Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Newborn Portrait - Drawing the Hair

The hair hasn't taken too long to do, though there are still final adjustments to be made. I will improve the form of the hair by adding to the lowlights and I'll blend the strands further by applying lighter highlights.

 I started drawing the basic strands of the hair using light umber. Then, I applied brown and dark brown to deepen the shadowed areas. Next, came  some highlights, using jasmine, and, then, I enriched the lowlights with terracotta. Further applications of brown, dark umber and, even, a little black increased the dark tones, and a layer of beige sienna was used to blend the strands together and improve the salt and pepper colour of the hair. The photo showed the hair to be a lot darker than in real life, so I used more highlights than shown in the reference photo.

Further improvements will be made, during the last day or two of work, when I reassess and add the final touches, but, for now, I am finished here and am ready to move on to the clothes and the last arm.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Newborn Portrait - Finishing the Face

The skin is, now, at the point where I can move on to the hair. I'll return to it, later, but, for the moment, I'm satisfied. When the hair is done, it will be easier to detect any flaws.

I've started the hair, beginning with the mid-tones. I'm laying down the basic shadows, at this stage, and, once again, will build up depth in layers. It is useful to think in terms of light and dark areas, when rendering hair. Trying to draw individual hairs will only produce a messy effect with insufficient form. However, my style is still quite detailed. I don't want the hair to look like the moulded hair of a Barbie doll, so I use a sharp pencil and follow the flow of the strands with every stroke.

After the midtones, I will alternate between light and dark tones, gradually increasing the lowlights and accentuating the highlights, until the hair has sufficient depth and I have applied the different hues which are representative of the colour here. Hair is made up of many different colours, which change in different types of light. It is, also, reflective of its surroundings and can reveal quite surprising colours to the observant viewer. Apart from the reflected colours, it can be surprising to discover that a child's blond hair may appear to have grey tones - not silver-grey, but often a mousey-grey. Very dark brown and black hair can appear to have blue tones.

The picture shows only the start of my rendering of the hair. As always, there will be a stage where the picture looks worse than ordinary. At that point, I normally feign confidence and push on past the 'hideous' barrier, knowing that it usually comes right, in the end, and, rarely, is a challenge insurmountable. However, to this date, I have never experienced the ultimate goal of being completely satisfied with a work. Perhaps, that is a good thing. To have achieved perfection already (besides being an impossibility), would leave no more room for growth and no more artistic triumphs to look forward to.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Newborn Portrait - More and more and even more layers!

 Finally, I feel that I'm on the home run with this portrait. There's still work to do but, at least I'm building up depth, now. This is the fun stage - increasing the depth further and applying the myriad of colours which are present in skin tones. The end is in sight with the face and the hair should be relatively quick, in comparison. Then, the clothes and final arm to render. I tend to have a running list, in my mind, which helps me to keep pace and find direction in my work. 

So, more reds, some deep browns, for contrast, and some pink/purples for delicacy - maybe, even, some yellows for more glow - then, the end will be in sight! It's been a long haul with this picture, much longer than usual, so I'm looking forward to finishing this project.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Newborn portrait - Remedying a Disaster!

After weeks of work, a bit of carelessness resulted in near disaster, today. Usually, I am very careful to keep the picture clean but, sometimes, I get complacent as these types of issues have been so rare for me. Today, however, I managed to get greasy prints on the shoulder of the adult and they looked terrible! Large and ugly, I wasn't sure how I was going to mask them.

Immediately, I stopped work on the face and set to fixing up the problem that I had made for myself. With a little changing of my original plan, I was cautiously optimistic that I could camouflage my careless handling of the project. The photo shows a white sleeve, with grey and lavender shadows. I have had to wing it to get a realistic effect, as I wasn't able to copy my reference photo as closely as I had originally intended.

So, what do you think? Are the flaws in the shoulder noticeable or have I got away with it, this time?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Newborn Portrait - Midtone Stage

I took this photo late, this afternoon, so the colours are, again, a bit faded and the picture is slightly blurred. Seeing the portrait come together, like this, gives me a better idea of the adjustments that I will have to make. I can see that a lot more contrast is needed. I will need to apply more darks to the shadows of the baby's face to improve depth and create interest - at the moment, it is looking quite bland.

The adult face is at a particularly ugly stage, right now. I have applied washes of cream, pale peach, jasmine and pale pink (a Coloursoft pencil, as there is no suitably pale pink in the Prismacolor range that I have).

On top of the washes, I have begun the modelling of the face, using a number of different colours, including yellow ochre, rosy beige, pink rose, salmon pink, peach, rose beige, blush pink, mineral orange, pink, brown ochre and pumpkin orange. As always, I use a very light touch and move from light to dark through the tonal range. Next, I will continue to apply the darker browns, reds, and, even blue/purple shades, blending them together with further washes of peach and pink colours.

As I have been experimenting, I have discovered that my problems with the Coloursoft pencils were more a consequence of there being a too limited range of colours available, rather than there being a quality issue. Because of insufficient midtone colours, I had to move up to the darker colours too soon and this affected the smooth, flawless skin texture that I was aiming for. Now, I have a good range of Prismacolours, with some of the paler pinks and peaches of the Coloursoft range making up the perfect combination for my style.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Newborn Portrait - Different Strokes

It doesn't look as though much has been done, since my last post, but quite a few layers have been added to build up depth and improve the colour of the skin, in every part of the portrait. I even went back to the baby's head to intensify the colour and improve the tone.

This photo has been taken in better light than the previous images and that has meant that it is more like the actual picture than the photos of my last posts. The darks are not so exaggerated and the lights are not so washed out. Does it seem more realistic to you?

I've used a variety of strokes on the portrait to achieve the effects that I am aiming for. Scumbling is a light stroke whereby the pigmet is applied in a small, circular motion to achieve a very smooth and blendable effect. To do this successfully, the initial washes must be applied lightly and evenly to maintain a smooth surface to work on. 

I have experimented a lot with this portrait and the result has been a surface which has been overworked in some areas. I am having to work very carefully, now, with very sharp pencils and a very light touch to minimize clogging of my pigments.  This means that I am using scumbling only where my surface is at its most smooth. For the other areas, I am using a combination of light, sweeping strokes, fine lines and short, light flicks of the pencil. The choice of which stroke to use varies, also, with the particular pencil being used - some of the pigments are more waxy than the others and these need to be used delicately if a flawless finish is desired. 

In some ways, drawing becomes automatic, in much the same way as driving a car becomes an automated process. This means that I don't always think of the strokes that I am using . Subconsciously, I feel the pigment as it's being applied and automatically change the strokes to take account of the level of waxiness, the surface and the resulting effects as the image evolves.

I think that experimentation is the most valuable learning tool, as far as strokes are concerned, because strokes will vary tremendously depending on the subject matter, the drawing surface and the type of pencils being used. Variations will, also, occur according to the individual style of the artist. Different artists can produce equally successful renderings using different strokes and techniques. To my mind, it is more important that the artist is comfortable, confident and relaxed when applying strokes of colour, and willing to view any mistakes as either a learning experience or as a happy accident that can be incorporated somehow into the composition. 

A most important aspect of technique, for my style, is to keep the strokes very light. This enables most mistakes to be erased easily and it, also, allows the colour to be intensified gradually, so that a greater depth can be achieved without spoiling the flawless finish that skin demands. With this portrait, the constant experimentation has meant that the skin doesn't quite have the flawless finish that I was aiming for, so, instead, I have varied my strokes to compensate and a slightly different style has been the result.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Newborn Portrait - Can you see a difference here?


Now, I've deepened the contrast between the shadowed areas and the highlights of the arm and the question is - can you tell the difference? Is it more lifelike to you or is perfectionism taking a hold of this poor artist?

Tell me what you think:)

(The cuticles and knuckles look dark on the computer screen but they are a bit more subtle in the actual picture.)