I feel bad for not updating this site for so long. I had some other “real life” things which kept me very busy. Which are still keeping me busy!
I hope to add some more content to this blog fairly soon, but if not soon, eventually. That Lucas North painting (the one where he looks like he has the mumps) and that Guy of Gisborne acrylic painting (which doesn’t look like him at all!) are still clamoring to be completed.
I just have to share this and where else to do that, than in a blog.
This is hard to explain without sounding kind of arrogant (or a bit delusional perhaps), but I’m going to try anyway.
If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I’m a big advocate of not using the increasingly-more-standard method of blending graphite. (I favor crosshatching instead.) It’s not that blending graphite is bad. There are some amazingly brilliant artists who use this technique. It’s just that it seems like so many artists think it must be done this way. That if it isn’t done this way, it’s “bad” or “wrong” or “messy.” Get rid of those pencil marks, blend them all away! If we can see the crosshatching strokes, that’s bad, bad!
So, I thought I’d put this theory to the test, and so entered what I considered one of my stronger crosshatched pieces to a DeviantART group which specializes in graphite, and even goes so far as to categorize your drawings for you. There are several levels with levels within levels (“Master, Master+” “Beginner C,” “Beginner B” and so forth), and when you submit your artwork to them, they’ll eventually get around to deciding what “level” you belong in.
I saw the kind of work that was getting their “Master” designation. They were very, very carefully rendered, always very smooth (none of those horrible pencil marks!). “Advanced” also is full of carefully rendered, smooth artworks. And so forth and so on. The drawings designated at lower levels seemed kind of arbitrary, as far as their quality went. Sometimes something that I thought was beautifully executed (but not perfectly smoothly blended) was bumped to a lower designation, like “Beginner” or “Intermediate” or something. And sometimes, something that was elevated to “Master” had (what I considered to be) noticeable proportion flaws. But hey, the blending was so smooooth.
So I waited, and waited, to see where my drawing (with all its messy crosshatching) belonged. And finally I found out. I’m “Intermediate”! Oh yes! I’m so thrilled to be “Intermediate”! LOL.
Now don’t get me wrong, in a lot of ways I definitely am intermediate, and after all, it is pretty arrogant to expect a certain rating. Because you just never know. But when I take this into context (by seeing what artworks got “higher” and “lower” designations than I did), it seems to me that what I suspected and expected to happen (that the crosshatching would be a huge strike against me) definitely came about. These people did not disappoint me. I am a mere “Intermediate,” in large part, because I crosshatch. (Whether this group will ever admit that, I don’t know, but I know I’m firmly convinced.)
The point of this post (other than to laugh a little) is to say, do not take the judgments and “ratings” of others too seriously. If they have a built-in bias (and most do) then you never know what you’re going to get.
But at the same time, don’t be so oblivious or delusional that you always assume that everyone will think you’re awesome. There’s that too. Perhaps I am delusional and the drawing I submitted would be deemed “Intermediate” by a lot of people, not just people who (I am convinced) see blended, smooth graphite drawings as the “best” or “only” way to do pencil properly.
Rather than starting another tedious post on a similar subject, I thought I’d add a little addendum to this existing post.
Without going too much into the whys and hows, I wanted to say that I learned something today. If I have to have my work “scored” by some third parties (and if I am to be told my “scores,” because the scorers feel that this will help me grow and improve), then I’d prefer to be scored by people who were proficient themselves in the areas that they are judging. To put it another way, I’d rather get a lower score by someone who was at the top of their field (as long as the score wasn’t a 1, I guess!) than a somewhat higher score by someone who had no clue.
I’M JUST SAYING. LOL.
I need to come to grips with this, because the more I get my work out there, the more this is going to happen. It’s not like it hasn’t happened throughout my life, but in the past I guess that my “judges” were a little more well-trained in their professed field of expertise. Such is not always the case, though.
I’ve neglected my blog lately, but have definitely been busy making art.
First off, I started taking figure drawing (aka “Life Drawing”) classes again. It felt soooo good to get back to it. As I have explained in previous posts, figure drawing is when artists draw the nude figure in various challenging poses. Doing this helps us strengthen our drawing and observational skills, as drawing the human figure is one of the hardest things to do. (You can fudge a little when drawing a tree or a house, because how many people are going to notice if something is a little off? But we all tend to notice if the head is too big or the arm too short in a figure drawing!) I’ll probably be posting more sketches from figure drawing class (with proper Not Safe For Work warnings!) in the future.
Next up, the Russian Richard Armitage fan site has done it again, and have provided us with some gorgeous bearded Richard photos to admire. I was busily and happily downloading many photos from this new collection, when I stumbled upon one that made me immediately stop and prepare my printer for printing. This one has GOT to be drawn, and soon I hope!
I prepared a special version of the photo (and another that caught my eye) which was sent to the printer:
For some reason, I really love the top pose (in almost-profile) of Bearded Richard and think it would be suitable for a pencil drawing. The bottom photo has good modeling of light and dark, but the more I look at it, the more apt I am to think it doesn’t “look” like him (to me) so I might not use the photo in a portrait. But then I may change my mind!
Crosshatching is the technique of using pencil strokes to create the illusion of light and dark. I really love crosshatching, especially in pencil drawing. Recently, while waiting in a dentist’s office (I was a ride for someone needing a lot of dental work) I did this sketch:
The reference photo (from a perfume ad in a magazine at the dentist’s) was a good choice because it had a nice range of lights and darks and it lent itself to the “modeling” of the shape and form of the face with crosshatching strokes. I hope to do a more detailed drawing of our own Mr. Armitage using this type of crosshatching.
About the other Richard paintings:
They are still in the works! Waiting to be finished. It’s been a few frustrating weeks when I haven’t been painting as much as I’d like. But I have been creating artwork, mostly drawing, so my time has still been put to good use. But the paintings I have in progress (John Porter “bondage,” Lucas North oil painting and Guy of Gisborne acrylic painting) are waiting their turn and with any luck, should be completed fairly soon.
I did some more work on my John Porter Bondage painting (photo from the Sky1 drama “Strike Back”). It still sucks. In some ways it’s improved, but you know how I love to whine.
I present a small image here of it, because the smallness hides some of the suckatude. Not all of it, just some of it.
Oil painting (work in progress!) depicting John Porter (Richard Armitage) in the Sky drama “Strike Back.” Oil on Panelli painting panel, 8×10 inches. Original reference photo was by David Clerihew.
I took the knife to the painting. Literally. I used a painting knife (OK just a cheap plastic one I got at Jerry’s Artarama!) to slather paint on the background. I want the background to look “distressed.” It just looks awful! The perspective of the “wall” in the background now looks wrong.
Oh well, the paint is drying rather quickly. So I should be able to try to deal with all of it fairly soon.
The likeness is better, but definitely not there yet. There was no likeness in the earlier stages of the painting, now there is a fleeting one. I guess that is progress.
Multiple other flaws are present, but I’m not aiming for perfection, or a perfect replication of the reference photo. Right now what I want is for it to look like John Porter and not look ugly!
This time he doesn’t look like he has mumps anymore, but his face (and especially his brow) are too narrow. The eyes are still wrong. But I did a side-by-side comparison between photo reference and painting and I feel like it’s not going to be a hopeless case. (But we all know, I can sometimes be deluded. ) As I am always saying on this blog, a painting or drawing often looks pretty funky before it is finally whipped into shape by the end!
My attempt to paint British actor Richard Armitage as Lucas North from BBC’s Spooks. Oil on 5×7″ Gessobord.
I didn’t use the Flake White with the ground glass in it this time. But I’ll try to remember to use it in the final layer! (Which I hope may be the final session needed for this painting. Ah, I’m such a dreamer.)
I love, love, love the Ampersand Gessobord I’m using as my substrate. (I admit that “substrate,” as it pertains to art materials, was an unfamiliar term for me until recently. It means a painting surface, like canvas or panel.) Gessobord is relatively affordable, archival (will stand the test of time), and I love the painting surface. Smooth, but with a small amount of tooth, so it’ll grab the paint. It’s wonderful for acrylics but also for oils. It suits my painting style perfectly, especially for portraits.
My scanner boosted the colors a little bit, but in real life they are a little more pale. Perhaps even “chalky.” (We say that a painting has “chalky” colors when that the color is sort of faded out and dull because too much white was used when mixing the colors.) However, I’m not too unhappy about the colors, because in the past I have tended to go for oversaturated colors. I hope this time I can avoid doing that. We’ll see how that goes.
This weekend I browsed through some old sketchbooks and started to scan in a few sketches. And then a few more. That resulted in a “sketch dump,” when someone posts several drawings all at once.
Some of these sketches were from one of the many figure drawing classes I’ve attended. (And I plan to attend more!) If you go to online communities like DeviantART, you’ll find that many artists will post sketches of the nude models from figure drawing class.
Figure drawing (or “Life Drawing”) is one of those standard classes that many art students are encouraged (or I should say, “forced”) to take. Part of the reason is because it’s tradition—part of a classical education in art. But more important than that, it’s a wonderful way to improve ones’ drawing and observation skills. You really can’t know how well you draw, until you start drawing figures in life drawing class. It can be a real ego-crusher at first, at least it was for me. I was quite bad when I first started. It took a lot of practice to get better. But that’s the secret—lots of practice.
Some artists say that they don’t want to take figure drawing, because they feel that being exposed to all those nude models is somehow a corrupting influence. I don’t agree with that at all. I took my first figure drawing class when I was pretty darn sheltered, but I managed fine. It certainly didn’t “corrupt” me! Part of the reason for that is—how do I put this delicately—the models we get in class are not all candidates for pinup or beefcake posters. In fact, pin-up model types are the exception, rather than the rule in your standard Life Drawing class. Which is good, because it teaches us that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. And when I say “beauty,” I don’t mean the sexually attractive kind of beauty exactly, but beauty in the human form, the gracefulness of it, the miraculous way it’s constructed.
Oh, sorry. I probably sound all artsy-fartsy there, don’t I? But that’s what many semesters of figure drawing class will do to you. And I’m not ashamed of that!
I know that some of you probably aren’t comfortable with seeing figure drawing (i.e. “nudes”) so I’ll protect you from that by giving you fair warning so you won’t click on an actual nude by mistake. But I would like to assure you of one thing—I don’t do dirty pictures. I wouldn’t even know how! The figure drawing class atmosphere is not in the least erotic. Besides, I’m much too repressed to draw dirty pictures anyway, even if I wanted to! But I don’t want to. That’s not what figure drawing is supposed to be about. Not for me, anyway.
With all that said, I take figure drawing very seriously. I feel it is one of the classic forms of art and very beautiful. It’s hard for me to remind myself sometimes that some people look upon figure drawing (nudes) as if they are dirty. That’s just so far removed from how I view it.
So with all that rambling out of the way, here is the sketch dump!
Sketch of one of my sleeping cats.
Very quick watercolor sketch of a fellow student in Life Drawing class.
FIGURE DRAWINGS: The first two figure drawings I show are probably “safe for work” and probably okay for more sensitive viewers. But it’s uncertain whether you’d consider them “nudes” or not. I didn’t draw clothes on them, but since they’re unfinished gesture sketches, I didn’t draw any private parts either.
This is rather funky, I know. Another attempt to make up a figure without looking at a model.
NUDES! These are more finished nudes, drawn from a model in life drawing class. Avoid clicking on the links if you don’t like looking at nudes of any kind. Probably Not Safe For Work. (Even though they’re pretty benign. If you haven’t been bothered by the nudes hanging up in museums, I doubt you’ll mind looking at my drawings.)
After my recent fiasco with Lucas North (several incarnations of this drawing were made and I still think I hate it), I decided I deserved something low-pressure. So I chose a photo reference to draw, but with no goal of getting a good likeness. The photo was just a springboard—something to give me an idea for a portrait—but I wasn’t going to try to copy the photo exactly. Not in the least.
Since I was sitting by the computer as I started to draw, I scanned in the sketch about 15 minutes in. (I suspect that it may have been far less than 15 minutes—maybe 5 minutes–but I didn’t have a timer, and I know it was no longer than 15 minutes!)
Fifteen minutes in—I “blocked in” the basic structure of face, align features, and start putting in the dark shadow areas.
I see a lot of “work in progress” for pencil portraits on places like DeviantArt, and to be honest they rarely look anything like the way I do it. And yet I think the way I do it is the more “classic” way! When you’re drawing from a live model, you’re going to sketch in the model similar to this. (It depends on the methods your teachers show you.)
After one hour. All cross-hatching, NO blending or smearing of graphite!
This is what I got about 48 minutes after that initial 15-minute work in progress. I was able to get in the darks and lights, the features are in place and the drawing looks like (I hope) a human male. Just what I was aiming for!
Close up of some of the cross-hatching detail.
Here’s a close-up showing some of the cross-hatching in this portrait. The paper I used had a smooth surface, and I used a mechanical pencil (which kept a nice, sharp point) so I let the pencil strokes glide back and forth over the paper, in different directions, to create the different shades and values that made up the drawing.
Cross-hatching vs. “blending” or “smearing” graphite: Please forgive me for being insufferable for a minute and jumping up on my soap box, but I have to get this off my chest. I am a strictly crosshatching artist. I don’t use a tortillion to blend my pencil strokes. I know many artists do use the tortillion, and some of them do beautiful work with it. But I see too much blending and tortillion abuse and must have my say.
NO, IT’S NOT MANDATORY OR EXPECTED TO BLEND YOUR PENCIL STROKES WITH A TORTILLION!
There. I had to get that out of my system. Don’t listen to what some tutorials imply. You can create nice-looking drawings, even photorealistic drawings, without smearing the graphite. I happen to think that seeing the pencil strokes is a nice thing. It shows that a human being was behind that pencil, and that human being was leaving pencil marks on the paper.
So, so, so many tutorials show how to use the tortillion without even mentioning anything else (like crosshatching). It annoys me, not so much because I think the tortillion is so bad (it’s not!) but because a whole group of new artists are not even being exposed to crosshatching. They never even have a chance to learn how to use it.
I believe that pencil artists should be offered choices, in techniques, styles, and final looks of their final pencil works. NO, it doesn’t have to be completely smooth. YES, it’s okay to see the pencil strokes. NO, it doesn’t have to be really “tight” and photorealistic.
I love photorealistic work too (and I hope to do a “tight” pencil drawing soon, just to show how I do it) but I don’t think there’s some inherent virtue in adding every little hair strand in a pencil drawing. Sometimes knowing what to leave out takes as much skill as drawing in every pore on a person’s nose.
DRAWING METHODS (I get back up on the soap box).
Two different ways of approaching pencil portraits. Hang on, because I’m jumping up on that soap box again. I want to take a few minutes to talk about two distinct ways to approach drawing portraits in pencil.
The old fashioned way (and I think the “classic” way): You start with big, easy, light strokes and get the large shapes first—shape of the head (an oval), then block in the features (eyes, nose, mouth) and get the overall shape of the hair, neck, and so forth. Then after you get the large areas “blocked in” (that’s what we call it), you start to refine the details. You can start establishing some areas of light and dark. That’s how I was taught to do it.
The “paint by number” way: I’m not sure exactly why some artists do this, but I’ll describe what I see, based on many WIP (works in progress) on deviantART. They seem approach the drawing a little like a paint by number. There is a faint pencil outline, VERY detailed and exact, following around exactly the outline of shadows, contours of features, that is put down on the paper first. Kind of like a paint by number. Pretty much exactly like that, except there are no numbers.
Then the artist fills in the light and shadows of the portrait, often starting from one corner or area of the face (like the eye). The artist proceeds to fill everything in, very exactly (and to an almost-finished level) and then moves on, inch-by-inch, until they complete the drawing.
Why the “paint by number” way exists: Now I can’t know for sure how each pencil artist gets that very detailed “paint-by-number” type outline on their paper. One theory I have is that they draw freehand in their sketchbook, work out all the detailed areas, then transfer the outline of their own freehand drawing to a fresh, clean piece of paper. The other way (which I think happens far more often) is that they trace the reference photo straight onto their drawing paper.
Some criticisms, and “there’s another way!”
Do I sound critical of the second method (which involves only tracing and no drawing)? Yes, I have to say that I do. I don’t dispute that the finished work can sometimes look quite good, and I realize that the final product is the most important thing.
One of the concerns I have with this “paint by number” method is that I fear that new artists will be led to believe that it is the only, or most acceptable way to do a pencil portrait. That if it isn’t photorealistic, it’s “no good.”
I also find the tracing over the photo thing (if that’s what’s happening) a bit worrying. As you probably know if you read my other posts, I’m a big advocate of freehand drawing. Too much tracing can inhibit an artist’s growth, I feel.
So I just want to speak out and say, “There’s another way!” Yes, a lot of artists draw freehand. Don’t listen to those who imply that ‘everybody’ traces photos these days. It’s not true. No, a “good” pencil portrait doesn’t have to have all the pencil strokes blended away. Yes, it can still be a “good” pencil portrait even if it isn’t highly detailed with every little pore of skin and strand of hair rendered.
There. I feel better now that I’ve said all of that!
Before I go . . .
What about the grid? Some artists use the grid method (which I’ll describe in more detail later) to help them get an accurate drawing. To that I say, fine. Especially if you’re a new artist, I say that the grid is awesome. I wouldn’t encourage its use for every drawing you ever do for the rest of your life, but definitely, it has its uses. The Old Masters used the grid to transfer their sketches to canvas, to transfer their own sketches to murals, and so forth. Grids are here to stay! But also it’s good to draw from life, draw quick sketches, because all these different ways of drawing strengthen your skill and give you more confidence.
This darn drawing is taking over. I am beginning to hate him. Hate. I keep on revising and revising this sketch. It seriously is time to pull the plug. I figure if I start a new post then maybe I can get a fresh start. I can dream, anyway.
So I came up with an idea to make this whole aggravating Lucas North sketch thing not a complete waste of time. I’ll write a brief tutorial about pencil crosshatching. Judiang is interested in learning it, so why not apply some basic crosshatching techniques to one of our favorite British actors? Sounds good to me.
First off, let’s see the latest incarnation of Lucas North in pencil:
Lucas North (played by Richard Armitage) in BBC’s series “Spooks,” aka “MI-5″
Each time I think I get him a little better, but each time I find some new horrendous thing I must fix. It’s really wearing me down. I need to stop. Now.
So let’s just move past my severe case of crazy and look at this sketch closer up, to observe the crosshatching technique.
(You can click on the picture to see more detail.)
What I do when I am sketching something like this is do light strokes in areas I want to shade. Nothing too dark at first. The strokes are lined up in groups (not just haphazard) and if I need to crosshatch over a set of strokes, I do it at an angle.
Only later on, when I’m sure I’ve got the drawing where I want it to be, do I add the darker tones and really bear down on the pencil to make thick, dark, strong marks. I don’t want to add the darkest shades until I’m sure there’s not much chance I’ll have to go back and erase them in order to correct something.
To get into the habit of crosshatching, try practicing on simple shapes or just shade little boxes. Practice idly without thought. Definitely don’t stress over it. Train your hand to just make the even strokes, strokes, strokes. Be patient. It takes a while, but the mindless, repetitious practice does seem to really work.
Also learn how to make ever-so-soft touches of the pencil on the paper. Gentle, soft lines. Just the tip of the lead of the pencil. Whisper-soft touch. Those are the kinds of strokes you’ll make in delicate areas that aren’t very dark but need a little bit of shading.
The different direction of the “contour” lines are in pink.
Now some of you will like the sound of this. When you are drawing a person, imagine the shape of the different parts of them that you’re drawing. Around Lucas’s neck, put strokes that curve around the sternomastoid (the big cord in the neck). Have the pencil line gently follow around that muscle, like you’re caressing his neck. I’m not making this up, honest, this is what you should do! Your crosshatching lines curve around his Adam’s apple. Lines turn in to indicate the slight “shelf” of his collarbone.
Click on image to see in more detail.
Sometimes the shades and lines you make will be somewhat abstracted. Your goal is to create a shape of tone. Gently crosshatch lines, over each other, until you get the shade as dark as you like. Also, notice there are some slightly smudgy areas around his chin? That’s where I touched (just touched—a light tap, really) the area with my eraser. (I mostly try to use a kneaded rubber eraser, but if I don’t have one, I use the one that’s attached to the end of my mechanical pencil.) Make little feather touches in the area with your eraser, gently, delicately, until it lightens up a bit.
Here I’ve got a variety of lines. There are some “modeling” lines. (Contour lines, which follow around the form, like you can see around his upper lip a bit and on the chin.) I also leave some open spots, like the edge of his bottom lip. Notice how I didn’t outline the entire mouth in profile? (No outline on the outer edge of the profile.) That serves as kind of a highlight. The bottom lip is highlighted there, so why give it a heavy outline? We know it’s his lip.
There are also more slight smudged areas where I was touching the drawing with my eraser to slightly lighten up an area. I know that isn’t the tidiest look, but this isn’t exactly a tidy drawing. It kind of goes with it.
This now concludes this brief tutorial on crosshatching. I’ll probably update this post with some book recommendations later.
TECHNICAL INFO ABOUT THE DRAWINGS:
Drawn on regular drawing paper. Pencil used was an .05 or .07 mechanical pencil, HB lead. (I like B softness leads too.) Standard kneaded rubber eraser. Drawn freehand. (No grid, no tracing, though I did double-check the proportions in Photoshop after I was nearly finished with each drawing.)
So, today I signed up and got a YouTube account. I have this fanciful notion of making some art slide shows or something, pimping my artwork. I have iMovie installed on this computer, after all. But I don’t feel like doing that today. I don’t feel like drawing or painting today either (not yet), so here I am, at my computer, typing this.
Today, as I was loading up on subscriptions and favorite videos (which, of course, revolve around one of my favorite British actors, Richard Armitage), I was reminded of how much I love some of these videos, and how, when I’m watching them, I see frames or clips that would make a great starting point for a drawing or painting, as well as being “art” on their own.
So today I’m going to highlight a small fraction of the fanvids that inspire me.
Heathdances’ (HeathRA’s) Spooks fanvid, “Map of the Problematique.”
This fanvid is brilliantly and dizzingly gorgeous. What a wild ride. I don’t understand such brilliance in editing. I can watch again and again.
When I was watching it recently, a particular frame jumped out at me, and I may use the pose of Lucas North (from BBC’s Spooks, as played by British actor Richard Armitage) as a drawing or painting reference.
Freeze frame from HeathRA’s video.
Now I wouldn’t steal that same composition and everything straight out from HeathRA’s video—not without asking her first, anyway—but her choice of that particular pose of Lucas, so intimately close up, with the striking highlights on his eyes, tip of nose, cheeks, and particularly the way the highlights form around his mouth and enhance the curve of the lips—it really is irresistible!
“This is Your Life” by Spikesbint, fanvid from BBC’s “Robin Hood.”
This is a beautiful and engaging video that uses different effects to tell us the story of the morally troubled (but lovely to look at!) Guy of Gisborne.
Freeze frame from Spikesbint’s video.
I can’t resist the sideways glance, the highlight in the eyes of a person they turn to look at something . . . and here we have all of that, plus deep, contrasty shadows. Spikesbint added video filters or enhancements to lower the color, so the look is almost like a tinted B&W photograph. Just beautiful.
I love the entire composition here, but again, I wouldn’t “steal” it from Spikesbint without asking her first if it was okay! I do like the shot of Guy, though I do wonder about the obscuring shadow over his forehead (on our right) but overall I think it’s a pose worth considering for a future painting or drawing.
”Let it Die” by Aimz1013, a Robin Hood BBC fan video has been removed from YouTube. You can still see it on the fan site RAfanvids.com. (Scroll down the page to find the download link.)
I’m a huge fan of this video, in particular because she has these intermittent freeze frames where she stops the picture for a moment as we contemplate a look, an expression, a fleeting glance, and that helps tell the story. I also like how she’s lowered (somehow!) the highlights in the video, so what would have been white or near white is a lower key color, with a bit of a yellow or grey tint. I don’t understand what she did, but I like it.
Freeze frame from Aimz1013′s fan video.
There were a lot of possibilities in Amiz1013′s video, but in the end this one struck me the most. A fierce expression is emphasized by the darkness at the edge of the inside of the mouth as he bares his teeth. The furrow in the brow. The crazy hair. I love, love, love it.
“This Night,” a Richard Armitage fanvid by BehindBlueEyesVideo
This video uses freeze frames to punctuate the beat of the song. These freeze frames each have some some artistic-looking filter added to them, and I liked some of the effects added. (Great song, by the way.)
Freeze frame from BehindBlueEyesVideo’s fanvideo. Picture is of Lucas North (“Spooks”).
There’s just something about this shot! With the contrast-enhancing effects added, we see these odd, blobby shapes and then realize that they are shadows playing over Lucas’s face. We see that sliver of white in his eye showing on (our) right. It seems so intense somehow. I don’t know if this frame would make for a good drawing or painting reference, but I enjoy the ambiguity of the expression and the contrasty shadows.
It’s not just for fangirls.
I know that occasionally people wander onto this blog who are not fans of hot British actors, so much of my squeeing fangirl drivel isn’t going to be that interesting. But yet I want to make the case for fan videos (of any show) being works of art, as well as films and TV shows themselves. We live in an age where there is a lot of “bleed-over” of artistic expression. We as artists (or writers, composers, and so on) can’t help but be influenced by all the creativity we see around us and this influence will show in our own artwork.
I’ll just cut to the chase. Today was not a “painting day.” I had meant to work more on my errant Guy of Gisborne acrylic painting (he is in dire need of less Guyliner) but . . . today is not a “painting day.”
But I wanted to do some artwork. First, I started doing some quick figure sketches using this free tool, which I think I’ll be visiting often. Then I decided that I could manage to do a little sketch of my favorite British actor (of course!), Richard Armitage.
UPDATE SEPT 4, 2011: I’ve revised this drawing now three times. I am obsessed. And pathetic.
FIRST VERSION, SEPT 2 (Heavy Photoshop tinkering, and it looks weird to me)
SECOND VERSION, SEPT 4 (Better, I hope, but now I think he looks like he has a wattle)
September 4, THIRD VERSION (MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP!!!!) I hope I got rid of the wattle.
FINAL UPDATE. I HOPE. The finished (ha!) version of this drawing can be seen here.
UPDATE SEPTEMBER 4, 2011:
So this is it. I don’t know if I have the strength to go on. I think this ship has sailed. Poor Lucas may just end up looking like this (version three) because this is getting insane.
I started this sketch one night, and after scanning it it, messed with it in Photoshop. Too much. You can see that in version one of this drawing.
That drawing was an example of being too eager to believe the drawing was done. It clearly was not.
Then two days later, with a somewhat clearer head, I worked on the drawing some more. Some improvements were made. I hope. But I gave him a wattle. Moving on . . .
Then later that day, I returned to the cursed thing and tried again. I think it’s better, I think Lucas has lost his wattle, but if it isn’t (and it very much might not be!) at this point I am past caring. Learn from my folly, fellow artists. Don’t be too hasty to call your drawing done. Stop obsessing over it. Move on. (I say this, knowing full well that in a few days I’ll probably return to this and try some more. I am a wretched creature.)
Well, now that I’ve swallowed that bitter pill of disappointment, here is some general advice on how to get a likeness. Yeah, like I have any credibility now! LOL!
Keys to getting a likeness
While I’m here, I’ll give you a few tips I’ve learned over the years, which may help get a better likeness. You’ll notice that I ignored some of these tips, because I posted this drawing already!
Pick a reference photo you can “believe” in. (See this tutorial for a complete explanation. Curiously, it also features actor Richard Armitage!)
Look at the drawing or painting in the mirror as you are working on it. This helps bring forth the lopsided bits and other wonkiness that you don’t notice when you’re engrossed in drawing.
Occasionally flip both the drawing and reference photo upside down and draw the shapes and angles that you see. This helps you to better see what is really there, rather than what you think is there.
There are key areas that may be overlooked as you are putting in the final details of a portrait. One is the corners of the mouth. Often there’s a lot of expression there. Also keep an eye on the length of the nose.
Look at your drawing from a distance. When it’s thumbnail size, sometimes you see how it “reads” from a distance. (Right now my Lucas drawing is not “reading” that well as a thumbnail image. )
If possible, compare your drawing and the reference photo, side-by-side, and the same size. Look quickly back and forth between the two and focus each time on different features. This will often alert you to differences that are keeping your drawing from looking as it should.
Take a break from the drawing. The break may be an hour, it may be a day, it may be a week, or longer. Sometimes this is needed to help you see the work more objectively. (And this is what I have not done tonight, unfortunately!)
That’s all for now. More updates to this post are expected!
It was very late when I started, so I decided to paint in acrylics—I figured, just do an hour or so, get something started, no mess. Acrylics are water-based, after all.
But of course, what started out as “just an hour” extended a bit past two hours. Ah well.
The Good News and the Bad News
The good news is that some new tubes of acrylics paint I tried out are awesome. It’s quite pleasant to work with acrylics now, thanks to these more expensive, higher-end brands. (You get what you pay for when it comes to artist paints!) The paints are not as creamy or as delicious (no other word for it) as oils, but they are quite fun to paint with, and with the added benefit of being able to keep going and going and going, since each layer of paint dries pretty quickly.
The good news also is that I don’t think this painting is a lost cause. I think maybe with another painting session or two, it can be rescued. But . . . there is a risk when you plant your behind in a chair, paint for over two hours solid, and NEVER step back, never take a break, never look at your painting from a distance. And that risk is that you lose perspective. Completely.
Fellow artists, learn a lesson from my folly. Taking a break while painting is good. I’m just saying.
The bad news is that I have been guilty of grievous Guyliner abuse. There are some serious structural problems with this painting. But it’s not sooo bad that I can’t fix it. And thankfully, due to the nature of acrylics, it won’t take forever to paint over the problem areas!
Click on the thumbnail image to see it much larger. (You’ll need to, in order to see the details.) Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisborne in BBC’s “Robin Hood.” Acrylic on 6×6″ Ampersand Gessobord.
The painting on the far left is how I ended this painting session. To be honest, it’s not as horrifying as I had feared. By the time I finished painting tonight, I knew there were serious problems with the eye (to our left) and just . . . everywhere . . . but I knew I could work no longer. So actually, when I saw it scanned into my computer, it was a relief. I had anticipated that it would look even worse than it really did!
The painting in the middle is me trying to “fix” a FEW (not all!) of the things I can see are wrong. That problematic eye to our left is so wrong. So beyond wrong. I tried to play with that a bit and see what I could do to help, which I think I did a little, but then I realized, this is ridiculous! Just fix it with real acrylic paint instead of messing around with it in Photoshop!
The image on the far right is, of course, the original screenshot (thanks to RichardArmitageNet.com for their screencap gallery).
I see many areas of concern. The mouth isn’t right, the eyes, as already mentioned, are all wrong. Guyliner abuse, terrible! The whole expression on his face is different.
But at the same time, I don’t think it’s necessary for this painting to be an exact copy of the original photo. What’s the point in that? I just want it to look like him and capture the expression that I found so compelling that I decided to paint it. And that’s going to take some time.
I was going to do some “Paint Porn” discussion and talk a bit more about the acrylic paints I used, but I think that can wait for another post.
I’m all eager to do more work on this painting, so with luck, expect an update within a day or two!
I’m on some sort of fangirl high at the moment, or something. There’s a new Lucas North painting in the works (but he looks like he has the mumps right now) and I have another Lucas painting planned. But tonight I felt the need to look through RichardArmitageNet.com‘s screencap gallery for some pictures of Guy of Gisborne (as portrayed by British actor Richard Armitage in the BBC series “Robin Hood”).
It was tough, as there are many, many lovely photos to choose from. Plus, I have the problem of deciding whether or not a photo is suitable for artist reference. As I explain in this previous tutorial, not all photos of someone (even “favorite” photos) will translate well into a drawing or painting. I think I have good instincts on which images to choose, but no one is always going to get it right. Plus, one artist’s “perfect” photo reference is another artist’s worst nightmare. So we all just have to hope for the best when we start drawing or painting.
Here’s a little insight (whether you care or not!) on how I prepare reference photos (I call them “scrap”) for printout and subsequent use as I draw or paint. I open a Photoshop document that is about 7×10 inches (or a little larger), 300 dpi, and copy and paste any images that interest me, sizing them up to fill as much of the page as I find suitable. Often I make both a B&W and color version of the same photo, (as sometimes the B&W version brings out more detail that is helpful). Then I will do some color correcting and adjustments to light/contrast to the images as well.
Here is a page of “Guy scrap” that I plan to print out. Not sure if I’ll use all these photos for art reference. Or any of them! But they are all so lovely. Does anyone have a favorite among this selection? Or do you think that these choices are all wrong?
What I see in each of these photos is an intensity that is so typical of Guy. The top three photos are fabulous, I think. They show a good modeling of light and dark, and I think will translate well to a color painting. The only thing I worry about is that two of the pictures have Guy looking sort of up (the whites show underneath the iris of his eyes) and I’m not sure how well I can get that to work. But the top/middle photos on our right (in B&W and in color) are shot from more eye level, so he doesn’t appear to be looking “up” as much.
The bottom photo is more problematic (another “looking up” shot) but I just love the expression. Plus I love the light playing across his nose, temple, and jaw (on our left).