Large Scale Portrait

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I worked through Christmas on a 20×30″ watercolor portrait. I rarely do life size in watercolor, my tools are selected for the scale I work the most, which is 11×14″ or 9×12″ so it was challenging to work with little brushes.

Another adjustment comes into play, being able to keep a good distance from the work so proportions are not off. For this particular job I pre-penciled, which I do very rarely. I wanted to get detail eventhough the provided image was low resolution. 

Pictures are flat and there’s camera distortion to be compensated in “selfies” working from life is easer as you can observe in 3D and go around the subject or get closer if needed.

As I wanted to experiment before doing this project I did some practice testing with materials, color, and applications as a warm up. I did one in Prismacolor (previous post), and a couple of small watercolor, both 9×12″

Here they are: (no pre-pencil) 

Given the fact that the image they gave me is low res. I decided to go for watercolor.

For the commission,  I started with the pencil phase


I followed by inking it ​



I proceeded with a first wash and corrected the jaw line, it was too wide.


The completed first wash, dried


I applied the other layers

The final work

In the end I realized that I need a big mop brush to do a more splashy background and hair, but there is always next time! 

Likeness was good and layering I think was ok. I’ll try with a more detail reference image next time, and see what I can do. 

The Arches paper is 300lb cold press which is great for layering as much as needed and good support.

I used Daniel Smith watercolors for this.

I think I learned something 🙂 and I also need to go shopping for brushes!

I have some videos of the process in my Instagram @laurasfiatcreative

Portrait of N. in Prismacolor

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Back in the 90’s my main media was color pencil. I have done portraits since I was a teen. My main focus was understanding expression, if I could feel what the person in front of me was communicating through microexpressions, gesture, the way they glanced at things, the assymetry of the face -that is a result of a recurrent emotion-… the face would become a story that unveils in front of one’s eyes. 

The story speaks about a fire inside, a flame, the longing for something. When a person smiles often, the emotion becomes imprinted even when they are not smiling. In youth, this fire is intense and it glows. In adulthood, the most common emotions have created distinct marks, cues, a wrinkle here and there.

 Every face has it’s beauty, as it has the spark of life in it. One’s role is find the “constellation” which is basically the process of understanding what makes it unique, distinct. It’s not exactly making a replica of it but to find the “points” that can be  exaggerated to achieve the likeness. The funny thing is that if you look at the specific eye or nose or hair strand you realize it’s just enough close to the original subject but it’s not a visual replica, yet it has the effect of the sum of the parts. 

That is exactly my goal, that is not a photographic likeness but it is a likeness to the “real” feel of that person. One that they recognize and say “yes, I see myself in this portrait” 

For the portrait of N the intent was to attain the expression, yet also to practice blending and bring back my old medium (prismacolor); 20 years of portraiture in different mediums. Going back to my basics feels like when you have taken a long journey and then revisit your hometown remembering places, and you find yourself walking and recalling more and more… your memories come back, muscle memory as well. How to blend, how to use the tooth of the paper and the direction of the grain, how to hold the pencil and do layering. 

For this portrait I used the Stillman and Birn beta series. The texture is rough, which allows me to create texture to the skin, what would be an equivalent to pores. As this is a 9″ x  12″ sketchbook the effect is more visible. For a full scale realistic portrait I would use the art paper 22″ x 30″ working in bigger dimension woul bring the pores effect to a more realistic scale. This drawing is more of a study to see how it takes the layering proces and I see the potential to take more abuse without breaking the grain or tearing.  Erasing ocassionally and recoloring could cause that if the paper is too thin. I got impatient with this sketch, I spent significant time on the eyes  area and less on the hair and neck but I see the possibilities now. I got over excited to finish it. On the next one I’ll put in more time.

I Welcome back my old boxes of colors, that have kept very well by the way. I have a complete set of Spectracolors which is a brand that doesn’t exist anymore, they complement my prismacolors in range. The Spectracolors had the property of being dust free and become more vibrant with more pressure in the paper. It has a satin feel to it. It’s time to get out of that box after being dormant for so long, let’s get to work! I think after many years I must have learn a thing or two that I can do different today to make it better, and to perhaps achieve the elusive goal of  “perfect portrait” one day…Not yet…!

Pen and Ink Portraits November

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Portraits it’s my favourite subject. I have found a lot of inspiration in images from the SKCHY app community.

These portraits take from 20 to 40 min and are all done with a Lamy Pen, a pen and nib holder for the heavier lines, and the Pentel Brush on Stillman and Birn paper, Beta series.

I’m trying to be more defined by investing more time in detail. From the begining I set my mind in how much time I want to spend on the sketch. Then I draw my lines accordingly slowing down or taking time with the strokes. There is a significant difference between short or longer sketches. I always aim for the sketch to “feel” complete so when i work I work all over, like i don’t start with an eye making it all detailed, I start with an oval shape, placing marks and looking for distinct features that makes that particular face unique, I then exaggerate a little those features and find a touch of beauty that comes naturally. There is a difference in how I see and feel a face from what I try to translate it to lines. Like having an insight on what the face expresses to me. I try to reveal those thoughts visually.

 

 

 

Inktober 2016

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Some of my works in ink for this month. One sketch/day following a trend started by artist Jake Parker http://mrjakeparker.com/inktober

Many artists follow this globally every year and it’s nice to see so many sketches in social media all in ink for one month. There are some prompts but I usually do what I feel like. This month I have been having fun with an app: Sktchy where people upload their selfies and you can pick one to draw. The cool thing is that there is a slider and you see the before and after to compare picture vs art and people can comment and “wow” it.

All of these are done in my new Stillman and Birn softcover betaseries and using a Lamy pen, the Pentel Brush and several inks from Goulet Pens

All About Trees

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The Arboredum in Forrest Hills is a great source for drawing and learning to represent the characteristics of different trees and they are identified by label! They also have an enclosed section with beautiful Bonsais as well

I recently did a demo video on a generic tree. Here it is:

 

Here my test collection of trees in different inks:

Botanicals

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I decided to try a new subject series: Beautiful flowers, with a little more precision than my usual sketches. 

For this series, which I plan to sell as notecards I used permanent ink and some, I colored them but I prefer black and white as the watercolor hides my lines because I like to paint heavy on the tint. I’ll try to so a softer more transparent wash next time.

Yet.. I still prefer black and white illustration. 

As usual my favorite paper Stillman and Birn notebooks and Higgins permanent ink. The platinum carbon pen is the best for fine lines and it never cloggs. I am becoming very fond of sketching with nibs too.

Here the drawings: 

Sketching People

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I decided recently to start a YouTube channel, I thought tutorials are fun to do and we all contribute with our own ways to do things. I wanted this to be a fresh approach, a casual way to look at how-to’s.

I this series in YouTube (https://m.youtube.com/watch?sns=em&v=k2esXE-_VyU ) you’ll notice I refer to “Haikus” They are a Japanese poem form that totals 17 syllables in a count of 5-7-5. You will see that they may be in my videos in sets of three lines at once, or sometimes scattered through the video when the sketch is done in a shorter time.

About the process:
I rarely use pencil unless it’s a large complex drawing. Here you can see the process in a time-lapse but I will explain more below:

 

Step by Step:

I usually start by setting the horizon line
People Plates_1.1.1
I continue by working on the figures in focal point and near surrounding space. I used Higgins permanent ink and a fine nib and holder
People Plates_1.1.2
I try to vary the pressure here and there to have different widths of line to create a visual rhythm
People Plates_1.1.3
I then add the environmental elements, trees and foliage.
People Plates_1.1.4
I test the saturation of the watercolor prior to applying as the first wash must be very light. Fitst wash it’s the “base color”. I let this first layer dry completely.
People Plates_1.1.5
…continuing with a light wash on the rest of the elements
People Plates_1.1.6
Time for a second pass with more saturation, and only on small areas I want to draw the attention in the focal point.
People Plates_1.1.8
I like to play with different greens, not necessarily accuracy with the right green but more the right value . Also this tells the viewer it’s a separate element not part of the same group (background, mid-ground or foreground)
People Plates_1.1.7
…going for a third pass on contrast. this is the strongest saturation almost no diluted at all.
People Plates_1.1.10
…and the final sketch.
ppl

Game of Thrones Portraits

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This week I though it’s been a while since I have done portraits, so I decided to chose a good subject, the TV series Game of Thrones. The characters are very interesting and have fascinating depth. I thought it would be fun to try to convey my understanding of the characters through expression.

For this series, I used Higgins permanent ink and Brause nibs. About 4 different nib sizes and my usual Stillman and Birn notebook, Zeta Series, excellent for ink!

I chose the first characters randomly and I enjoyed myself so much that I kept going for about three days, completing several portraits. This is the first set of the week. Each took me about 30 min.

My general process is the following:

First it’s the proportions and marks to set the placement of the features. Once that was resolved, I did a brief inking process with the finest point, and decide on the focal point,  usually it’s the eyes. The eyes and mouth are the main keys to resolve any portrait, yet every face has a distinct feature that no one else has, like a fingerprint, my goal is always to discover what makes this face unique, and then exaggerate that slightly to get the likeness. I also chose an emotion that I see is recurrent to that character.

I have done portraits for over 20 years; it is in fact my favorite subject. Facial features fascinate me, and I have discovered so much in the process of drawing them. The face is asymmetric, as we tend to do gestures with one half of the face more often than the other, this creates lines of expression that, with the years, become permanent. Half of the face has a sweeter expression than the other half. If two pictures were composed of two reflected halves from each side of the face we would see almost an entirely different person in some cases.

I keep this in mind when I draw portraits. My trick is to exaggerate that difference to get the resemblance, observing what is unique.

Actor Jason Momoa is an exception. He has an outstandingly symmetrical face. That was very interesting to me. Since I couldn’t do my usual approach I had to stop and analyzed what made his face unique. Undoubtedly he had striking features. I focused on the eyes. A very distinct shape and expression.

I started by drawing him from a high resolution photograph where I could see good detail. The facial hair that his character wears on the TV series Game of Thrones made it difficult to see the jaw line and the shape of the face clearly; I decided to transform this drawing into Khal Drogo on my own, based on several images.

In the first sketch you can see the completed sketch off the photo and the following sketch shows the final drawing where I gave myself artistic freedom to add what was needed so he could look like the character he portrays.

Materials:

Support:
Surface: Beta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Cold Press Finish

The drawing was done on a Beta Series Notebook, wire-bound, 9″ x 12″. I always use heavy stock as I can have the option to add watercolor if I wanted to.

The paper is white yet the images were taken under a yellowish light and it looks like colored paper, but it’s not, yet, I liked how it looked.
I used permanent ink, again, just in case if I wanted to add watercolor. I always use permanent ink so it won’t run.
In the series of portraits of this particular TV show I was consistent using the same media, same paper, ink, and fine flexible nib with a short holder.

My favorite series are the Beta and Zeta, the Zeta I use when I work solely in ink; the Beta series have the extra tooth that work really well with water media without warping. This portrait was heavy on the ink, the Zeta could have take it, but I still may turn this into watercolor renderings at some point.

I made portraits of other characters as well that can be seen in my blog noted below.

Khal Drogo before and after

momoaDrogo

Jon Snow


Khalesi

Tywin Lannister

Cersei Lannister

Ramsay Bolton

Sansa Stark

No one

Arya Stark

Some Tutorial Sheets

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These handsheets were made for a past workshop for the local sketchers. They illustrate several concepts and tips for sketching

-How to draw gesture


-How to approach simplification of scenes


-The concept of Transitional Space when sketching interiors


These sheets will be available as PDFs at our urbansketchersboston Facebook group

http://www.urbansketchersboston.com

Join us if you live in New England!