Monday, September 28, 2009

Sam and Dean Portrait

I got back to work on this portrait today. It was kind of hard to remember which colors I had been using for Sam's face, but I think I found the correct ones. Now I'm trying to be more organized in keeping track of which colors and pencils I use for different pieces. I've been jotting down the pencil brand and color in a little notebook as I go. Surely this will be helpful since I have more than one portrait project going at the same time.

Before starting back on this one I decided to make a change I've been thinking about. Namely Dean's shirt, I never did like the shirt in the reference photo. It was too detailed. I wanted a plainer look, so I had my husband pose for a few reference pictures for me in one of his dark shirts. With this in hand I was able to sketch in a new look for the shirt and have it on hand later to render the shirt realistically.

The paper is a 20x28 inch sheet of Fisher 400. This is the first time I've worked on a real sanded paper surface with colored pencils and it has been a different enough experience to put me off for a while. But now that I'm back with a fresh eye and renewed enthusiasm, I think I will ultimately end up loving this paper. My problem I think has always been my timidity in laying down color. I tend to get too focused in small areas. With a work surface this size and this texture you have to step back and lay color down in bolder strokes than I'm normally used to.

This is what I mostly worked on, Sam's face.

With more color on the paper, I was able to get better results using a brush to smooth the colors together. I'll have to really try to remember to be bolder in applying my colors.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Catch up Post for Circle (formerly known as Together)

I originally called this Sam and Dean portrait "Follow Me", then I decided it should be called "Together". Now I've been thinking of it as "Circle". I know, I guess I shouldn't name a piece until I finish it.

This post is about the work I did on it back in June, but since I have just started working on it again, I thought I should do a catch-up post before writing about the new stuff.

I had been working on the guys faces all the while knowing I should be doing more work on the background. But I was worried about doing the left background area and had been avoiding it. There is supposed to be a smoking mountain top back there and I don't have a good reference for this. I did start trying to block in some billowy smoke rising up and combining with the clouds and it set my mind at ease a bit.

I did a lot more on the background after I got past the artist's block with the smoky mountain. There's a lot of work to be done yet, but I think I'm headed in the right direction.

Even while working on the background, I kept jumping back to work Sam's face and hair and to Dean's face too. I just couldn't keep away. Once I had put some base color on Sam's face, it made thnk that Dean's skin tone looked too red, so I had to tone it down. I'm still working on trying to get both their faces to the same basic skin tone and intensity of color.

I varied a few details from the original sketch. I thought it would be nice to have the boy's hair being ruffled by the wind. I decided this after I had already done a lot of work on Dean's hair so I had to do some careful erasing. Even though his hair is really short, now it looks like it's being blown around a bit. For Sam, I sketched in some flyaway strands and fluffed it up a bit. Hope I'm not biting off more than I can chew by straying from my reference photos!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

More on the Mom Portrait

I've been working on Mom's portrait this last week, though it's been slow going. I had been working mostly on the face layering in more color and also filling in more color in the rest of the hair. But at some point I started to become dissatisfied with the likeness. Even though the drawing looked like my Mom, it didn't seem to me that it captured the look of freshness and youth so evident in the photo.

I thought that maybe something was off with the eyes and so I started working very closely on them, making small adjustments, tweaking a line here, extending a shadow there, trying to match exactly what I saw in the reference image. It turns out I had to change more that just the eyes. The next series of progress pictures shows the process I followed to get the portrait back on the right track.

Picking up from my last post, I added color to all the rest of her hair. I also filled in part of the collar with a dark color to get a better feel for the way her face will be framed.

This step is where I really concentrated on getting more layers of color on her face, especially on the lower portion. There had been too much of the background peeking through in the right side jaw area. It was easy to forget to cover this area more because the dark background color already had it looking as shadowed as it was supposed to look. Still I wanted to have more control of the shadowing and a smoother look to the skin, so I covered it up completely with my own midtones.

I also felt that I had left too much background showing through the eyebrows. With very sharp pencils I carefully filled in all the nooks and crannies of the surface with a light skin tone, so much so that the previously drawn eyebrows were almost lost. Not a problems since later I just drew them back in over a much more evenly skin toned background.

On the hair I brushed the color again, distributing and diffusing the highlights and shadows once more.

Here I added some highlights and midtones back in after having obscured them somewhat with the previous layers of color. Every so often I would pick up my brush to lightly blend the colors on the face. This is especially helpful in dialing the colors back when they get too stark or intense. At this step you can tell that the highlights are looking a little harsh and need to be smoothed over a bit.

Between the last step and this one is where I did a lot tweaking on the face. The changes are subtle but I think they make all the difference between an acceptable portrait and one that really jumps out at you as the person you want to portray.

I made the most changes to the left side eye, bringing the inner corner further in and straightening out the line of the lid a bit over it. I made the iris a bit larger and brought the eyebrow down a tad.

On the right eye I widened the iris a bit too and straightened out the downward tilt of the inner corner. I also lowered this eyebrow just a little.

Moving down, I slimmed down the width of the nose and refined the lines of the tip to reduce it just slightly. I widened the mouth on both sides and lifted the line of the top lip slightly. I also realized that the bottom lip needed filling out on the left side.

I think the most important change of all was that I redefined the cheek and chin line on the left side of her face. Right above the apple of the cheek I brought the line in a bit while underneath it I curved the cheek out more to give the face a more rounded youthful look.

The last change finally made the face look right to me and I went back to work on the hair.

There is still work to be done on both the face and hair, but its mostly finishing and polishing, maybe adding a bit more color. But now finally I'll be able to go to work on the clothes and background. Hopefully it will be smooth sailing from here on. [famous last words :-)]

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I'm Back!

I'm finally back and ready to get on with my art. I have a few excuses for not updating the blog. Mostly it's because I've been neglecting my artwork big time. Real life just seems to impose its demands at the most inconvenient times.

Let's see, a few things have happened since I wrote here last, first, work got crazy. They started switching me around on odd shifts. Third shift was the worst, it messes with your body rhythms, so even when you are home and awake, you don't feel like doing a thing. I also hosted my sister's wedding reception in my back yard, went on an Alaskan cruise and then last but not least, I got my pink slip at work. Yeah I got the axe along with about a hundred other folks at the satellite factory. Or you could say that I was caught up in the RIF (reduction in force), in the downsizing,or how about, in the involuntary attrition. My personal favorite euphemism to date is, real-time market-responsive human resource shaping. Uhmm....yeah, so anyway, all this kind of explains why my mind has not been on art lately.

So what now? Well now, I have more time for art!

I started working on the Mom picture again. It felt great to pick up my pencils again. I have a series of new scans with a few small updates and you will notice that the color is a bit different from the previous scans. That's because I bought a new scanner!

I'm very pleased with my new Epson Perfection V300 Photo Color Scanner. For the very reasonable price of $90, it does a great job of no-hassle picture scanning. I think it does a better job than our older more expensive Epson 4490 Photo Scanner. I bought it with the intention of scanning all my old family photos and I was looking for an inexpensive, reliable scanner. True to the reviews, the V300 has some great built in color correction software that make restoring great color to your old photos a snap.

Now since I have my very own scanner sitting next to my own computer, it comes in very handy to make quick scans of my artwork. I was happily surprised to see that these scans were actually truer in color than the previous artwork scan, an unexpected bonus, considering that I don't need the color restoration feature for scanning artwork.

Here are the updates:

I did some work on the teeth and lips and then decided to continue on with the hair. Since dark hair will surround the face, it's probably a good idea to put this in next to judge how much darker or lighter the skin tone should get.
Here is a closer look at the work I did on the hair. I decided to adapt a technique I've seen used for drawing hair in digital paintings.

The idea is to place your lines of lights and shadow colors and then blur them. You repeat the process time and time again, building up to your last layer which retains the sharpest lines, highlights and shadows.

I lay down color, generally trying to place the areas of light and dark masses as dictated by my reference photo.Once I had some color down I used my small bristle brush to spread the color around. This intensifies the color and softens it at the same time, mostly removing the evidence of individual pencil strokes. With careful brushing you can retain your areas of light and dark, spreading the edges to where you want and making a good backdrop for more layers of color.

Here is what it looks like after a few iterations of this process.
On this step I've added strokes of color again on top of the previous layers. It's not done yet, but I imagine that the last layer will retain some stroke marks made with very sharp pencils. Hopefully, as with digital painting, this will enhance the illusion of depth. Sharper lines of color, even drawing of individual strands of hair, light and dark sitting on top of layers of indistinct masses of hair of varying detail. We shall see how this comes out.