Posted in Derren's Posts

Posted by Derren Brown November 26, 2010 at 8:08 pm

At last a moment to post on Patrick’s portrait. As you may remember from a previous post, Patrick made a “reverspective” portrait of me, and I have painted him, in order to do arty swapsies. The painting is large, as most of mine seem to be – this one, in acrylic, 5ft high by 4ft:

As some of you seem interested in how these come together, I took a few photographs of the stages along the way to show you.

I had taken a set of photos of Patrick in my studio, from which to work. I have a little cobbled-together photo studio set-up so that I can start with decent pictures. I settled on the following to use as a primary reference. It’ll give you the likeness:

The photo captures him nicely, so I printed it out (to about A3 size, around eleven inches wide) and kept it next to my canvas. The canvas and photograph I divide into quarters – when working large it’s necessary to have some sort of guide for overall proportion. That done, I start sketching directly onto the canvas. Sometimes I don’t do this and begin with the paint, but I was feeling less bold. I don’t do any preliminary sketching.

From the eyes and nose I continue until I get a sense of a portrait. Strictly speaking this level of work is unnecessary, but I like to be able to see it come together at the early stage before I involve paint:

Next I need to get some colour tone onto the canvas, so I cover it in orange. Green also works well. The pencil peeps through so I still have a guide. I’m using acrylic paint.

And some around the face. It’s important to keep the same tones in the background as in the face, otherwise the latter can end up feeling disconnected from the former:

Now I start to get some dark and light values on as the next layer. I have chosen a palette of colours ranging from a titanium buff for the highlights to a burnt umber/deep blue combination for the darkest points:

He’s already starting to look like Bertrand Russell, which is not what I want. I’ll be making corrections to the likeness later. Next I want to start getting some colour in there. So some greens, yellows, reds and blues, still allowing the orange to come through. Something starts to emerge:

More building up and something to lift it from the background. A nice fleshiness is falling into place. I normally begin now to work the eyes a little ahead of the rest of the face, which makes it seem a little more lifelike. Equally, a clear the framing of the face makes it look more worked too… these are tricks to make it seem less of a mess in the long central phase of painting:

A bit more of the same:

And I put some more love into the skin texture:

However, it doesn’t quite look right. I leave it for a bit and realise that the chin is too weak. In the next picture, I have done nothing but extend the chin, but the face looks quite different (I switch to my iPhone camera here for a bit so pay no attention to the colour shift):

Suddenly it falls into place. Now I keep working on the details and get the jacket and shirt done. I use glazes to build up better colours on the face, and I keep the detail sharp on the eyes and cheek so that the nose and neck fall out of focus. I also use a grey glaze to drop the clothes back a bit. This, along with the very start, is the fun part. Here’s a bit of work on the glasses. I need to make his nose more prominent, but can’t bring it down any lower as it will compromise the upper lip. So I lift the bridge of the glasses – first by erasing with orange – and then work up some detail on the rest of them.

Until eventually the painting is done. As I have so little time to paint, this was done in little bursts of a few hours here and there over the course of a couple of weeks:

Patrick was delighted. I was so pleased. Here he is with it (and his other glasses on)…

There you go. Hope that’s of interest to some of you.

My paintings are on view at for your delectation. I have moved away from the caricature paintings which dominate that site to something softer and, I hope, more grown-up and accomplished (fond as I am of the earlier ones). This February I should be holding an exhibition at the Rebecca Hossack Gallery in Charlotte St, and we’ll let you know as soon as we have a date for that. The exhibition will contain these paintings produced since the publication of the ‘Portraits‘ book, such as the equally large Grande Dame below:

Aiming to paint the cellist Steven Isserlis next. Right, off you go.


November 26, 2010 at 8:11 pm
Tracey says:

Flippin excellent. X

November 26, 2010 at 8:14 pm
Diane Brown says:

That’s fantastic Derren! I’d love to have your artistic talent. Well done!!! X

November 26, 2010 at 8:14 pm
Katie says:

Wow I love the detail, the life in the eyes,its an amazing likeness! Goes to remind me that I should take Art up again

November 26, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Makes me wanna get back in to painting oils vs digital. Great work.. perfect balance of detail and loose painting. Would love to see the exhibition. πŸ™‚

November 26, 2010 at 8:16 pm
Damien says:

Really good work there Derren. I’m very impressed!

November 26, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Thank you for taking the time to describe your process Mr Brown. Your skill, eye and process has left me (almost) speechless.


November 26, 2010 at 8:23 pm
Mark says:

Derren, you really are a great painter. The detail in the eyes especially gets me, and all round attention to detail. Patrick’s probably sitting smiling at his painting right now, and for long into the future. I was actually wondering how you done a painting, and you answered that question. Keep going, and may many more requests come pouring in.

P.S. Paint Phillis and uncover thou identity πŸ˜€

November 26, 2010 at 8:24 pm
@chrisb66 says:

Fascinating post. Love the layering of the colour. The end result has a Stanley Spencer-esque feel to it. You truly are a polymath!

November 26, 2010 at 8:25 pm
Habiba says:

It’s lovely!!!
You should do one of Coops or yourself! hehe

November 26, 2010 at 8:29 pm


Thank you for the detailed account πŸ™‚

November 26, 2010 at 8:30 pm
Ginny says:

Absolutely amazing. The eyes are definitely your forte.

November 26, 2010 at 8:30 pm
j.hall says:

Absolutely excellent Derren that is a masterly bit of painting, must be all the cheese, gotta come to the show. How’s your landscapes?

November 26, 2010 at 8:37 pm
pip says:

I have enjoyed your previous works but this one is something special. It has a glow and a warmth – your affection for Patrick really comes through. Love it. -x-

November 26, 2010 at 8:37 pm
Svava Dâgg says:

Brilliant! πŸ™‚

November 26, 2010 at 8:39 pm
Hannah says:

Thanks Derren, I really enjoyed the insight into how you paint. The faces are brilliant, but it is the eyes which really make these paintings for me; twinkling of the eyes brings such life into them.

Do you always work in acrylics?

November 26, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Oh, this is just wonderful, Derren. A stunning portrait of Patrick. Superb detail and beautiful brushwork, you have an incredibly deft touch.
Thank you so much for sharing these photos.

LC x

November 26, 2010 at 8:41 pm
roz says:

fascinating. i’ve never seen orange used fer that before, only white.

patrick looks good–less squidgy than your early works! πŸ™‚

November 26, 2010 at 8:41 pm
Kowalski says:

Amazing! Thanks for showing it stage by stage…
Well done!!! πŸ™‚

November 26, 2010 at 8:46 pm
Eric Clyne says:

Excellent. How about a group?

November 26, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Derren that Is fukin beutifull wow! Ur An amazing artist! ! Where’s The exebition??? I need u to tell me wat u think of my art . I’m so exited by art and poetry. You’ve got a gift there!

November 26, 2010 at 8:59 pm
ReliegiousMarie says:

Great -Great Guidelines there! …even better then the previous one with the potrait.
I find the nose-extending and chin-expanding part quite inventive, enlightning even πŸ™‚

No need to tell you you’re great at it now do we?… dúh

No doubt, expect some people trying to beat you at it x)

November 26, 2010 at 8:59 pm
rob says:

Wonderful. You inspire me to paint. Recently I have only been producing pencil portraits but the next might just have to be in acrylic. I put my acrylics down when I finished my a-level and have not touched them since. You achieve such a wonderful texture with the medium. While I have always loved your caricatures, I humbly state that I prefer this style, for what it is worth. Great stuff. πŸ™‚

November 26, 2010 at 9:03 pm
Ellie Jervis says:

Wow , what a talent. I love your style. So individual .You really capture the personality of the subjects.But heh you knew i was going to say that lol x

November 26, 2010 at 9:03 pm
Scott couldrey says:

Wow that is amazing! It’s as good as the picture itself! Are you sure it’s not a trick of the mind?? No better compliment to pay to someone, you must be really pleased, hope to see you on the tour in Woking next year, Scott

November 26, 2010 at 9:07 pm
Alice says:

Your art is extraordinary!

I’m a photographer, so I’m a pretend artist :p

November 26, 2010 at 9:11 pm
AnotherCraig says:

Absolutely amazing! Such a beautifully descriptive tutorial too!

I’m genuinely in awe.

November 26, 2010 at 9:22 pm
Nick says:

Wonderful work. Reminds me a bit of Meredith Frampton.

It would be interesting to see a double portrait. A portrait looking at a portrait, so to speak.

November 26, 2010 at 9:24 pm
Cathy says:


November 26, 2010 at 9:26 pm
Erin says:

5ft 4?? That’s taller than me 😐 how do you scan them in? or do you simply photograph them with good cameras? x

(REPLY – no, that’s just the size of the painting. The photo is about 11 x 16 inches – biggest my printer can print but not huge)

November 26, 2010 at 9:27 pm
Aaron Rush says:

Splendid my lovely

November 26, 2010 at 9:28 pm
toni says:

Fantastic, really interesting to see the painting in such detail.

November 26, 2010 at 9:34 pm
Sam says:

Oh my god – you are amazing- how can one person have so much talent?????

November 26, 2010 at 9:39 pm
Michael says:

Loved seeing the stages as the work of art was been completed

November 26, 2010 at 10:25 pm
Elise says:

That is incredible xxx Yeah, the detail is amazing! :O Wow. xxxxxxxxxxx

November 26, 2010 at 11:00 pm
Bridget says:


November 26, 2010 at 11:01 pm
bill woodfence says:

nice work .the size of your canvas’s really give you a chance to add enormous detail .i didn’t like the little star on the glasses.does parick have raised cholestrol levels.anway ,there’ll be no need to xray your portraits in years to come.really refreshing to see portrait painting taken to a nother level.but dont listen to me as i will say anything πŸ˜‰

November 26, 2010 at 11:07 pm
Kev B says:

Brilliant artwork Derren I had no idea you were such a talented artist

November 26, 2010 at 11:09 pm
Sophie says:

I’ve just seen your episode Hero and it left me with tears at the end. Thoughly amazing and enjoyable. Have just come across the fact that you can not only do “magic” and present but are also a master portraiture. Amazed once again. Genius.

November 26, 2010 at 11:14 pm
Holly says:

I love your painting style, It’s like reality.. just slightly off centre πŸ™‚

November 26, 2010 at 11:18 pm
Laurence says:

Absolutely fascinating and an amazing painting. I think more is communicated in this subtle style. Showing the whole process really helps.

November 26, 2010 at 11:21 pm
caz says:

to put it simply…I just love you and all you do…genius!

November 26, 2010 at 11:46 pm
Sabina says:

Derren your portrait of Patrick is your best painting yet in my opinion of the ones I’ve seen. It’s absolutely brilliant!! No wonder Patrick is delighted; you’ve caught his, very interesting, face beautifully and the attention to detail is amazing.

I saw your last exhibition at The RH gallery and hope to see your next. Also recently saw your 3 prints at the Saatchi gallery and what struck me this time was that I could really see how much you’d enjoyed painting them and how much love had gone into each one. I’m really liking your new more ‘grown-up’ style. Think Patrick is my favourite of all. πŸ˜€

I love that you’re now inspiring many more of us to take up our paint brushes!

Hannah, yes, he has mentioned that he uses acrylic paints.

November 27, 2010 at 12:33 am
Brymac says:

Another class job Derren !

November 27, 2010 at 1:07 am
Jazz :) x says:

Hi πŸ™‚
I am truly astounded πŸ™‚ a beautiful piece of art: πŸ™‚ you should be so proud πŸ™‚
I don’t understand how a man can have so many wonderful talents and still find the time to be the genuinely lovely person that you are, with your big heart and your kindness πŸ™‚ I am reading your book at the moment and spotted a lot of mention of self-loathing πŸ™ you really really shouldn’t dislike yourself at all- you have no reason to… You are a lovely lovely inspirational man who has taught me a great deal and who I will always look up to πŸ™‚ and on top of this, your amazing talents stretch into many vast areas of life πŸ™‚ You, with your warm heart and glowing sense of humour… I Love You Derren πŸ™‚ x <3 x <3 x <3 x
P.S please can I try and meet you after Svengali at the BIC πŸ™‚ so excited! xxx

November 27, 2010 at 1:21 am
Stephen says:

I love the way that you present your vision and the creative process, too. The finished painting has a lifelike character and quality that the photographic representation lacks. It is a very subtle and rewarding pleasure to be able to enjoy your work in this way, and I look forward to seeing the gallery presentation in February. Thank you once again for sharing this with us!

November 27, 2010 at 7:05 am

Wow Derren
That painting is amazing, I love the fact that you have shown your process from start to finish. The detail is incredible, especially the eyes. Also I love the distortions coming through the clear edges of the frame of the glasses.There is clearly no end to your talents

November 27, 2010 at 8:19 am
cordie:) says:

wonderful! can’t wait to see what you do next!

November 27, 2010 at 8:25 am
Kevin Moreton says:

It’s not fair that one person can have so much talent !

November 27, 2010 at 9:00 am
spiderabc1 says:

@caz Ditto

November 27, 2010 at 9:38 am
Jacqui Armstrong says:

Absolutely fabulous!!!……This is a tutorial in it’s self.

When I left school (many years ago, 1976), I was a student at Newcastle Art college, I had a great art teacher. He was the best, I now think he has competition. I would love too see more of your work. I have an attic all set up for me to start using acrylics, but never seem to have the time to get my thoughts into gear. maybe you could just be the person to give me that push in the right direction.

Happy painting


November 27, 2010 at 9:50 am
Bryan says:

Fascinating insight into your process. Are you sel taught Derren?

November 27, 2010 at 11:30 am
Magnus says:

Damn good job !!! πŸ™‚

November 27, 2010 at 12:36 pm
Ange says:

Absolutely stunning, makes me go weak a the knees…Derren that is..talented and eye catching…now thats a man I want to meet!! πŸ˜‰ xx beautiful art work on a serious note, love Ange x

November 27, 2010 at 3:49 pm
Jojoe6969 says:

SHIT!!! Just typed a message to post about needing photos for reference…still being able to catch the life likeness detail if painted smaller…and abstract painting coming straight from Derren’s imagination. Typed in wrong captcha code, and bobs your auntie, it vanished!!
Not doing it again, sulking now.

November 27, 2010 at 5:23 pm
Becky says:

Hi really like the painting and found the tome line really interesting, weird how it starts with orange though didn’t expect that. Keep doing what you are doing you always seem to get fab character in the art particularly the eyes.

November 27, 2010 at 6:43 pm
Ryan says:

Love the portrait Derren, absolutely fantastic. I like both styles of painting, but I think this style reflects the way your TV and stage career has changed and progressed as well.
I have a few questions I’d like to ask you if you don’t mind? I don’t expect an answer, so perhaps I’ll try and remember to ask you them when I next see you on tour:
1) How did you learn to paint? Was it a natural process, or have you studied formally?
2) What appeals to you about a potential subject? Does it stem from a personal connection?
3) Have you ever considered writing a book on painting detailing your methods? I’d read it!
That’s all. Keep up the hard work!
All the best,

November 27, 2010 at 8:13 pm
Sircodifier says:

Wow that’s awesome. I didn’t realize until you pointed it out that you’re also capturing the depth of field properties of the camera lens by having near/far detail go out of focus.

November 27, 2010 at 8:25 pm
Bletherskite says:

Wow…..just Wow!!!

November 27, 2010 at 11:12 pm

Beautiful, this portrait… He looks kind of magnificent, doesn’t he?

November 28, 2010 at 3:54 am
Antonio says:

i’m really impressed, I love all your work!

November 28, 2010 at 1:58 pm
Thistooshallpass says:

Truly amazing portrait Derren and thanks for explaining the process….very interesting. HavenÒ€ℒt had time to visit the blog for awhile but PatrickÒ€ℒs portrait of you is just incredible. So looking forward to Γ’β‚¬ΛœSvengaliÒ€ℒ…not long now xx

November 30, 2010 at 7:33 am
Valda says:

My GOD man! You really are extraordinary!

November 30, 2010 at 7:39 am
Grant says:

As hard as I tried to see the numbers – I couldn’t -I now ask myself (SELF? yESSS) whom does not paint by numbers-lol

November 30, 2010 at 6:37 pm
Alexander says:

whats with the ears? i think Mr. borwn got a little lazy? still a good photo.

November 30, 2010 at 10:05 pm
Cathy says:

I actually think it’s highly unfair that you have all of these amazing talents. Not jealous of your artistic flare at all. Cx

December 1, 2010 at 1:11 am
Faith says:

Hi Derren

I have to agree with the comments I’ve read so far. You are a very talented artiste and performer with more than a touch of genius which I’m sure you are already aware of. Although I love to watch your stage shows (both on TV and at the theater) and read your books – I think your artistic ability is something far more outstanding.
I would also like to repeat Ryan’s request (above)

December 1, 2010 at 12:31 pm
freedafurn says:

lessons in life,,,, Derren,,, i await you πŸ™‚
natural genius

December 1, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Wow I had no idea that you were an artist too. What a great portrait! Amazing work πŸ™‚

December 2, 2010 at 9:50 pm
Dolores says:

I haven’t popped into the blog for awhile. Your use of shadow and detail has matured, Mr. Brown. The work is quite impressive and I look forward to your future projects.

December 3, 2010 at 12:53 am
ReliegiousMarie says:

Funnily enough, (just realised by observing self thinking- huh! πŸ™‚ )
I see/search for other things while looking at your (churches and seacreatures, connecting-longing etc etc) or anyones paintings, …amazing deep personal stories, maybe thats my inner-shrink talking & she’s always kinda right πŸ™‚


December 6, 2010 at 12:08 am
Jason says:

Absolutely fantastic, i love it. It also reminds me of Paul Kidby’s style, and wonder I if Mr Brown has seen any of his works?

December 7, 2010 at 1:15 am
Jane says:

Did you simply decide to be incredibly talented?

December 8, 2010 at 9:34 am
Yasmin says:

Clever boy.

December 12, 2010 at 9:11 pm
Anne says:

Brilliant work and fascinating to watch the process develop. An excellent portrait!

December 22, 2010 at 10:38 am
theinfinitefeeling says:

amazing detail, you are talented in so many ways!
definitely my favourite artist.

January 4, 2011 at 6:35 pm
Bethany says:

Derren, you are the most highly talented person ever. Surely you are not human? You’re just too clever and cool! πŸ˜‰ x

January 6, 2011 at 11:41 pm
Rachel Hiscox says:

Very impressed, the painting is incredible. How you are this talented at so many things I will never know. Seriously though, could you tame it down just a little bit as you’re making the rest of us look bad!!

Loved watching Enigma tonight, you never cease to amaze me.

January 7, 2011 at 1:24 pm
Naomi says:

I love to draw too but I couldnt draw as well as this – this is amazing!

January 8, 2011 at 10:21 pm
Fran says:

Is there no end you your talent? :o)

January 8, 2011 at 10:24 pm
Eamonn Leahy says:

wow ..Thanks for the photos of the different stages , i am a painter myself who has lost his way ! but now i am going upstairs to my studio to work again after seeing your paintings , keep up the great work !

January 8, 2011 at 11:32 pm
lucy says:

you inspire me

January 9, 2011 at 7:55 am
Cara says:

Unbelievable artwork. Just watched the mischief programme and was awestruck by your paintings. I loved the one of your mum and dad. I’m an art teacher and love painting portraits myself but I will be using your stage by stage breakdown of layering the canvas with my pupils. Just amazing thankyou for inspiring the nation. X

January 9, 2011 at 10:40 pm
Alicia Rynkowska says:

Like so many others have said, you are truly inspirational. I too have gone back my drawings and now I feel i may just brave the acrylics! Will certainly make a visit to your exhibition. You are a truly talented man.

January 12, 2011 at 9:52 pm
margaret says:

fantastic Derren your talent is endless xx

January 14, 2011 at 3:24 am
natalie says:

Derren – you amaze me, inspire me also, artistically and within psychology, and all other aspects too. And watching your shows, what you’re capable of and the way you seem to need to learn more and excel at everything you do, it has actually encouraged me to work harder, given me the passion to just learn..and learn learn learn learn! So thank you! I’ll be your fierce competition in ten years time!

I remember watching you a few years back and thinking ‘what a t@@t’…Oh how things change! Considering my great disappointment knowing you will not be available to me. I joke.. Sort of.
I look forward to the next show!

January 14, 2011 at 8:18 am
Laura says:

I’ve never seen such a lifeline painting. I’m studying art at the moment and i bloody wish I had the skill do to something like this… I’ve never heard of putting Orange or Green down first though.

January 14, 2011 at 1:33 pm
George says:


January 14, 2011 at 4:06 pm
Charlotte says:

How doyou put so much detail, and how do you manage to make it look so realistic. im studying GCSE art at the moment and I havnt got the fogiest on how to put detail in my paintings, and I should know because my granddad was a artist and he used to teach me these thing. now i’ve forgotten. COME BACK GRANDDAD!!! πŸ™

January 14, 2011 at 5:16 pm
Charlotte says:

I think my granddad is haunting me because that message I sent about wanting my granddad back…… Well half an hour after I sent it. my nan gave me a art box that my grandad wanted me to have. Im well freaked out.
Love you grandad πŸ™‚

January 17, 2011 at 8:20 pm
Yvonne McCoy says:

Hi, I have only recently found out about your art, and I am totally astounded at the detail. I paint myself, only self taught and I just look at my stuff and think why bother anymore! I love your work and I love your step by step guide, which I will study and transfer onto my future paintings :))))) Love your work x

January 23, 2011 at 7:03 pm
Charlotte says:

Hi derren
I think your paintings are the most detailed paintings I have ever seen, honestly they’re amazing :). I just wanted ask you something. I might b coming to c 1 of your live shows in june and if I do get 2 meet u afterwards, would it b ok if I took a pic of your face, and use it in my pop art project. Cause I am doing a bit of the project about andy warhol, and he took pics of celebritie’s faces, and made them into collages. If you do let me do this it will garatee me a C or above, which means i’ll no longer look at my report card with shame :D.
P.s. It will also make my friends jealous he he :).

January 28, 2011 at 1:43 am
Lee says:

Thats one of those things that when u complete it looks even better than you imagined. Im not a bad drawer but this shits all over my work. i would love to see Ali or tyson, with exposed features drawn

January 28, 2011 at 10:40 pm
Liz says:

I’ve never been a fan of caricature (I don’t know, they just fill me with a vague sense of unease) but I’ve always really admired your stunning use of colour. So it’s a real treat for me to see you doing a portrait like this! Love it. Thanks for the progress shots, it’s fascinating stuff.

February 15, 2011 at 10:47 pm
Rozie says:

Thanks so much for your step by step pictures. Love your approach & style.

April 9, 2011 at 8:10 pm
Dan says:

That is truely amazing. I didn’t know you could paint as well. Gifted man πŸ™‚

May 5, 2011 at 10:52 pm
Jay Dave says:

Hey Derren,

A surprising addition to see the paintings – very impressive detail in the paintings.

How about doing a painting of Ghandi ?