Abstract Painting Course | Portraits with ink and Acrylic | Varnika Prakash | Skillshare

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Abstract Painting Course | Portraits with ink and Acrylic

teacher avatar Varnika Prakash, Delhi based mixed media portrait artist

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Scribble Materials


    • 3.

      Scribbling techniques - front view


    • 4.

      Scribbling techniques - angled view


    • 5.

      Paint Materials


    • 6.

      Painting over your scribble art


    • 7.

      Bonus Ideas and Inspiration


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About This Class


As an Artist I sometimes have the tendency to get swept away and pick up more projects than I can handle, and then I end up finishing only a handful of them. I know a lot of other artists who face the same issue. The portraits that I cover in this class have helped me discover a way to do quick studies without focusing too much on the details, and instead relying on my creative intuition to reach the final artwork.

This class is great for both beginner artists as well as people who have been professionally practicing art for a while. The great thing about it is that you don’t need to know how to draw difficult portraits for you to be able to create these pieces. This class would also help people who have been battling with an artists block, as it forces you to get out of the box, and to just have fun with all of your tools.

For any hobby, as well as professional artists, these abstract portraits could also serve as a warmup for your mind and your hand to help get your creative juices flowing before you start working on a bigger project.


  • Materials -  I’ll guide you through all the materials that you’ll need and the supplies that I will be using throughout the duration of this class.

  • Scribble Art -  I’ll share with you my scribbling techniques as I draw 2 scribble works in real-time. Scribble art at it’s core is very fluid and intuitive and it’s so much fun to work on, but more than that, I genuinely believe it’s a form of art therapy and it’s so easy to get lost in (and the best part is, you don’t even need to add color to it for it to be a finished artwork!)

  • Color Palette -  I’ll guide you through all the colors I use, as well as share the colors that I mix in real-time as I paint the portrait, so that you can paint along with me.

  • Abstraction techniques -  As we start painting over our scribbled artwork, I’ll show you how I go about adding abstract features to my painting using a limited palette.

  • Highlights and Shadows -  I’ll share with you how the direction of the light source creates all these highlights and shadows on the face that affect the tone of the colors, the strokes we use and the forms we see on the portrait.

  • Bonus ideas and inspiration -  At the end of the class, I’ve included several demonstrations of me painting loads of these paintings using different color palettes so you can see how different colors work together.

  • Flow -  The focus of this class is being able to find your own flow and to come up with your own experimental techniques to reach the end result that speaks to you. I’ll guide you through certain rules that I follow, but the journey will be yours through to the end.

  • Detailing -  As we reach the end of the painting, I’ll teach you some techniques that I use to add more visual interest to my paintings such as dotting-on-paint, adding texture, working on your edges, etc.


This series of portraits has really helped me in my art journey to reconnect with my own creativity, and I will  guide you to get in touch with that inner child that we all have inside of us, so that you too, can reconnect with all the things that make drawing and painting fun, experimental, and interactive.

There is a catch though -

As with anything else, we get better the more we practice, and especially with pieces like this, you want to be able to dedicate the time and patience to your practice sessions. A single painting takes me anywhere between 10-30 minutes to finish, so to start with, I urge you to focus on quantity over quality, and slowly build towards quality over quantity. The more you do these portraits, the closer you’ll get to discovering that edge that makes it you.

And I promise, if you put in the time and effort, by the end of a few practice sessions, you would have loads of mini paintings adoring your walls!


  • Basic Stationary -  Pencils, eraser, sharpener

  • Ink -  I’ll show you all of the different ink mediums you can use in the class, but to start with, you can use any kind of pen you might have on you already (fountain, ink, ball point pen, etc)

  • Paper -  For these pieces, starting small is a good idea. You can work in your sketchbook, or use an A5 size paper that’s medium to high GSM so that it can handle acrylic application.

  • Acrylic Paint -  I will share with you the color palette I use, along with all the brushes. Other than that, just have a cloth and water handy for cleaning your brushes.


I've done loads of these little paintings, so if you'd like to see some extra images of my completed artworks in different colors for inspiration, you can find them here -

Inspiration  |  instagram

I can’t wait to see the pieces that you create. I would love to receive feedback from you about your experience throughout the class, and your journey with these portraits.

I hope these tips and tricks I’ve collected over the years help you just as they’ve helped me.


Meet Your Teacher

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Varnika Prakash

Delhi based mixed media portrait artist

Level: All Levels

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1. Intro: I did this series of acrylic portraits that are really easy and really fun to do they're very intuitive And you don't need to know how to draw difficult portraits in order to paint these with me. I find these little pieces to be a great tool to work with flow and creativity when it comes to expression You can also use this method as a warm up for your mind and your hand before you start working on a bigger painting In this workshop, you'll be painting along with me as I guide you through the process, I use, the palette you'll be working with and all the materials that you need. The object of this workshop is for you to be able to paint a simplified portrait and to understand how the rhythm of the face works and how all these colors work together. So just have your sketchbook ready and let's get painting. 2. Scribble Materials: Ok guys, so the first thing we're going to talk about are the materials that you're all going to need, which is stuff that you can normally get at your regular stationaries or art stores. The first thing you're going to need is just a pencil so you can do all your markings and before you put any ink down, you have sort of a reference to go with. I also have this EE pencil, which is sort of my darker, darker graphite. So you can use that as well. If you don't have it, it's not necessary because we're going to go in with the ink anyway. After that, I normally like to go in with charcoal. So this one's a vine charcoal, which you can get at any art store. There's also a hard charcoal which if you have you can use, I would recommend smudging it on a piece of paper and then using a brush to go in with the powdered charcoal. But this one's really easy to work with. So if you have it, that's awesome. That's a vine charcoal stick, which we'll be using today. As for the main scribble work, You'd have, uh You could either use a fine liner pen, which is really awesome to work with because it's really the lines are really sharp and small, So it's good for the scribble work because you can do lots of scribbles But for the duration of this video, I'm just going to use a regular ink, black ink pen, which is just, I'm sure you guys have it in your home. So this one's just a regular uniball pen. And of course there's an eraser if you guys need it because that always comes in handy. Have your pencils nice and sharp, ready to go. So I'm working in my sketchbook right now, which is again hard paper. So this is about 300 GSM, which I would recommend you use because we're going to go in with acrylic paints later, which I'm going to talk about more when we get into painting it. But for now, even if you're using regular paper, make sure it's, you know, it can hold a little bit of water. So the thicker the paper, the better. If you're not using a sketchbook, make sure you have some masking tape ready so you can tape the paper down so the paper doesn't crumble. So that's it for now, I'm going to start first up with our handy little pencil 3. Scribbling techniques - front view: Okay, so the first thing we're going to do before we get into painting it all is just gonna be some scribble work. I'm going to show you how I do it. And it's really, it's a lot of fun. It's just something you can do in your sketchbook Just have it out, have a little pen and a pencil ready and you're good to go. Normally, I just go in with my ink pen but if you are not comfortable with drawing portraits I suggest you use a pencil and just make your marks first So you have a little reference on the piece of paper to know where the pen goes. Don't worry about how it looks when you start your scribble work its' just supposed to be fun and it's very flowy so just go with wherever your hand is taking you Also, so for this piece, I'm not going to be using a reference, normally for these little works I don't like to use a reference. I just go in with my imagination but if you guys want for sure you can use a reference. I'm sure it will make it a little bit easier so you have something else to focus on. But for now I'm just going to go in for my first scribble work It's going to be, this one is just going to be a front, front view of a portrait. So it's fairly simple. So to start off with, I'm just going to make a light marking just to show where all my features go Okay. Don't worry about what the pencil looks like You're going to erase it later once you're pen is in So now that I have that I'm just going to make the marks This here is going to be my nose, my eyes, So now that is the end of my face top of the head, so at this point you just want some simple marks just so you know where your face is So for now that's more than plenty Keep your pencil aside Now You have the option to either go in with charcoal first or ink first. If you feel a bit uncomfortable with ink because you can't erase it, then for sure go with the charcoal first but For now I'm just going to use my ink pen I'm just going to go straight in for the scribbles. Now when you're doing scribbles, you want to make sure you try and not lift the pen so much and just make it intuitive and make it your own So also just try and keep some strokes going out but not too far out So if this is my main subject area right, this is where most of the paint is going to go in I want to be careful not to get too far out because most of the scribbles in here will get hidden by the paint but out here it would all be visible once your piece is done So be mindful of that. I always like to start with one of my more important areas like the eyes or the nose or the lips. For now, I'm just going to start with my eye. just make your scribbles a bit more compressed in areas that have more shadow and a little bit lighter on the areas that are further out. So to go with it, just remember to have fun with it. You can always fix it after. The nose To the other eye try and not lift your pen, when you're doing it And another important thing to remember is to make sure you know what side is your shadow and which side is your highlight, so for me I'm going to keep my highlights on the right side of the face and my shadows on the left which means I'm going to do more compressed scribbles on this side And this side is going to be more loose and fluid. So normally the shadows come down on the cheekbone, under the eye, eyebrows To start out with just continue scribbles inside the face don't go out This is where my ear is going to be coming down to the neck, I'm just going to try and get the bone in there and then for your shoulders, it's just sort of this simple mark-making All right, that's looking good. Now because I do want some scribbles to show on the outside This is where I'm going to use large strokes and be more fluid with it and go out of the frame And of course, you just want to have fun with it. This is how I like to do it Just some on either side that looks good If you want to go all out and do some extra scribbles You do it, whatever feels right to you But just try and get the features of the face in place And try and make it as proportionate as you can, which is where the pencil really helps. All right Now, the areas that I want really dark, which is under where the nostrils are, the eyeballs, the lips, under the lips, under here Now once I have my scribbles down, I'm just going to make those areas a bit more darker. So they sort of pull your attention the upper lip is usually darker than the lower lip, under the lip is darker Yeah, that looks great. Now this already is a pretty cool artwork, but now, if you want, you can go in with the charcoal Just remember that once you put paint on top of charcoal the first layer will sort of blend it out a bit and make it a bit darker This is optional. If you don't wanna do it, you don't do it. You could also go in with different colored inks. You could use red ink on top of black or go in with the blue Whatever you wanna do, just be experimental with it Whatever you feel like doing in the moment These pieces are really quick and they're intuitive So just do as many as you want and just try and get your flow. If you're using charcoal, what I really like to do is just find my shadow areas and put just a bit The beauty of using vine charcoal is it's, it's really forgiving If I don't like it somewhere, I could just brush it off It's really light, really fluid if you're using a darker one I'd recommend smudging it on a piece of paper maybe going in with a brush So it's not very harsh Now if you want You can use the charcoal to make some scribbles as well That's awesome, that's one scribble ready for some paint 4. Scribbling techniques - angled view: All right, So for the second portrait, we're going to do things a little bit differently. I'm going to try and make this, I'm going to make this one angled so you guys can see what it's like when the face is looking in different directions. Again, just hop in with your handy little pencil This one, again, I'm just going to use the same idea The eyes would go there, and then the nose would come down here, and and then my eyebrows would go there, and then the mouth, the chin You just remember this doesn't need to be too fair You just want your your face sort of in place All right, so now to go in with ink I'm gonna use my fine liner pen This one is a 0.1 I'm also going to use like I said, you could use any kind of colors you want. I'm just going to go in with this orange felt tip pen as well. We'll see how that goes. Again to start out with fine liner pens are awesome for this kind of scribble work because they are really thin they're really forgiving you know, like how it looks You can just use a thicker pen, cover it up So basically the same exact concept You want to spend a bit more time scribbling in places that are more condensed and more important places on the face like the eyes and the nostrils and the mouth The longer you spend on it, the darker it will be. which is kind of the idea So for this portrait I want my darks to be on the left side of the face So this area is going to be a bit more light and fluid which is really easy to do with a fine liner pen Even if you don't want to go in with color, pieces like this are just fun to do You could also use this as a warm up before you start painting a bigger piece That's awesome, I'm going to use my my 0.8 fine liner which is a bit more thicker to accentuate those darks a bit I'm going to try and now use this orange pen just to add more extra scribbles At this stage of the portrait you don't really want to worry about what you're putting down on the paper. Just be correct with your proportions and have fun with it because most of it's going to be hidden when you go in with the paint Now to just go on with your charcoal Charcoal is awesome and just adds loads on depth So this one, I'm just having fun with it smudge it out a bit Whatever you feel like doing And there you have it, this one is also ready for painting that's my approach to an angled face that's looking in a particular direction You could use it for the same concept of a portrait, if someone is looking up You just draw it out like that Mark it differently. These look pretty nice, I'm ready to go in with some paints 5. Paint Materials: Okay, so here I have my scribble art prepared and I've masked it down I'm going to show you all how I go about painting it and I'll show you all my materials. For now, this is just a regular masking tape on my high GSM paper You just want to mask this down so that when you go in with acrylic so in case you end up using a lot of layers It doesn't, the paper doesn't crumple So far my materials, I'm just going to, I have my palette here I have my titanium white, naples yellow, This is just regular acrylic paint that you can get at any store, I'm using Camels artists grade paint so titanium white, naples yellow, scarlet lake, burnt sienna, burnt umber, brilliant purple, and this deep red tone. And these colors here are my mixers which I use often for all my paintings This one is portrait pink, and this one is payne's gray Now this medium I do want to talk about a little bit so I'm using this daler-rowney medium This one is a medium for, it's a slow drying gel which should really help when you're It also helps to make impasto textures which would help later on in the painting process I'll show you how to use it, but it's a brilliant thing to have in your set of paints Of course, I also have my brushes for this piece I'm just using all flat brushes and one small one for the finer details, the rest are all flat brushes, just regular ones And I have a handy little cloth that I can use to dry my brushes off if I need it 6. Painting over your scribble art: All right, so I'm just going to go ahead and start painting this piece now So this palette I'm using today is mainly just a skin tone palette that I use often I love using scarlet lake It's just very easy to work with when it comes to skin tones But this is going to be pretty abstract when I start putting paint down, which is fun But it's there's also just some little rules I use to go about it First, you do want to know what sections your highlights and your shadows are So for this piece you can see this area is where I'm going to have my shadows and this is the more highlight area So the first thing to go on this I'm just going to use some of this scarlet lake with some portrait pink I would recommend not using very watered-down tones just keep your paint a bit thicker because you don't want to hide a lot of this scribble work in center there So I just want sort of a lighter red tone, a little bit of a yellow Okay. So now that I have my skin tone ready this is going to be my main tone for most of the portrait So I'm just gonna go and cover these places And just, another thing you want to focus on as you're going to start painting is the direction of your strokes So for your nose, It just doesn't really matter but I'm using more downward strokes, but your cheekbones you want to come down towards your mouth because that's the main rhythm of the face. Also keep in mind that the charcoal would also mix in with the paint making it a bit darker Lessons, this is my main tone I'm just going to use this as my background tone for all the colors that are going to go on top don't worry about this first layer too much All right, I'm going to add some more white to this tone to this side which is supposed to be my highlight area, it's just going to be a bit lighter Just remember not to worry too much and just to have fun with it That's already looking pretty nice It's got all of my yellows and reds going on in there, all my skin tones Now I want to start adding some of my darks to this piece Also remember when you're doing pieces like these with scribble work you don't want to touch the masking tape because then it's going to create that sharp line the masking tape is just there so that the paper stays where it's supposed to stay I'm going to go in with my red tone, I'm just goin to add it to that same skin tone that's nice Use some burnt sienna witch works really well as an undertone It works really well with your reds So now I'm slowly going towards my darks So as of now, I'm not making my pigment so thick that it's covering all of that scribble work But I will, the longer I paint this, the more layers I add, the paint is going to be thicker and thicker as I go So here's my burnt umber* (not sienna) which is my darkest tone for this piece And I'll put some red in there So it's like a really dark red, umber* Okay, so with this I'm just going to mark off all my dark areas That's good because now I have a certain idea of where this portrait is going Now, this is where you start having a bit more fun with your strokes Alright Now I'm gonna switch this big brush to a smaller smaller flat brush So I can go into those eyes add all those nice little details Now at this point I'm also using thicker tones because I already have my first layer established This is the part of the painting that I enjoy most just sort of focusing on having fun and adding texture As you guys can see, I'm just going in with thick tones now I'm not really worried about going out of that main subject area, which is this portrait I don't want to go too far out that will be something I'm gonna do at the end For now, I just want to focus on the features of the face You want to keep changing the color that's on your brush So you're adding more different tones Just keeping in mind this is your highlight area So the top of your nose would be more highlighted and more textured The lips will be, the upper lip would be a bit darker while the lower lip would be lighter Just a general a general rule we follow when sketching a portrait So the more paint you add the thicker it gets the more fun it is to add more layers it's really easy to get carried away at this point So what I like to do and I'm sort of now going outside the portrait is to just I like to do a lot of horizontal lines and I keep it quite flat You can do whatever you want to do This technique is a great way of covering more ground and it fits in more with this kind of scribble work All right, that's looking quite nice and I'm just now going to use this medium I talked about, this is a slow drying medium so it will slow the drying time of your painting But with this, you also don't need to use water It just makes it really nice and impasto And I'm going to use some white because now I'm now I'm going to go in for my highlights and so in this face most of my highlights are going to be right here on the nose there's going to be some on the side of the eye And the nose, the cheekbone And you want to be really modest with your highlights and your shadows So your final tones, like this is still not my final tone, It's a lot of portrait pink I'm using but I'm soon going to start using my white which I'm going to be really really careful not to over-do So the closer you get towards the end of the painting the more of the paint you want to use, and you wanna focus more on the textures This is not about the face looking exactly like a face It's just about having fun with the colors and having fun with your palette You can also use any kind of different palette you want If you've seen any of the other small studies I've done in this series It's a lot of, um, there's all kinds of different colors you can use, viridian with your lemon yellow or hookers green deep, or you can use blue tones I love working with reds the most because it's just really easy to get your skin tones down And I love using reds like I've been obsessed with reds for so long I'm pretty sure I have like 10 different reds in my palette, maybe more and don't worry about it not looking too great if it doesn't You can just always paint over it That's the beauty of working with acrylic So now I'm going to go out a bit more so for this one, I'm just going to add There, that's one stroke It's got loads of texture on it. It's got all these nice little tones going on I'm quite happy with this so far Now reaching the end of this piece I'm gonna go in with my My smallest brush, just this one And this is where I have the most fun So you can really make your strokes super thick and textural So now it's just, I'm just dotting little areas little darks in areas, just making it nice and thick at this point, I also want use colors that I haven't mixed with others yet I'm just going in with little dots of red If you've seen all my other paintings This is what I love to do most It's so much fun It's just adding loads of texture And all that good stuff on my palette feel free to go in with different colors It just pulls your attention and adds a bit more interest to the piece Just keep in mind your proportions Careful with all of your darks and where you're putting them For this piece, I know my darks need to be on the lips a bit, the eyes Here is my fresh white, just going to dab a bit in a few places All right, now I want you guys to not use any other tones, but just fresh tones So here is my deep red I'm just picking it up straight on the brush dabbing a few dots in some of my darker areas So this, deep red is kind of a dark tone, right, so I can't use it on the right side of the face or I would just sort of pull the attention to it So just touch on the lips. Here, this is now my straight yellow tone, just loads of it on the brush. Now yellow is a naturally lighter tone So you want to go in use it to highlight areas on the right side of the face I wouldn't put yellow on the left Just maybe a dot in little places where it feels good This sort of painting that I do, it's very intuitive It's very just following your brush wherever it wants to go Following your heart or your hand wherever it wants to go If you're wondering why I had the purple here It's because I love using purple on top of reds Now with this also I'm just going to go in just a few places This is also just creating some interest in my pieces, this is the only time I use my purple, I never mix it with other tones I just like to dot it in a few places using heaps of it on the brush All right, guys, I think that's looking pretty nice I think I'm done with it I'm just going to add a couple more dots This is the point of the painting where you just want to look at it for a minute See what do you want to change It's okay to make mistakes sometimes you can always fix them That's looking pretty nice So that's basically my process of how I go about these little pieces and I hope you guys enjoyed it Let me know if you guys paint something like this as well Just tag me in it and I'll see it And yeah Thank you. 7. Bonus Ideas and Inspiration: Okay. Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi. Hello. Hi. Hi. Hello. Hello.