Portrait – The Reilly Method

Handouts for my latest workshop class on the Reilly Method of drawing portraits.
This is the most intuitive way to draw portraits I have ever found. Based on relationships. When I learned it I used to get lost into the process of where to start, how to see. I created this sequence to un-complicate the thought process for anybody who learns it for the first time. So see it applied here’s a post and here another post

Vikings

I decided to start a series of portraits of the chatacters in the Vikings TV show. The outfits and hairdos are stunning!

Ragnar had to be the first! 

After a trial that left me with the itch of wanting to do something better I was finally happy with the likeness. My first try was in regular paper here:


It was too “accidental”, the new ink I am using: Deleter dries very fast and it’s very opaque and permanent, which is great! But for the final I had to use better quality paper that doesnt warp and wrinkle as much.

Before doing a final, I tried  Lagertha, to refresh my eyes from Ragnar and go back to try again.


And here is Ragnar again, this time in Stillman and Birn Zeta Series paper that I cut from my large 9×12 sketchbook


I was really happy with this, ink flows nicely and smooth and wrinkle free! I specially enjoyed working the pattern in the clothing, and the beard. Scribbling is fun.

Very happy with the ink as well. I used nibs and holders for this drawing, the “blue pumpkin” and other Brause nibs. The ink dries to a rubber-like texture so it is very important to clean up the nibs very thoroughly!!  

Portrait of N. in Prismacolor

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…!

Inktober 2016

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

Game of Thrones Portraits

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

Daniel Radcliffe

I made this portrait of Daniel Radcliffe from a black and white copy. I made up the colors using my usual palette for skin tones and Walnut ink for the hair.

My procedure for portraits is based on simplification. Drawing is not what you draw but what you leave out. I begin with a very accurate ink drawing. If the features are somehow hard to get I start with pencil first, but Radcliffe has a very distinct face that is somehow easy to do. The likeness is pretty much attained by an exaggeration of the eyebrows and getting the eyes right. The jawline is also key in this case.

As in anything, things come out better when you are in familiar territory, your usual palette, your best paper, and your favorite brushes. I particularly feel at home and use no other paper for all my work than the Stillman and Birn brand, because it absorbs washes beautifully without warping. The heavy stock is just perfect for watercolor. This Portrait was done on the Beta Series on a 9×12 notebook, Natural white, Rough Surface, Extra Heavy Weight, 180lb. When I use only Ink I usually go for the smooth surface of the Heavy Stock Zeta Series. The Beta has the extra tooth that holds the water runs better.

All my sketches are done with my favorite fine point fountain pen.

When I do portraits I try to create a rhythm of contrasts so your eye jumps from dark spot to dark spot back and forth keeping the interest in the portrait in a circular motion. The warms and cools also play a part in that rhythm. Since in this portrait most of the real state is warm, the cooling factor is the blue eyes. Eyes are the feature that we feel mostly attracted to in a face, so a very bold blue in that focal point compensates for all the warmth that is around. This cool color finds then a visual connection with another cooling color, the greenish blue of the shirt, between those two I feel I accomplished a balance and the portrait feels right. The shading in the face is done using about three layers of watercolor, allowing the first layer to dry completely.

Depending on the light source direction I start my first wash with The main skin tone. then I add the first pass of dark brown and follow with the lighter and darker skin tones once the first layer is dry. The cooling touches are at the end. The coloring process is about 15 min, The drawing part takes about 25-30 min

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I included my palette here with my regular colors that are both for landscapes and portraits. I have a special spot for skin colors as you can see, my darks and lights and my neutrals

IMG_3523
Here the list:

Alizarin Crimson,Cad Red Light, Orange Yellow, Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ocher, Cad Yellow Pale Hue, Pelylene green, Sap Green, French Ultramarine, Prussian Blue, Cerulean Blue, Violet, Lamp Black (Lamp black is opaque and highly staining, it makes the darks really dark as opposed to the Ivory black that is a warm semitransparent black that blends better with other pigments, I personally prefer more opacity)

Gouaches: White, Beige, Pale Peach, Flesh and Jaune Brilliant (Main skin color)

On regard to brushes I always use natural hair as it holds more pigment.

Here below are some short clips that show the normal speed in which I usually work as in watercolor you pretty much work with the flow and must be a rather quick application and in every layer pass, more and more specific in small spots/areas to create contrast.


Wedding at Martha’s Vineyard, MA

On Sep 26, Saturday was the wedding we were hired to sketch at Martha’s Vineyard. It was quite an experience to have so many moving subjects and trying to chase-a-sketch! We managed to get a few done and some were colored afterwards. We got about a dozen done each of us in 4hrs.

I chose Stillman and Birn Zeta series notebooks for this, The hard stock takes the watercolor beautiful without warping. I used Koi watercolors, they are a little volatile but it is good to have scans so I can reprint them in their original color saturation.

The bride, young actress Julianna Gill (from Friday the 13) here with her little nephew and Dave Franco with fiance Allison Brie (from Madmen) are here in these sketches.

We didn’t realized who they were until a while later which helped in the sense of not being star struck while drawing!
It was quite stressful to try to sketch in so little time as many sketches as possible but I did learned a lot. On the next gig, if we have another one like this, I think I will apply watercolor off site if i have to work this fast because running with a wet tray and brushes, while holding a sketchbook a pen and a water container just… Doesn’t work!
Some sketches were very… “Accidental” *_* like the color one here, that sky is a bad spill… my tray fell over the sketch.
My friend Mia said that this was a gig that could break the most confident speedy sketcher! And yes when I saw my works I wanted to cry :I but I worked on them at home a little more, adding watercolor touches here and there. Some of them I didn’t have time to add color.

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Latest portrait Sketches

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16482_951160118269036_2034851959731503904_n

11012065_951165904935124_3476144564064591375_nIt’s been a while since I did some watercolor portraits, so I decided to add some new to my portfolio. As usual I use Stillman and Birn notebooks in this case the the Zeta Series.

I usually work pretty fast on these, as spontaineity is key to maintain a loose efect on line and strokes.

I probably spend more time on selecting my limited palette and color composition than I do creating the strokes.

A good base drawing doesn’t need much as it sustains itself, but color excess can ruin even the best sketch

I was more happy with Dan’s portrait from all three