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.


  1. Thank you, Vicky :) The portrait is coming along beautifully and I like how you explain your techniques as you go along. It's very helpful for folks like me who love to draw but aren't very good!

  2. Thank you, too, Mary! I would love to see some of your work - I bet it's a lot better than you think. Maybe, you could post some of your pictures on your blog?:)

  3. Do you ever start to feel a little nervous about making a mistake when your surface is overworked? Or doesn't it really bother you?

    I'd love drawing to be automatic, but at the moment I am, as you said, as automatic with drawing as with driving. And I'm not very good at either!,

  4. I do get nervous when I start to overwork a picture, Immy. I tend to procrastinate when that happens, which means that I either float around the drawing table, without actually doing anything, or I keep working on the same areas (overworking, even further!), instead of moving on. Eventually, I remove the offending layers with Blu tak and start again!

    The good thing about automated actions is that they are generally just habits born of practice - I'm sure your skills are developing nicely, Immy:)


Thank you for reading my blog. I appreciate your comments and feedback. Vicky