Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sam in Shadows - Catch Up Post for Yet Another WIP

I began this project way back in February, before I had finished my Dean colored pencil portrait. I had been working only on the Dean portrait for many months and even though I was pretty close to finishing it, I needed a break. Sam in Shadows was the result of that desire to work on something different.

I was thinking that it would be nice to try something on plain old Canson Mi-Tientes paper and so started looking through my Sam reference photos for something to spark my imagination. I found a great close up shot of his face, very dark and moody and thought it would be great to try it on a darker toned paper. I lined up some other reference shots and came up with digital collage of body parts and Sam's face that allowed me to create this sketch.

You will quickly notice he does not have a right eye. I broke one of my own rules by embarking on this project without having a good reference image for a face. The picture that captured my imagination is great, but unfortunately rather low res and missing some vital information like where exactly his right eye is situated and where the top of his head ends. But being forever optimistic I figured my own version could just extrapolate (i.e., make a wild guess) about the missing parts.

This is the picture I used for Sam's face.

My powers of extrapolation failed me. I was able to complete the head contour but every attempt to draw in a guideline for the right eye were pretty ghastly. I resolved to put in a big old dark shadow there.

This is what came of my initial burst of work.

The funny thing was that when I started putting in the colors on the paper and working the shadows I was able to get a much better feel for where the eye should be. I took my Sam reference and adjusted the levels down in Photoshop until I was at least able to discern an eye shaped blob down deep in the larger shadowy blob. This helped me feel my way to drawing in a more believable eye shape there. Who knows, if I am able to get the whole drawing as dark as I would like to, I may end up darkening the left eye out just like in the reference. But at least I now have the option to have a semi believable shadowy eye there in case I don't.

A few things I forgot to mention, the paper is an 18 x 12 brownish grey toned Canson paper. Since it is 12 inches wide I was able to print my sketch directly onto the paper with my large format Epson 2200 printer. I printed the line drawing in draft mode, and with the opacity down to 30% in Photoshop. It gave me a line I could clearly see but that won't be too difficult to cover up with the colored pencils.

Follow Me - Catch Up Post

When I came back to work on this piece, I began to layer colors on Dean's face. I was going at it very slowly and probably being way too tentative, but I wasn't sure how to work the layers yet. I did know that there has to be enough colors deposited on the paper before you can blend them with added layers, with brushes or with your fingers.

The part of Dean's face I started on was not really a good place to test this out because I wanted it to remain as one of the lightest spots in the whole piece. I really couldn't add too many other colors into the mix apart from the pale pinks, yellows and creams here.

As a side note, I found a great new color to use in the highlights for skin tones. The color is Buff Titanium from a trial batch of Caran d'ache Luminance pencils I bought recently. Before this I had almost exclusively been using Prismacolors. It finally clicked with me that maybe I should try out some other brands, especially the ones praised highly on other people's blogs.

I had been using white to try to blend into the pinks and yellows to get highlights and brighter skin tones, but the white just made the color look too cold. That's fine if the effect you want is silvery or cool light, but for a warmer bright like the one I want for this piece, it just wasn't working.

I want the colors in this portrait to be as if the figures were in bright daylight, the skin tones tan and maybe a bit golden. Titanium buff is an off white ivory color, warmer than stark white, but not as yellow as the Prismacolor cream color.

I have a whole lot of Buff Titanium on the right side of Dean's face now, which did blend nicely with the underlying colors. Of course from a distance, it looks just like the color of the paper. :-)

In the close-up you can appreciate the blended color a little better. Of course now it is probably too white.

In the next shot, I have layered a little more color into the shadow areas of Dean's face, added darker colors in the bit of background on the right and also put some color in his hair. I probably should have done this before and not got so caught up working the brights on his face.

Applying colors to the surrounding areas gives you a better idea of how everything is going to work together eventually. I realized I needed to see some of the dark areas to judge the lights better. Now that I think of it, I'm sure I stumbled to this conclusion previously, but it must not have impressed itself sufficiently on my brain. Hopefully it will take better now.

It was hard to tear myself away from working on Deans features, especially his nose and lips. I would be trying to work on the shadows when before I knew it I would be back to tweaking his top lip or eyelid. I indulged myself a bit more by seeing if I could put a few freckles on his nose before firmly turning my attention to other areas.

And this is about as far as I got on an April weekend some weeks ago.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Another Project - Colored Pencil - Follow Me

I started this other project some weeks ago and have made some progress which I will now log here. I also used the Fisher 400 paper on this one but I chose to use colored pencil instead of pastel as the medium. I wanted to test the paper with both the pastel and colored pencil mediums.

I ordered two 20 x 28 and two 14x 20 sheets of the Fisher400 paper about a month and a half ago. I was eager to try it out, having heard some pretty good things about it. Having now dabbled a bit on this paper I have to agree that so far it seems quite wonderful.

The Fisher 400 paper looks just like a fine gauge sandpaper, though it is manufactured solely as art paper. I had to order it from England, since the artist who created it does not have any US distributors yet. I sure hope that it becomes available more locally soon.

I made a collage from reference photos in Photoshop and traced out this sketch.

It's a composition of my favorite subjects Sam and Dean from the TV show Supernatural. I'm calling this piece Follow Me.

I was able to use my lightbox to transfer my sketch to the paper. Fortunately I discovered that this paper is translucent enough to use with the lightbox. This is good news because I had the dubious pleasure of copying the sketch for the pastel piece using transfer paper and it was a pain. Here I am working away at it.

It took me a few hours to finish transferring all the little lines, but I've learned patience. The more details you capture the easier it is to draw later.

Here is a bad picture of the transferred drawing. I have to get a better set up next time. My daylight source was off to one side and when I tried to add light with my fluorescent drawing table lamp, it just added another color cast, which I was unable to remove.

Still it gives a good idea of how it looked. I used a couple of different colored pencil to transfer the lines, blue ones for the clouds, some grey for part of Deans shirt, white for the circle around the figures and a brownish ochre for all the rest. Mostly it was just experimenting. I also varied the pressure. I think the right side is probably a little too faint, though I finished off at a pretty good line thickness on the left.

I almost forgot to take a picture at this stage.That is why Dean's face actually shows some shadowing which I had started to block in. Fortunately I still captured the mostly un-worked line drawing.

All the brainstorming for the composition, drawing the sketch and getting it transferred took most of a weekend. I finally got it to the point of starting to draw and was able to get this far.

I got a better picture this time, though it is still shadowed on the right.

I think this paper is going to hook me completely. It takes color incredibly well. I have barely gotten started but I can tell I will be able to layer lots and lots of color on it.

I'm also going to get hooked on working at this large size paper. The 20x28 inch size gives me such control over the drawing of details on the face. One thing though, this paper is going to eat my pencils by the bushel.

Here is a close up of my start.

The layering has just begun, but I couldn't resist working his eye more, to catch a glimpse of what this paper might yield.