This may be the reason why I am enjoying this portrait of my youngest son so much. I love bringing his little face to life on paper and I, also, have the luxury on working on a project, out of pure love for both my subject and my art. There is no pressure to meet any outside expectations and I can proceed at a pace which suits the needs of all my little ones.
Having said that, it should come as no surprise to find that I am still at a very early stage in this picture.
I have started with the eyes, which is something I am doing more and more rarely. It makes sense to lay down the initial washes for the skin first because the eyes can only be taken to a certain point before the skin of the eyelids, etc, must be incorporated into the surrounding areas. I, also, don't like to put undue emphasis on any one feature or part of the face, as I find that the whole must be taken together to avoid an imbalance and to keep the relationship between the different parts in harmony. However, I was itching to start on these sweet eyes so I began with the eyeballs, and, then, applied the washes when it became time to work on the skin around the eyes.
At this stage, the eyeballs still need defining shadows and some tweaking, but the colour of the irises has been laid down. The irises are exciting to render. A combination of scribbles, hazy blending, sharp highlights and soft, dewy tones will result in an element of realism. It is important to recognise the shadow which the upper eyelid and the eyelashes impose upon the eyeball, as to omit this simple stage will destroy all realism.
Also, note that the white of the eye is never just white. It may look grey, pale blue, beige or a combination of several colours. It may, also, reflect the colour of the skin and appear pinkish. When applying colour to the whites of the eye, it is necessary to be aware of the roundness of the eyeball and to shadow the contours accordingly.
Take note, too, of the inner and outers corners of the eye. The inner corner often has a moist highlight and is usually a darker pink than the surrounding skin. The outer corner is often shadowed by the brown of the eyelashes, before turning to the pink colour of the lower lid. Where the upper lid shadows the eyeball, the lower lid usually reflects the light that falls upon it from above. At the point where the iris meets the lower lid, there is often a mergence of reflected colour.
Because the centre of the eye is closer to the viewer, due to the contours of its form, it is often shadowed less than the corners, so I use a lighter touch here. The corners of the eye, by contrast, are more shadowed, so I use darker tones and, often, a heavier pressure.
The deepest tones need to be intensified and highlights will be lifted, using a putty rubber and Blutak. The rendering of the shadows will add much to the realism and the careful rendering of the eyelids and eyebrows will be invaluable to the successful depiction of the character of the subject.
I am at an exciting stage. Next time, I hope to show you more of this little guy's personality, as I work on the defining features of his impish face. In the meantime, it's back to my labour of love!