Monday, April 21, 2014

Portrait Series: Niove Ramirez

There were quite a few ups and downs with Niove’s portrait. My indecisiveness really showed here. For reference, here was the photo she sent me. 

First, I loved this photo. I thought it was very well lit, simple, and had an awesome pose. I started on the sketch and arrived here.

I realized later that the sketch wasn’t exactly the same as the photo. But, again, here’s where I made a judgment call. I was very satisfied with the sketch. I think it captured what I liked about the photo. The sense of ‘long’, through the limbs, the hair, and the vertical orientation. I scanned it and painted it immediately. So while, it wasn't an exact reproduction of the photo in sketch form, that's not what I'm aiming to do. 
When I was working on it in Photoshop, I thought it would have been a similar process to Abdul’s portrait. I really liked the line sketch which would have made coloring easier. Because the original photo was great, I kept a lot of the same colors, with the exception of Niove’s hair, which I made blonde to create a contrast. Soon after, I tinkered with the lighting, and some of the light focus. I could’ve started writing this blog post right then and there, but I chose to leave it for another day, just in case I saw something I wasn’t seeing originally.

When I looked at it again days later, it turns out I didn't like it. I messed with the lighting too much. In general, the way I paint is with more muted colors, nothing is as saturated as it probably should be. Sometimes, it’s a good thing (see my quick snow day sketch...which is nowhere except my twitter account. That'll change soon), but usually it helps to make things pop out. However, the changes I made were a bit exaggerated and things “popped” out way too much. It looked very fake, and very digital. I turned it down drastically and cleaned up the sketch a bit. 

Even still, I was doubting myself, perhaps still kicking myself for my initial mistake. I had an instinct to scrap the whole thing and start over but quickly realized that was not the right course of action. I liked my original sketch and my original painting so I should start from there. I kept the same colors, still tweaked some of the lighting but not so much so. You can see the final form here.

I think this portrait is closest to its photo in look compared to the other portraits I've done. Again, I thought there was a lot of elements I liked in the photo and didn't change much of the structural basics. I tried to keep that off-center focus and the highlights. Part of me may still think it might be missing something, but that’s more of me never being satisfied with my own work as a whole. Not that that’s specifically a bad thing – it just means I can always keep doing better.  

If you've read this much - I thank you. I will be taking a hiatus from portraits. I have two left - sorry, you're gonna have to wait a bit. I'm a little burnt out on portraiture and want to be doing more of my own work again. There's something reserved about these portraits, which can be good, but I need to go a little crazy with my art. Next post, I hope to show something completely different.

And of course, thanks Niove!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Portrait Series: Nora Gharib

Nora’s portrait was one of the more difficult ones, mostly because I was unsure how to proceed with her portrait. This is the photo she sent in.

I really liked it. Although I never wanted to do a full body portrait, I liked the composition of this picture, and how vertically oriented it was. I also liked the frames around Nora which added interesting elements to the overall picture. As usual, I sketched it out and here’s what came out.

I liked this sketch, although I knew that my sketch’s face was a bit off from what the picture actually was (something that kept bothering me even as I was sketching). I scanned it and quickly laid down some color. After manipulating the sketch to more accurately reflect the original photo, I did something strange, creating a mass of light color behind Nora, like some kind of aura. It was bright blue, so I made her skin color orange, because I knew it complemented the background well. 

But, there was a big problem – and this is why it took me so long to finish this portrait, despite the fact it was, I believe, the third photo to come to me. I tried to recreate the frames, but it didn’t look right. I tried to add more interesting elements around her to proxy for the frames, it didn’t work.  I felt stuck. While I liked everything I did thus far, I felt like it wasn’t interesting enough. So I left it alone. For a long time.

About a week ago (from publish date) I went back to the piece, which is something I’ve felt is very helpful when creating anything. Taking some time completely away from a work, whether it’s something you’ve written, drawn, or created, will allow you to have a fresh perspective and a different mentality than when you were working on it. In my case, I was less critical and realized that I did have something that made the piece more interesting – that aura that was placed there out of pure instinct. With the different-colored skin, it gave the piece a bit of a sci-fi feel, so I used that to create small elements that were placed within the piece. Here's the final piece.

In the end, it was the time I took away from the piece that allowed me to figure the problem (or, kind of realize that there was no problem in the first place). As you work, I encourage you to do the same. Breaks are important and while I may not always have the luxury to take weeks off from a piece, even taking a day or two completely, not thinking about it, may indeliberately spur new ideas you can use.   

And also, thanks for picture Nora :)