Self Portrait Practice
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Thread: Self Portrait Practice

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    Self Portrait Practice

    Hi,
    I've been trying to practice doing self portraits lately. I don't like doing them, but I know I should really know how to, and I'm trying to learn. I could use some feedback to help me along.

    Here are two samples. They're both not very good, I know, but I feel are a step in the right direction.

    The one on the left is the first one I did, in darker lighting, and I know it's way off. The one on the right, I did a week later, with different lighting, but the same pose. I know the eyes are too big, and a bunch of other things are off. But I have a hard time fixing. Any suggestions to help me along? Any advice/critiques will be most appreciated. Thank you!

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    When trying to achieve a likeness in a drawing, I find that it helps to have images of other peopleís faces around. This way you can more easily recognize your unique features. Also, donít try to copy your face exactly. Try to capture the feeling of your face. Proportions are important of course, but you have to grab the character, and when youíre busy fiddling with lines, you tend to lose that essence.

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    On a different note, I feel like in the first one, the anatomy is all off, the eyes look too big, the nose too small, the lips are at a weird angle, the top half of the face is just too big for the bottom half somehow. Something just seems off about it, but the shadows and lighting are very interesting.

    The second one is better anatomy wise, but I think you're right about the eyes being a little large. I'd give them a little more attention, they are the windows to the soul, after all! Other than that, it seems alright, a little stylized but nice. What were you using as reference? Was it a photo, or a mirror? That can make quite a large difference.

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    Technically, the features might be a bit large for the head and the eyes might be placed a bit too high....the precise shape of the eyes could use some refining too (the foreshortening of the far eye is much better on the first picture than on the second.) I have to say, though that those things don't really bother me that much in this case--both of them convey a likeness and a strong sense of the subjects personality.

    If you want to improve in this area, I'd suggest for the next one you slow down and observe the contours more closely than you did on these two....for example, you're drawing the eye openings as something pretty close to simple "almond" shapes. The actual shape is something rather more subtle. (I have to add that a computer stylus is a really clumsy tool for this kind of drawing--an actual pencil on actual paper will give you much more control.)

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    I would take a look at how the head attaches to the rest of the figure.
    The head looks to big for the shoulders.
    how close are you to the mirror?

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    replies

    I used a mirror for the first and most of the second. But then I took a quick picture just to have as a quick reference. I found while working with a mirror, my lighting kept changing, and it was getting a bit frustrating. In the second one(the right one) I felt the eyes were more "natural" before I started trying to finalize them, but I don't have that version anymore. Now, they look almost pasted on. I'm working off a cintiq, so it feels more natural than a regular tablet. I've tried doing it with pencil, but for this particular exercise, I was trying to see what I could do digitally. I probably will try to do a pencil version though.

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    reference

    This is the reference pic used, but this was taken after trying to use the mirror for the most part of the them. I took this to be able to go back and be able to tweak.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TAF17 View Post
    I took this to be able to go back and be able to tweak.
    I'm not sure that's the best approach. If you're not seeing the forms clearly, it's basically impossible to take a drawing where everything is 10-20% off and tweak it to photorealistic "correctness."

    That's not to say that photorealistic accuracy should be the only desirable goal of drawing--as I said above, I think the pieces you posted are very charming--but if you want your observational drawing to become more accurate, you need to put in some serious mileage drawing people from photos and/or life. (I personally have found that copying film and video stills is a useful exercise.) Making inaccurate drawings from life and then trying to "correct" them from photos is something of a fool's errand.

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    Hm, I never thought of it that way. I'll try to stick with one of the other (from life of from photo) Drawing a self portrait is hard. I do want my self portrait to be a little bit stylized, but also, to look realistic too.

    Thank you for all the advice. I'll keep working at it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TAF17 View Post
    I do want my self portrait to be a little bit stylized, but also, to look realistic too.
    Don't concern yourself with stylization. Style is a byproduct of your technique, and will always persist. Instead, aim for likeness. Hold a pencil out in front of you and measure lengths of lines and their angles.

    The photo you took will not help, as now you're introducing some serious lens distortion, loss of depth, and loss of color accuracy (among other things). There's nothing wrong with painting from a mirror over multiple sittings. Just recreate the light source as best as possible, and go from there.

    One major issue is that you're painting symbolically, not literally. You've drawn what most people take to be an eye (eye lashes above and below, white of the eye, iris and pupil, etc), rather than drawing what you see. The eyeball is a sphere, and the current rendering doesn't read as such. Depending on the direction of the light source, you should have the brow ridge cast a shadow over the upper eyelid, the upper eyelid cast a shadow onto the eyeball, etc. Try to envision the planes of the head, figure out which planes would reflect the most light. Do a few studies in grayscale to get a stronger feel for the values - correct values go a long way to helping things read as 3d.

    Paint what you see, but try not to get caught up in the details too early. Individual eyelashes and eyebrow strands are seldom included when going for a painterly approach. Blur your vision and paint the general form accurately first. Polish is saved for later.

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  12. #11
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    Try to do a portrait someplace that has good lighting. You're not going to get form down if you don't have a good range of values to work with. Start with photos taken outdoors, where you can get a good mix of light and shadow. Don't look for the most flattering photo, as those usually minimize shadows and flatten the face and you don't learn much. Try to get someone else to take the photo so you aren't leading with your nose and your whole body isn't distorted.

    Don't worry about style. Right now you're trying to get to the point where you have basic accuracy down. When you can draw a face and make it resemble the person every time, then you can start fooling around with exaggeration and distortion. Keeping a likeness while simplifying and changing reality is *difficult* so you're not saving yourself any effort by trying to stylize, you're only setting yourself up for a lot of frustration.

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    Self Portrait - More Practice

    Ok, so after doing some more practice, I decided to try my hand at doing a self portrait again, this time, with a little more success. I used both a reference photo & a mirror for this one. I think I am getting better and getting it to look more like me and more realistic. My next step is learning how to do refinement. Any suggestions? I'm still keeping things rough and loose because I'm not sure how to go about finalizing it yet. Part of me likes this approach, but at the same time, would like to learn how to make it more refined too.

    Also, a frustrating thing I've been coming across is when I work on my Cintiq, the colors appear much darker. Then when I move it over my regular monitor, the colors are more washed out. I can't fix the settings on the Cintiq and I can't seem to get the two monitors to be in sync.

    Feedback always welcomed.

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    I tried refining it/smoothing it out a little more. Just on the face so far. Still need to work on it. Any feedback would be welcome. Thank you.

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    Much better than the first one, but it still has a way to go. My two biggest griefs are the light source, and the construction.

    Right now the light source seems too frontal, which flattens an image. The terminator of a form shadow, as well as cast shadows, go a long way towards helping describe form. With frontal lighting, you give yourself very little shadows to work with. Depending on the light source and the ambient light in the room, the shadowed regions are potentially a great place to introduce some temperature variance.

    The construction is much better than the first attempt, but it could be better. You need to understand, and emphasize, the most basic forms and plane changes of the face. The eyes do read more like spheres in this attempt. The eyelids however, don't have much thickness. For both the upper and lower eyelids, you've painted the eyelashes flush against the sclera. Depending on our view, you'd expect to see the edge of the eyelid separating the eyelash from the sclera. The bottom edges of the wings of the nostrils could be better defined. The mouth by far needs the most work, as the 'bloated' cylindrical shape of the skull in that region does not read.

    I'd consider this piece to be done, and to do another portrait study if you so desire. Have a single, angled, strong light source. If you have at least some cast shadows, it's probably a good enough light direction. Focus on values to model the form (having a neutral background can help - pure white/black backgrounds can make your value work more difficult). Emphasize the major forms, and leave details for last. Lastly, try to paint with the biggest brush that you can get away with. Also, I'd argue you'll get the most benefit avoiding photos for this exercise entirely, so that you can really flex your 3D to 2D mapping skills. Hold a thin stick in front of you to measure relative lengths and angles.

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