Portraiture Patience

gridI don’t normally do portraits.  I don’t usually have the patience for them.  For me, they take a very long time, especially considering that I don’t do them often so I’m not practiced at all.  However, lately I’ve had a hankerin’ to do something special for a friend of mine.  I’m not sure I’ll be able to show the results here because I don’t want to ask her until it’s done so as not to ruin the surprise and also because she may not want the image of her baby made public.  I can however show you steps along the way and maybe just the eyes.  I’ll only be able to work on it for an hour or so per day, but stick with me and I’ll show you all of my progress every Monday.

Since the image I’m starting with is a small image off of Facebook, the first thing I want to do is enlarge it.  The easiest way to do that, short of projecting it and tracing it off the wall, is to create a grid.  Once you have a grid overlay on the photo, you draw a grid to whatever scale you like on the paper.

slippedunderUsually, everyone will tell you to do this with a very soft pencil and a very light touch.  That way you can erase the lines when you are finished.  My art teacher wife will tell you that if you are working with anything less than 100# paper, it’s even better to draw the grid with a very dark pen on another sheet of paper and lay it underneath the sheet you’re working on.  That way, when you’re done, you just take out the gridded paper and don’t need to worry about erasing anything.

She’s brilliant, that’s just one of the many side benefits of marrying her.

clampedupI like to use these swivel clips to hold the pages together.  Unlike a standard bulldog clip, these allow you to lay your book flat on your drawing table.

Once you have your grid drawn to the scale you like, you simply use the lines as a guide on where to make marks.  For instance, the tip of the nose goes at this x:y coordinate and the pupil of the left eye goes at another…

garrettblocksHere, you can see that I’ve begun plotting in the major features and I’ve started building the “value map,” the shapes of the shadows across the face.  At this point, the portrait is just barely recognizable, but I’ll probably have to get permission to display the full drawing at any further stages.  Question is, how do I get permission from a person I’m trying to surprise?

Well the answer to that was to call her husband.  And it only took four days to reach them.  I thought *I* avoided telephony!  Anyway, I hated spoiling the surprise for him, but I really couldn’t continue here without his permission.

g-man 2Spending about twenty minutes at a time on this, I have added in more of the “4H” shading.  I do like putting the eyes into the pictures early on.  It gives the drawing a life force.  You can see at this stage, it’s all still very general and lines are just very simply roughed in with very light strokes.  That makes it easy at this point to make corrections of placement, composition, perspective…  All of those things become very hard to “fix” once you really start laying in the darks.

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