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

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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.


Tutorial on a 20 min sketch

I gave a workshop yesterday and prepared some handouts on my 20 min technique for urban renderings. Here below, is the process from beginning to end including the color wash.

There was a great attendance, I am quite happy. I presented using a sequence of panels and the second half of the time was to put all this to practice by the local Urban Sketchers Boston. It’s been two years and our group is growing. We are about 415 members to date and Christ Tritt and I run it every weekend, planning meetups and researching the local architecture to give an insight on the site prior to visit. Now with great weather, we can do more plein air workshops like this.

This demos were done in a 9″x12″ Stillman and Birn Zeta series notebook heavy stock for mixed media. The linework was done with a Lamy Safari EF. Some of the black brush strokes in the values study were done with a multiliner brush pen.

I wanted a support that could be smooth enough for fine linework, heavy ink brush strokes and take a few layered watercolor washes, so I decided to use the mixed media notebook.

One of the things I wanted to emphasize is the drying time between the watercolor wash layers. When you are working on a fast sketch, the wash has to be light so it can dry faster, most important, the base layer, as it covers about 80% of the paper (I do leave a lot of white untouched areas in the peripherals of the sketch to allow it to “breath” visually)

First layer is the lightest value of the local colors on every area, the subsequent layer is massing the main shadows, the third layer is the smaller darker areas, and the fourth layer is the accents that will enhance key areas to give it depth and good contrast.

I concentrate most of the pigment toward the horizon line and toward the center of the paper. I create interest in the focal point/area during the prior ink drawing process by  doing more detail and making it visually heavy in those areas keeping the rest of the drawing very loose.

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Four Layers Fist Pass Step by step A contour line exercise adding values study

Family Portrait sketch

for Myartsketch.com

This sketch was done on Bristol Plate, with Lamy EF pen and Cotman’s Watercolors. 20 min. Here is the black and white and the color version. I used little lines because I wanted the color brush strokes to be more visible. Its a very light watercolor study.

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These above are random sketches from last month the first one with a nib and handle on a bristol plate mini sketchbook and the second with the Lamy Pen on Stillman and Birn notebook

Quick inks on figure drawing

Stillman and Birn paper Beta Series /Lamy pen SF nib
quick 10 min studies

They always tell me  about my squiggly lines, I use them in all quick sketches regardless the subject. Ink has always been my favorite medium and when I discovered the combination of Stillman and Birn Paper, Lamy pens and Noodler’s ink I felt that from then on I could just draw anything and forget about struggling with materials to get the best flow, permanence and all the nuisance of adapting this to that and try that again. I can just concentrate on enjoying myself now 🙂
Untitled-3Untitled-1Stillman and Birn paper Beta Series /Lamy pen SF nib
quick 10 min study

This one below was completed with W&N cotman mini traveler watercolor kit

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Leo’s accidental watercolor

I used my own carved wood sticks to make this drawing and permanent ink, on a stillman and birn Zeta series notebook. Then I applied W&N cotman’s watercolors witha petit gris brush

the result was ok, with a few spots here and there but overall I’m happy with this 🙂

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Trial and Error

It all started when I messed up this watercolor

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I made a sketch of the drawing, which became more simplified

I used my carved willow sticks to apply ink in simplified strokes to get the essence of the sketch

2 10557390_800726376645745_1221161449125554133_nThen I applied colors

At the end the character was different so I don’t know which I like best but I think the black and white 🙂

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Detail on a Building in Back Bay

This detail corner was done on my Stillman and Birn Beta Series sketchbook. I used Lamy fountain pens for the outlines and sketching, this was done on dry brush technique with W&N Cotman watercolors.

It is important to keep on sight good contrasts of light and shadow I believe to make a bold statement on volumes.

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Downtown Boston

Downtown Boston. Park Street
Cotman watercolors S&B sketchbook
Something I would like to note here is the alignment of the human scales heads. I was taught that a good practice to keep proper proportion of scales in the background midground and foreground, the eye level of all the figures is aligned with the horizon, so you start by doing their heads and then drop the rest of the body down the horizon in proportion with the head size.

Downtown Boston downtown Boston