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Step-by-Step Sketch from Life

I have wanted to paint Alan now for at least a year.  One good reason: he sits real well.  Second reason: he carries on fascinating conversation while he is sitting.  So this is my step-by-step sketch of a dear friend. 

I quickly sketched his head shape to start off.  Unfortunately this looks more like Voltaire than Alan, but I took care of that later.

I sketched in the rest of his body and added the shading on his lower face.

Glasses next, and definition to the lower shaded area.

At this point I realized that his face was too low in his head and so I shifted his face up.

Clean up of the nose and a little forehead and chin work, too.

At this point I realized that I had skewed the whole figure.  Often artists will twist the figure without realizing it, but I try to eliminate all skew in my own work. 

Now I get to begin laying color down!

At this point I am playing with form through the use of warm and cool colors.

Whenever I paint, I am constantly refining edges, constantly trying to determine if the expression is right.

At a certain point I abandon all hope of a masterpiece and just try to finish the painting.  I enjoyed painting Alan very much and look forward to the next opportunity to sketch him. 


Weekly Portrait Sketch

I'm hoping to do this every week.  We'll see how it goes!

Second painting night of the year:  We had an excellent model, but I was struggling to get his face, and you will see that.  I never really got his face until the very end.  I’ll explain why I think that happened as I go along.

First of all, I think it started with the hat.  The hat stood out as a strong element on the model, so I painted it first.  I probably should have started with the eyes and nose portion of the face.

This forced me to work from the outer proportions inside and make the inside fit the outside.  To do that I really had to nail the outer proportions . . . and I didn’t.

I squished the face horizontally, and so I fixed that here and went on to lay in more value.  However, the face was too large in the head, and I didn’t realize that yet.

The most significant difference between this step and the last one is his left ear.  I lowered it slightly.  In the midst of painting the artist is constantly checking the proportions and alignments of all the features in relation to the whole picture and to each other.  Sometimes it can be very complex to isolate one problem in the middle of a cacophony of problems.

In this step I just piled on a bunch of value.

Here I refined the beard and the eyes.  After doing that, I realized two things about my painting:  First, the face was too big for the head, as I’ve mentioned before.  Second, his eyes looked slightly wall-eyed and that bothered me.

Here I fixed the face by squishing it up into the head.  Right now it looks strange, but in later steps it should all make sense.

Finally, I decided to compose my painting.  I felt that positioning his head slightly toward the left side of the painting would eventually create a dynamic composition after I introduced the color and finished the painting. 

Also, I obliterating some of the detail work in the eyes and mouth.  This will prepare for better detail later.

At this point I am finally satisfied with the general proportions of the face.  The eye sockets take up the right amount of space.  The mouth is in correct proportion to the mandible.

On the foundation of a strong value painting, color can happen very fast.  Since I had been working transparently over the background, I could paint the warm light underneath the face.  The warm shadows I painted over the face and then I crunched the layers together.

With the cool and warm light dynamic happening, I felt comfortable painting the eyes again. 

I solidified light play over the flesh and worked on the mouth.

My fellow artist were finished and I was dawdling on.  So I laid in as many final details as possible.  The mouth finally looked the way I wanted it to look.  So I called it quits.

This morning I revisited the painting, added value to the background and played with the levels, hue and saturation.  I wish I could change the hat and the shirt, but I’m leaving it the way it is.  At some point the artist must stop, and that point is happening . . . now.


Step-by-Step Sketch from Life

Last night I had an enjoyable time at painting night with some old friends.  I’m ashamed to admit this is the first head from life in a long while.  And my rustiness shows in the amount of time that it took to finish this—about two hours.  However, the sketch turned out really well.

After arriving late, I slapped in some face and hair color in the general shape of our models upper face.  We took a break before I could get very far, but that interruption allowed my working method to stand out.  This is generally how I start my paintings.

After I got the rest of the face blocked in, I resized the face to crop it for an interesting composition.  By this time in the painting process, I should have recorded all of my major lights and darks and have determined my color scheme.  All that’s left is to define and refine….

My painting is in the midst of the “ugly stage.”  I have just enough of the major features to recognize what it is, but not enough refinement to acknowledge any artistic accomplishment.

By this stage, the painting is refined.  I could stop here, but the likeness is too far from the model for my comfort.

I moved her jaw and left eye closer to the left margin of the picture.  Also the colors of the face were updated.

At this point, the painting was finished, for the most part.  So I isolated the remaining details that needed to brought closer to a decent level of finish, and step by step finished each little area.  It wasn’t until I reached this point that I could see some of the features that resembled her sister.

So, just before I uploaded this, I finished it off with some color adjustment in Photoshop.  The painting now has a fine art quality that I like.

So that was the painting night.  I had a lot of good conversation and got the privilege to paint a beautiful painting.  Maybe calling it a present from God is too presumptuous, but maybe not.  Even the air we breathe and our ability to converse are precious gifts from God’s gracious longsuffering hand.  We often take His simple blessings with scarcely a nod.  So, I’m thankful of His hand of blessing and grace last night.