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Thread: portrait help

  1. #1
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    portrait help

    Hi, I'm new to this forum, so I hope this is the appropriate place to post this query.
    I recently had a great experience doing a conte portrait in class, and decided to try some other portraits. I started working on portraits of my mom and dad. In both cases, I managed to capture a reasonably accurate structure quickly (less than half an hour). However, as I progressed further with the portraits. I felt they began to lose not only structural accuracy, but also that my touch became less interesting. I'm thinking that I didn't slow myself down enough after the first phase of drawing, but I'm not sure. I was not planning for this, so i don't have a ton of process photos, but any specific or general advice regarding portraiture would be greatly appreciated. thanks, and much respect to the amazing work I've seen so far in the forums!
    1.class portrait
    2. mom
    3.dad


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  3. #2
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    The best advice I can give about portraiture is that it isn't portraiture. Attack portraiture the same as you would any other subject matter.

    You are not drawing a face, you are drawing light and shadow shapes giving the illusion of form - you seem to have understood that concept pretty well in the class portrait. (Best of the three.)

    "I managed to capture a reasonably accurate structure quickly (less than half an hour). However, as I progressed further with the portraits. I felt they began to lose not only structural accuracy, but also that my touch became less interesting."

    The first thing wrong with this sentence is, "I managed to capture a reasonably accurate structure quickly (less than half an hour)" The underlying drawing of every single painting and drawing will never be perfect - it should always be improved at every stage of the drawing (not saying you thought it was perfect, just making a point) It is not a 'step' in the process done in the beginning to be 'finished' and then moved on from. The best way to capture a likeness is to not think about capturing a likeness. The reason Sargent was a human photocopy machine was because he nailed the big picture proportions before even adding in features. Look at the big shapes and their relationship to each other. I find I can get a close and reasonable likeness/structure in 3 hours minimum. If you feel you've done it in thirty minutes take a nap, walk around and come back to it later to see how your eyes deceive you - it happens to us all. Accuracy is something that takes time. As much as it has to do with laying down a strong foundation, it is just as much about as prodding it over a long time. A single grain of rice can tip the scale!!!! Hope that helps. They look nice - the toned paper is great to pull out the lights and push the darks. Can't wait to see more. thanks for sharing.
    "Art is the invisible, rendered visible, wrought with love"
    - Frank Mason
    MY SKETCHBOOK http://www.conceptart.org/forums/sho...d.php?t=143696

  4. #3
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    thanks for the response! I'm definitely not suggesting that I stop working with structure after that first half hour, its only that after an hour, things begin to feel very overworked, which makes me feel like I'm not pacing myself properly. I guess I'm agreeing with you, that I'm saying "time to move on from the structural stage". My anatomy teacher always says to stay with structure until you absolutely cannot stand it, and then some. Part of my frustration is with the medium; graphite is super forgiving, and I'm just starting with Conte, so...

    by the way, i just checked out your work and I'm beyond impressed. I noticed you copy of the Sargent, now on display in the rotunda. Are you from the Boston area? if so, I'd love to meet up with you some time.

    again, I appreciate your advice.

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    hmmm... I think why you feel it begins to get overworked is maybe because you're micromanaging. Trust me: If you're really pushing the accuracy onf the large shapes and the entire big picture in a SIMPLIFIED way, it won't feel overworked. On the contrary it will start feeling like it's making things easier for you. Perhaps the feeling of overworking is from adding value. I'm not exactly sure what you're trying to say but I hope that makes sense. I think you meant to say graphite ISN'T superforgiving which is very true. Try using vine charcoal. It's a lot more malleable and painterly. It might help you out.

    Thanks! I Appreciate it. Yea, I live in MA and am close to Boston (I try to visit the MFA often) I'd be more than happy to meet up w/ you some time. Feel free to drop me a PM and we can make plans.
    "Art is the invisible, rendered visible, wrought with love"
    - Frank Mason
    MY SKETCHBOOK http://www.conceptart.org/forums/sho...d.php?t=143696

  6. #5
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    Hi,
    without seeing the ref pics, I can't really say much, but I think they look alright, especially the one you did in class! So approach other portraits exactly the same way?!
    hhmm...
    The way I do almost any commission/portrait, is make a few sketches first, like I'm getting to know my subject, and naturally I workout what is working for me, and the piece.

    You say, you did these pretty quickly, so do more sketches to help solve problems. Use other mediums on scrap paper, or anything.
    Getting to know your subject might take a little more than one or two quick sketches!

    I wish you all the best!
    (you don't have to post ref pics for this comments sake)
    Sketchbook

    Need to fill this up!
    Finally Finished

    Mostly traditional media.
    Fine Art

    www.jsnzart.com

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    thanks for the response. I'll try some smaller drawings. I drew a self portrait w/ graphite a few weeks ago that turned out fairly well, so I may try some drawings in graphite. I guess what I meant when i said graphite is "more forgiving" was not that is easy to manipulate, but that it erases easily yet can achieve soft and hard edges. I guess for me it's the most intuitive drawing medium. My charcoal drawings generally turn out too soft for my tastes.

    I'll post more of my work soon, but much of it is at school and the weather here has been too inclement for easy transportation.

  8. #7
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    And I can suggest you painting vice verse human size portaits...

    I'm alsmost sure that will help.

    Take 20 minutes or less to draw a portray (size of a human), and if it's nt good- one more time, and then again and again.....this is the BEST practice to achieve sth!
    I was taught this way

  9. #8
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    i think you are already getting the idea, just make your observations more and more precise, maybe try to say more with fewer lines and push the contrast.

  10. #9
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    I think, you should try to step back after this half hour of fast drawing and go on later or you should try to divide (mental) your piece into drawing parts.

    For example: If you don't draw the nose from the first stadium to the perfection, maybe you won't loose the fluent drawing process of your first half hour. Instead of that you could draw parts of your piece into different stadiums (some parts deep into details, other ones might look like the first half hour) and change between these parts. Maybe that allows your mind to go on in a fluent way. It worked for me and since I use that the drawing process could'nt get boring anymore. It also allows to accept mistakes easier which supports the speed of your lines.

    Don't know, if I described it usable, but I hope that'll help someone

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