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.