Sunday, March 30, 2014

Portrait Series: Abdulrahmann Alageel

I received a surprise email from my old roommate, Abdul. He was interested in having a portrait done. It was good to hear from him and he offered me two photos to choose from. Here’s the one I chose.

I really liked this image because the face was so serious. I kept thinking of the word “hardened.” So I started sketching and ended up here.

I really liked my sketch with one exception. The eyes. They were a bit on the large side, erring towards anime-istic, which was not something that fit with the rest of the sketch. The rest of the sketch though, I felt really good about. It kept the essence I liked about the photo  and the roughness of the sketch and texture of the pencil also added more character. As always, I scanned it in, and started coloring it.

So, you’ve heard me talk often how hard these portraits are but this one… this one was pretty easy. I approached the coloring differently than the other portraits I've done, aiming for a darker composition, keeping earthy tones and navy blues. The coloring came pretty easily (thanks Multiply layer!) and the only times I went back and forth on my decisions were on the clothing. At first everything was a solid color, but I wanted to mix it up a bit so I went for a darkened top and bottom.  

Also, in-between the coloring, I fixed the eyes, making them smaller and less wide. That was honestly the hardest part. Because I have to fix things on the original drawing layer, I can’t make very easy edits or else it looks very obvious that I “photoshopped” the original drawing. It takes some time to make my Photoshop brushstrokes look like they’re not only pencil marks, but marks that carry the texture of the paper as well, which is apparent in the original scan.  Actually, if you zoom in really, really close, you can tell where it was I tampered with the original sketch. It’s something I am aware of and am trying to find a way to make these kind of edits seamlessly.

After all that, which wasn’t that much actually, I tinkered with the lighting minimally and finished! It took much less time than normal. Thanks to Abdul for being so easy to capture. Here's the final portrait.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Portrait Series: Marianne Hardart

Continuing my portrait series, this was another one I found fairly difficult (as I’m sure I’ll say of each one.  These things aren’t easy for me, let’s just put it that way).  Here’s the original picture. I worked on Marianne’s portrait first because it was the first I received.

Here’s my sketch.

There were two things I was very pleased with in this sketch, and one thing I knew would be a problem.  I liked the eyes and the strong cheek bones, something that really defined the face.  However, I had trouble recreating the smile from the photo.  No matter how I drew it, it looked wrong, cartoony, out of place, or just weird.  I definitely need to do more research and/or practice on how to draw a smile since I do think this was the first time I attempted to draw a smile with teeth.  While coloring, I thought to myself that I’d just leave it as a kind of sheened smile without indication separate teeth, just one big block of *smile.*  

I messed up right in the beginning of coloring – my color relationships were all out of wack.  I had the hair a bright maroon, the face a dark blue, and the lighter parts of the face a bright pink.  If you could imagine it, it was a mess.  I took some time away from it and when I went back to it, I scrapped the whole color layer and started again, this time closer to the original photo's original colors. 

I thought about what I liked about the photo and part of it was how innocently happy it looked.  With that, I chose much lighter colors; yellow, sky blue, and kept the intense orange of Marianne’s hair.  Similar to Stephanie’s portrait, I cut out part of the body, leaving only the neck and the upper-most area above the collarbone.  

Other things I went back and/forth on was the background.  I started with a dark brown but kept lightening it, though I was scared the color would be too similar to the color I used for Marianne’s hair.  Still, there was difference enough where you couldn’t really be confused and it complemented the skin enough.  I played around a lot with the light blue, yellows, and greens that resulted if I mixed the colors, which you will see in her eyes once I show the final image.  One of the other decisions I made was to make her lips red, adding a strong, saturated accent.

But.  (There’s always a but)

The smile still didn’t look right.  My strategy of having a band of nondescript teeth made the whole thing look unfinished and I wasn’t sure what to do.  I temporarily took off all the colors and tried to draw in teeth again.  Where in my original pencil sketch I drew the teeth in a loose and undetailed manner, in this version, I drew the smile with a focus on each individual tooth, making sure it was shaded right, highlighted correctly, going for a more realistic look.  It looked…okay.  Okay, enough for me to color.  Honestly, I was kind of impressed.  The teeth looked fairly realistic but there was still a problem. It was too realistic where I had not used too much realism in the rest of the sketch.  Again, it stuck out, not for looking bad or ugly, but for not coinciding with the rest of the portrait's style.
So I (kindamaybesomewhat) cheated.  I changed the portrait, closing the lips, and making a different smile.  But it's important to know when things look wrong and I know when I can or cannot fix things.  Part of this portraiting project is to get better at it, and it means that I’ll come across challenges.  This was one of them where I didn’t necessarily overcome the challenge, but went around it and finished it anyway.  Here is the final image.

Sorry I couldn’t capture your entire likeness, Marianne, but I hope you still like it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Portrait Series: Stephanie Lenis (With Intro)


A couple of weeks ago, I put out a call on my social media sites for any pictures of friends in order for me to portraitize (not a word, I know). I received some great interest and got started on the first few pictures that were sent to me from my friends.  But why did I want to do portraits?
Two reasons – 1) I needed more literal humanity in my portfolio and 2) when I did research on editorial illustrations (as in, I skimmed through a bunch of magazines in a Barnes and Nobles) I realized that many of the illustrations, especially the smaller ones were, in fact, portraits.
With that in mind, I picked up my pencil, than later, my tablet, and started portraiting.  Then I noticed…
This was hard.
Because I made a specific choice to NOT realistically portray my subjects with true colors (as in, I didn’t aim to replicate colors as they were in the photos in my digital portraits), there was a lot more thinking involved in color relationships and color compositions.  Meaning, I had to do a lot of trial and error to ensure I had the "right" colors, based more on feeling and somewhat on the little theory I knew.  Why did I not want realistic colors in my portraits?
One, it sounded a bit boring.  It’s funny how I originally thought that realism was something I wanted to do (see my blog post about my late mentor Bert Katz). I now see that the reason I want to illustrate is because I am fascinated with fantasy both in the genre sense and in the sense of creating something false.  Two, not having the limitation of portraying colors accurate to life allowed me more freedom and stylization options.  I wanted something closer to my first self-portrait. 

Stephanie Lenis

Quick note before I start:  I worked on various portraits simultaneously. Often I’d get “stuck” on one portrait, not knowing yet how to continue, so I’d move on to the other one. The order in which I will be presenting these portraits are in the order that they have been finished.
I was working on three different portraits before finishing Stephanie’s here and her portrait was one I kept going back and forth on, even producing two sketches. Here was the first sketch. 

I made this sketch, scanned it, and started coloring it in Photoshop.  Soon after laying down the large patches of color and working on the eyes, I realized things were a bit off.  I wasn’t happy with the way things looked and the proportion of the head to the rest of the body was throwing me off.  I kept trying to fix things but after a while, I had to (literally) go back to the drawing pad. 

Here was a second sketch (really third but the other one didn’t even get scanned).  I realized I was making a mistake trying to fit the entire photo into the portrait and instead, I focused on the important parts I liked and found interesting.  The eyes and lips were the objects of focus and the hair took up the most area within the photo itself, almost becoming its own separate figure.  I scanned this pencil sketch and started coloring. 
My colors were the fairly different from the first sketch and things looked much better.  Still, as you can probably see, some of the elements were slightly off and I had to fix a few things.  I overlayed the original photo on the sketch, turned down its opacity (so the sketch would show through the now-translucent photo).  The eyes needed to be slightly rearranged (my original problem was that it didn’t pop enough) as did the lips, but for the most part, everything was where it should be.  There were a few aspects that weren’t true to the photo, but it was a judgment call on whether or not each aspect had to fit proportionally.  I can “feel” when it looks wrong, whether or not it is or isn’t and when something didn’t, I left it as is (it is after all, my drawing).  

Once everything was set and the colors laid on – I started to (because I always do) outline the original pencil sketch.  Everything was outlined at first, but I soon realized that I didn’t need it everywhere.  Similarly, I turned down the opacity of the original sketch so the lines wouldn’t be as strong but the paper texture was still seen.  After fine-tuning the colors and making adjustments to the painting’s lighting, here’s the final result.