prefer no frames. So we often wonder, should we pay the high costs of a solid wood frame, should we choose an inexpensive composite frame for presentation or should we skip frame entirely? There is no easy answer to this question. Sometimes, framing is necessary, for example when the sides need to be hidden.

This is also a very personal choice and factors, such as the artwork itself, the decor or an existing art collection can dictate a style of frame. It is still important to be aware of the pros and cons of each to make sure your art is best protected.

1. Floating frames

floating frame for a painting


  • Protect the canvas without covering the edges
  • May fit better in a contemporary decor
  • Are often less expensive because of their simplicity


  • Generally heavier (therefore costlier for shipping)
  • Will gather dust on the bottom section
  • Will show irregularities in the canvas especially if the canvas is not completely square

2. Traditional frames

traditional painting frame


  • Offers the best protection against damage and dust
  • Is often associated with pricier art, so it has a prestige associated with it
  • Comes in more choices


  • Covers part of the canvas which often results in a change of color under the part covered or worst, damage to the paint layer from friction.
  • Makes the painting larger, heavier and costlier to ship
  • Good quality frames are pricier and do not necessarily add value to the painting

3. No frame!


  • Free!!
  • Has a very contemporary feel and fits in most decor
  • Easy to light (no shadow from a frame)


  • Offers no protection from dust to the canvas
  • Paintings that are moved or manipulated often will quickly show wear around the edges
  • May tend to warp more without a solid frame to stabilize them.

The insight

My best friend at the Museum of Fine Arts was a Frame conservator (still is, my friend and a conservator!). She has to do plaster molds and gilding to restore old frames every day. The conundrum that she faces is the following, the frame has to help enhance the painting but never steal the show. So her beautiful work has to be discrete.

For many now, that means no frame at all, a painting should be able to stand on its own. However, the protection that a frame gives to a painting (against dust, scratches, warping, etc.) should not be neglected.

My advice? Use a floating frame if any of these conditions apply:

  • The painting has chances of being moved around
  • You have small children in the house
  • You may change your idea about the frame later
  • You may want to sell the painting (or donate it)
  • The painting is mounted on a traditional stretcher (not a “Gallery” type which is less prone to warping).

For these situations, a protection is necessary. The floating frame will not cover the painting or rub against the edges like a traditional frame would, which often results in damages to the paint layer or change of color over time.

damage to a painting

If none of these issues are a concern, the decision about the type of frames becomes more a question of personal choice. I would still recommend seeing a professional framer to make sure that the canvas is securely fixed inside the frame. A canvas mounted on a wood stretcher will tend to expand and contract along with the stretcher resulting in abrasion against the frame if the two are not well attached together.

Let me know what your preferences are in your choice of frames!

antique frame with gilding

Digital art creation by dsngiap

5 Photoshop Tools to Help your Oil or Acrylic Painting

Get a boost in creativity by using digital painting tools

Digital artists are creating masterpieces using strictly digital tools. Can artists using traditional media benefit from these tools? Absolutely, and I will show you how. We will look at the tools that are most helpful in the conception, design and development phase of the painting process. To make this simpler, we will use Adobe Photoshop but the tools described below are practically the same on free alternatives like Gimp or Pixlr Editor. Time to get a creative boost!

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boy learns to paint e1527342292749

The Best Online Art Lessons for Children

Online art lessons for children are effective, varied and affordable

There are many reasons why it’s worth exploring online art lessons for children. The exponentially growing number of these services create such a massive pool of talent that you are sure to find an excellent teacher almost cut to measure for your kid or teen’s needs. The variety of art mediums and styles parallels the diversity of teachers. Your choices are greater than anything available locally even in large cities. The different types of online learning services will ensure that you can find a service at the right price, often much cheaper than in-class lessons.

Keep reading to find out 10 services that I recommend and what you can do to help your child expand her/his skills safely and effectively.

1 - Video-based learning

2 - One on one tutoring

3 - And something new...

Online art courses for kids and teens come in two large groups videos and tutoring. Which has the best approach for your child? We will look at that and introduce a new alternative that may just be what your child needs!

Videos based learning

Often sold as online courses, these are usually presented as bundles of videos grouped by subject. Many sites such as Udemy will include additional material like articles, exercises and even a certificate of completion. You can also find similar videos on YouTube for free but you will have to sort through varying quality videos and endure the adds. The convenience of the video package ease of access makes this an interesting choice for self motivated-teens.

The main drawback of this type of learning is that it requires a lot of effort for kids to stay focused and go through all the lessons. This often means that parents will have to be more involved to keep the child or teen on track with the series of video. It is also a passive form of learning and for kids who like to experiment and try things for themselves, this may not work out so well.

Essentially, these online resources replace the mail-in DVD courses that were popular a generation ago. Most providers will chunk the courses into smaller video segment so you can get a sense of progression.

I would advise trying one short course before signing up for large bundles or a subscription-based model like Arttutor. You will see quickly if your child has the self-motivation necessary to take on longer courses.

Here are 5 notable players in video-based art learning:

  •  Skillshare: Over 3000 art courses for kids, about 3400 for teens 
  • ArtTutor Based in England, has a few hundred art classes or courses that can be accessed through a monthly or yearly subscription.
  • Jerryartarama offers a few dozen free videos art lessons that are a little fuzzy but hey, they’re free!

  • JAM: Jam obviously went for quality over quantity. You will find just a couple of bundles for drawing and one bundle for animation. They really encourage kids to experiment. This probably is the most hands-on approach or the videos-based learning.

Online art tutoring for children

One on One tutoring

Let’s face it (pun intended). Having a tutor or teacher face to face, or one on one over webcam, is still the best way for most kids to connect and get engaged. It is by far the most effective way to help a student with his/her particular difficulties and to find custom solutions to remove roadblocks in the learning process.

According to recent surveys, online tutoring has already become more common than face to face tutoring and the trend is not slowing down. The reduction in travel expenses and the schedule flexibility allow tutors to offer quality services at a better price. Also, since the online world has few borders, you can find tutors in countries where the cost of living and currency exchange rate allow qualified, English speaking art instructors to charge even lower prices. 

Even if the cost of a one on one service is often higher than video courses, the personal attention and direction of a real person make lessons much more motivating and effective. This teacher-student relationship, especially in visual arts, has been the cornerstone of art education for centuries, and for good reasons. Art is a discipline that requires the teacher to make judgment calls on every interaction with the student. A good art teacher will correct errors gently, encourage efforts and demonstrate techniques and methods that are very specific. At the same time, the teacher has to allow experimentation and bring some level of discipline with kids and teens. This will certainly be one of the last jobs that will be taken over by robots!!

Here are 4 resources that I think are worth looking into:
  • Superprof Based in France has a truly global reach with about 3 millions teachers. Superprof doesn’t have a general “Art” category but at the time of this writing, they have 565 registered teachers who teach drawing to children and 390 who teach painting for childrenThis platform is really an intermediary between students (or parents) and teachers. They allow you to search and choose the tutor. After that, it’s all between the tutor and you, including payments and refunds if necessary. 
  • Preply has an international pool of teachers. They currently feature 32 art tutors who provide service through Skype. Cost ranges between 5$ and 38$ an hour with an average of about 25$.
  • UniversityTutor has close to 9000 art tutors in the United States alone! Like Superprof, UniversityTutor allows you to search and choose the tutor. They don’t get involved past that point. This huge number of art tutors, however, means that you are likely to find one close to home if you want to have a combination of online and face-to-face sessions with the same tutor.

  • Buddyschool: is another tutoring platform that has caters to all age groups including children. A quick search in their Art category will return dozens of tutors across North America and the rest of the world. 

One on One art lessons by email

...And something new?

When I started ARTZOK, I wanted to offer an alternative that came close to to the usual teacher-student interactions. The frequent and quick interventions that a teacher does in art classes are very effective at helping students find their path while getting the knowledge that they need at the moment they need it.

Following this model, we created ARTZOK to offer affordable one-on-one lessons via email that art students can use whenever they need a little help with their work. 

Students simply upload an image of their work in progress and the teacher responds within 24 hours, often much faster, with a positive critique and tips for improvement. The process is repeated whenever the student feels the need for support.

The vast majority of our services are offered to kids and teens and some are specifically tailored for them.

Parents can feel secure knowing that all interactions between tutors and minors are monitored and recorded. We are so sure of our approach that we offer free trials on practically all lessons.

So, what is the best online art lessons platform for children?

It is the one that your kid or teen is most likely to enjoy and that will keep them motivated and engaged. For some it will be brushing up on some techniques in a video course, for other it will be tutoring via webcam and for others, it will be something more flexible like ARTZOK. There are plenty of artists who are self-taught but the trial and error process is slow and frankly quite lonely. Having a teacher that can support, encourage, correct and show the way will not only speed up the learning curve but make the process more exciting and gratifying.

What do you think?

girl painting with dog

Learning Art Online vs Art Classes

Time for a paradigm shift!

Our work, shopping, social interactions are increasingly taking place online and this is our new normal. With learning, we are facing some persistent stereotypes that are keeping many from benefiting from effective learning tools.

Online learning is often considered second-rate to classroom education. Similarly, online degrees can be viewed with suspicion and this can discourage many people from pursuing them. In art, with a tradition of learning by doing, the move to online learning can be even harder to accept. Here is why it is time to shift this paradigm.

Student for life

Art student online workspace

Spending x number of years in an art school then finding a job to apply our skills for the remaining of our career is not something that is viable anymore.

With an accelerating rate of change in technologies, our tools are changing faster and we need to learn to use them to keep up with our trade or craft. Yes, pencils and brushes will not go away and there will always be a need to master traditional media like drawing and painting.  However, media like digital art and photography are taking center stage by making use of powerful digital tools. Even traditional media artists benefit from learning to use tools like Photoshop and photo filters in smartphones. If you want to keep creating, especially if it is for making a living, you better be ready to study and learn for the rest of your life.

Advantages of learning art online

online art course

1 - Learn at your own pace.

OK, you will have to learn continuously… Being able to set the time and pace of your courses or interactions with your online teacher makes it much easier than having to go to a weekly course, somewhere!

2 - Learn anything

You are not limited to a course that you can find in a limited radius around your home. You can find awesome teachers for virtually any art media that you can imagine.

3 - Learn fast

The flexibility of learning at your own pace and at home ultimately means that you can have many more study sessions of varying lengths. You will lose less time and master your art sooner how? By seeking help and focusing on what you really need instead than having to listen to theories or critiques that are not necessarily relevant to you.

4 - Learn better

Having access to some of the best art teachers in the world makes a huge difference in the quality of instruction an art student receives. Many platforms will post reviews and ratings for the teachers which helps with your selection. You often also see artworks created by the teacher to make sure it is a good fit for you.

So, are there advantages to taking in-class art courses?

traditional art class

I am an art teacher who has been teaching for many years in his studio class and offering in-class art courses by other art teachers. You should expect a long list of positive points for traditional art classes but frankly, I can see only a few. Here they are!

1 - It creates an obligation

By signing up for a weekly art class, you are more likely to attend the class than an alternative online learning period without commitment. This can change however after someone finds the right teacher online and start getting the benefits of receiving the right type of help when needed.

2 - Classrooms have a social aspect

Learning art in a group can be stimulating for people who enjoy the company of other students/artists. Seeing the progress of other student’s works can even light up a positive competitive side in some. Realizing this need, some online art classes include a social component on their platform to let students exchange images and comments.

3 - A teacher can intervene on your piece

With the student’s permission, I often show how to fix small problems with their drawing or painting. Learning by seeing a teacher’s demonstration, especially very specific problems, is very valuable and this is perhaps the greatest advantage of an art class. It is especially true when working from life.

However (yes, there is an however here too…), there are new online tools such as whiteboards that allow teachers and students to interact remotely on a shared image. A teacher can “touch up” a student’s work or demonstrate a technique. This is a feature that we will be adding to ARTZOK which we will call the virtual studio.

And the winner is...

tablet for online are course


Seriously, the advantages of learning art online are stacking up progressively higher. With countless YouTube videos, blogs, online lessons, on-demand support like ARTZOK and new interactive tools, the choices are as varied as are the needs for continued learning. A mobile device is often all that you need to sign up and use an online learning platform. You can receive the information, help, and support to learn a new media or to perfect an existing skill.

When looking at costs, learning art online is almost always at an advantage. With industries recognizing the need for continued training for artist, graphic designers and others, the value of online courses is being more and more recognized and compensated by employers.

ARTZOK a unique model

I started ARTZOK to initially give my students a platform to receive help whenever they needed troubleshooting on an art project. I had noticed that during my summer and Holiday breaks, many students simply stopped practicing their art because of a fear of making too many errors without me to guide them. With ARTZOK, they can simply upload a picture of their work at any stage of its creation and rapidly receive tips by email on ways to improve it and move it forward. This way students can work from home why receiving the advice they would get during an art class.

ARTZOK is now available for any art student and our teachers provide support in a continually growing list of media.