Painting With Patience

Painting With Patience

Marcellino Tan talks to us about his 8-week journey to capture the meaning of his heavenly portrait in Melanie Delon’s Digital Portrait Painting course.


My name is Marcellino Tan from Indonesia and currently on a journey into the creative industry. I spent a year studying Concept Art at Vancouver Film School and my first life drawing session got me hooked up with the human figures and portraits. I love how complex and graceful they are. Since then I’ve been studying the topic for almost 3 years. I believe Melanie’s Digital Portrait Painting class will help me improve my understanding of portraiture and my painting skills to be a better illustrator and concept artist. So I am grateful that I have been given this opportunity to share my thought process behind this artwork.


Inspired by the Renaissance Painters I decided to take on a more religious topic. I had a pretty clear idea about what I want to do for this class and was eager to create my version of the painting of the Virgin Mary. The design concept is based on a belief of the TRINITY and the Virgin Mary in the Catholic Faith. I took pictures of myself doing the gesture that I wanted and searched for some pictures of female portraits along with pictures of dove which will represent the TRINITY (The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit). I hope to present a heavenly and pure figure that will represent the relationship between God and humans.


In the early stage, I was thinking about a more metaphorical approach for this piece by having a bit more of a fantasy theme as seen from my thumbnails.

But then after the first feedback from Melanie, I decided to keep things more simple but further telling the story that it’s supposed to be telling. Her face would be the center of interest looking up towards heaven. She is surrounded by 3 doves that work as framing devices for her face to keep our attention towards her.

Facial Proportions

I wanted to present a woman who is calm, innocent, and unstained by the world, so lighter colors with less saturation worked better in this case. Getting the nose right is always a challenge to me, so I stepped back and studied the fundamentals of nose construction and anatomy even more. In the end, the fundamentals along with Melanie’s feedback on how to paint the nose by using a brush with soft edges and a bit of a grainy texture solved my problem as the brush strokes easily blended to create the impression of soft forms in the nose.


I spent most of my time painting and refining her face throughout the whole process. Her head was too long for a head that is tilting up. Shortening the head and adding a  plane to the bottom it helps create the impression of a better perspective. This is the problem that I carried until the final stage and decided to correct it in the end. The better way is to really solve this kind of fundamental problem early on to avoid difficulties in messing with the colors and renders that I already did. So by working on this piece, I learned a good lesson.

Silhouette & Hair Style

The hairstyle is pretty simple as I don’t want to attract too much attention to this part. I have to always keep reminding myself that The woman’s relationship with the doves is what makes this picture. By keeping the hair quite flat in the shadow helps me to push the contrast between the face which has a lot of details and the flattened hair.

Storytelling & Dramatic Lighting

Instead of adding additional details at this stage, I reviewed the overall picture and the relationship in it. As far as the story goes, this piece tells a story about the woman, Virgin Mary who is so loved by God thus been blessed for eternity. Therefore the Halo and the doves. It also represents the human relationship with God.

Originally I wanted top-down lighting as if it’s a light directly from heaven, but I pushed it to the front left a bit more to add more dynamism in the picture and contrast the stoic and vertical portrait. Warmer light and cooler shadows helped balance the color composition and controlling the cast shadows so they won’t be too harsh on the figure is a good idea to preserve the heavenly theme I wanted to achieve.

I got rid of the lower half of the background and extended the sky as Melanie suggested because it fits the story better. The muddy brown took away from the concept of innocent and unstained in the picture.

Perfecting Everything

Basically, if I could get my message across within the picture then it is done. But in this case, I kept working and tweaking the portrait to really enhance the story that should have been told. A light had been enhanced for this final stage to get the heavenly theme across.

At the end of my process, I still felt that something is off about the picture. I have lost the relationship between the Woman and the Doves, so I did some changes that would keep the relationship in the picture and help communicate my story better.

Working on one project for a long duration is definitely challenging for me. I have a tendency to rush into things and get them done quickly only to find out I’d made so many basic and fundamental mistakes. This project really tested my patience in the context of taking my time to think so that I could solve as many problems as I could in the early stages. It makes the later stage more enjoyable.

Decent and basic understanding of head construction and facial features are the essential things to take this course. Melanie has helped me create more interesting compositions with the portrait through her knowledge, technique, and experience. She does provide some knowledge about facial features, but it is always nice to have learned and understand those things before as it will make the learning process even better in this class.

Be humble when taking any class or when learning anything. Try to apply the techniques and the concept that our mentors teach and always feel free to ask them if there’s anything you need help with. Personally, I think Melanie always gives great and constructive feedback. She wants to know my goal for the image and then she did her best to give feedback based on that. She really appreciates our individual taste in art and will push us in that particular direction.

You can see more from Marcellino on his site or follow him on Instagram.
Instagram: @mace.tan