First of all, I’d like to apologize for the fact that my last update was in July. Things have been in upheaval, though I haven’t stopped working. I even have things in the backburner I’d like to write and talk about. I just haven’t written about it, which there’s no excuse for. Unfortunately, because of recent updates (I have a full time job now! And I moved to New York!), it will be hard to commit to posting more often but I do hope to soon after things settle and I feel more stable.
But, I’m here now, and I want to talk about the last portrait I did and part of the reason why I chose to undertake this process.
As I mentioned in my intro to this portrait series, part of my reason for making portraits was to shore up my portfolio. However, there was a more pressing reason and part of it had to do with a fear I needed to overcome.
In my illustration, I’ve noticed a trend that weakens my art: and that’s not pushing hard enough past limits. What do I mean by that? It’s really hard to explain, but basically, in art terms, it amounts to, for example, never pressing my pencil hard enough. If I make a drawing, but keep a light hand, then I’ll have a really light drawing. Since I’m aiming for some sense of realism, any sense of light (which is often essential to any good painting) is diminished if everything has a very light line to it. Take this drawing for instance, which I made when I was around 20/21 (three years ago).
Ignoring the obvious lack of drawing skills, you can see that I attempted to incorporate some dark and light elements into the drawing, but they were so minute that it makes no difference. What’s also important to note is that that drawing took me hours. But a 5-10 minutes sketch now looks like this:
As you can see, I’m much more heavyhanded with my darks and lights.
I have a similar problem when it comes to color. I often have to tell myself, the shadow of a red object is almost never a darker red, yet that’s how I usually color. I stick with a monochromatic palette with every object which isolates them, reducing the amount of realism in my paintings and making them feel less cohesive, like collaged elements rather than aspects of one complete painting. The best way to describe what I mean is in this blogpost here, where the surroundings of a painting changes a different object in that painting.
Those self-diagnosed setbacks are why I wanted to do various portraits. It’s always good practice in my B/W contrast drawing and because I specifically avoided realism, I was forced to consider color relationships and see how I can communicate lights and darks through wildly different colors. And all that brings me to Natalie’s portrait.
Natalie had actually sent me a different photo originally, but soon afterwards, I took a break from making portraits. In between that time, I was sent this photo.
It looked great and the fact that it was grayscale made me eager to start on the portrait since I’d be free from any push into a color direction. As always, I started on a sketchbook.
[Note: This is a scanned picture of my sketch which was then altered in Photoshop with light adjustments - it's the first step I take after I scan a physical sketch]
I noticed that, like all my portraits, it wasn’t a complete replication. Naturally. Again, I was fine with this and liked it. So I quickly moved onto color. And in what seemed to be a pattern in my portraits, after a quick pass, it took forever for me to finalize things. Part of it was my failure to realize the magnitude in which my drawing was off. I should have stopped using Natalie’s photo as a reference because it threw me off but I was worried it didn’t look enough like her. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong and then I realized that my drawing was at a flat angle, while her photo was from a higher angle. Meaning her head slightly bigger because it was closer to the camera. After I realized this, I was happy to let go of the picture and focus on the color.
Another advantage about letting go of the photo was that I was fixated on having some sort of background, possibly related to the beach (where the photo was taken). However, whatever variation I tried, whether in color or background, I was never really satisfied. Then I asked myself, what if I just go with what I have now, which was, at the point, a kind of spacey, alien look. Well why not?
So the portrait you see is very close to my original colors and look. I decided not to try to fix something that wasn’t broken and after taking some time away from the painting, I liked it more.
And with that, I end my portrait series. I’d like to thank everyone who sent me a picture and I apologize for those whom I couldn’t capture in digital paint (unless it was a commission). Thanks all, and I’ll be writing again real soon (promise).