Gouache portraits - need help!
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Thread: Gouache portraits - need help!

  1. #1
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    Gouache portraits - need help!

    Hey, this is my first art post. I've done these portraits in gouache recently and I feel I can't improve anymore on my own. I need your help. I'm decent at drawing and I think I got a good hand with values, so my pencil drawings come out pretty ok, atleast in my eyes. My paintings on the other hand I'm not happy with at all. I always manage to mess something up, and I don't feel I learn anything from my mistakes, I just keep repeating them over and over. So I'd very much like some critiques from you guys and some pointers on what I can do to better myself. Below you'll find three portraits in gouache and three pencil renderings (two unfinished).

    Portrait of a friend done from photo ref. The colors where different in the photo.


    Selfportrait. Did the pencils in front of the mirror and did the colors from memory. I'm not actually that buff and I got less chiseled features. In my opinion I rendered the skin pretty well in this image, atleast I think it's the best of the three. Although the background I do not like at all.


    Portrait of a friend done from life. I did the pencils from life and got damn good likeness, better then I've ever achieved before while drawing from life. But the colors are done from memory, and while painting I totally screwed up the likeness and now I wouldn't even be able to guess who it's supposed to be if I hadn't painted it myself. Also I messed up rendering the skin (and wasn't motivated to do the hair). This is IMO my worst painting yet, and my most recent...


    The rest are pencil drawings done from photo. Two unfinished anatomy studies and one portrait of Jimi Hendrix.





    So. What I'm looking for crits on is mainly my painting technique and my use of color. It seems I can't handle gouache properly and I'd like to learn how. My biggest problem (in my eyes) is I'm too eager to get color down, meaning I paint new color on areas that aren't already drie. What happens when I do this is I pick up color from the paper instead of putting it down, resulting in some pretty strange value and hue variations that don't really help the painting... Also I find it very hard to render a smooth surface, my brushstrokes are way to visible. Could I get a bigger brush to help this problem? Right now I'm using size 6 and size 3 round brushes for all my paintings.

    Any crits you have are most welcome. Wether it's for my paintings or my drawings. Thanks.

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    If your brushstrokes are too visible, you might be working too dry. If you want to soften up your lines then glaze over them after they've dried with a lightly wet brush to soften the edges. Usually, if the surface is wet enough, if you go back in with a new color, and it's thick in consistency it'll simply drive the other color out. Don't try to smudge around afterwards, that's when you get the mixing up of colors. Also, add some white to every color(especially the darker ones) if you are trying to go over another color, it grounds the color and makes it more opaque(less likely to mix with the color underneath). I'm learning gouache mysef, the main thing is to actually think and observe while using it, so you can catch all of its mind-numbing nuances.

    -ras

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    another thing you could (should?) do is paint monochrome first. concentrate on putting down the values and handling the paint.

    you dont have to do this B&W, you can also mix burnt sienna and pthalo blue (50/50) as your dark and then add white for your lighter values.

    tensai


    check the Tensai Tokyo Sketch Thread (Sketchbook)

    check the Tensai Cityscapes Thread (Finally Finished)

    bLok


    Quote Originally Posted by strych9ine
    Fuck backgrounds, who needs em.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tensai
    another thing you could (should?) do is paint monochrome first. concentrate on putting down the values and handling the paint.

    you dont have to do this B&W, you can also mix burnt sienna and pthalo blue (50/50) as your dark and then add white for your lighter values.
    Listen to those tips, very good points.

    -ras

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    Thanks for the tips guys. I just started a new painting and I'm gonna try starting it off in monochrome like you suggested. I think my problem might actually be that I'm painting to wet, so I'm gonna try not to do that this time around.

    I'll post my progress in this thread and start off with this (still very crude) pencil sketch. I'm about 45 minutes in, and so far I've only used a 2H pencil. I think I'll do a complete value rendering in pencil, transfer the outlines to a new paper and paint over it in monochrome using the pencils as ref.

    Can you guess who it's supposed to be? If not, here's the ref.

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    additional tip: before you transfer those lines to your board or paper or whatever youre gonna use - take a big brush and tone the white down. make it a bit darker or brighter than the middle tone of your portrait is gonna be. white will mess with your perception of values and your previous painting have backgrounds that flow around the portraits. which is something you want to avoid..

    good luck.

    tensai


    check the Tensai Tokyo Sketch Thread (Sketchbook)

    check the Tensai Cityscapes Thread (Finally Finished)

    bLok


    Quote Originally Posted by strych9ine
    Fuck backgrounds, who needs em.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boogieman
    Thanks for the tips guys. I just started a new painting and I'm gonna try starting it off in monochrome like you suggested. I think my problem might actually be that I'm painting to wet, so I'm gonna try not to do that this time around.
    WAIT, you have to understand, usually, the best way to work with gouache is to start from wet and transparent and then as you lay washes over your become gradualy more opaque in your color consistency. That means that you put less of a watered down color as you progress into the piece. At first VERY watered down for a wash, make sure you keep everything very wet, and then when you are happy with the background color you let it dry and continue to layer over. It's quite difficult to explain but paying attention to the medium is the most important thing. If you want to layer one color over another it's not always as easy as just putting down a thick blob, at times you need to mix the top color with a bit of white so that it'll not absorb so readily with the color underneath. Try it. Take a blue and make to streaks with it. Let the streaks dry. Then take a red and run one red streak over a blue streak, and run another red streak with some white mixed into it(no too much but not a tiney amount neither, 20%% I'd say, you'll need to test it out) then let them dry. At first it'll seem like I'm totally shitting you, but wait 'till they dry and see what happens.

    -ras

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    subtract color as well. Lay down color let dry and then take it away. Look at Maxfield Parrish's work. All subtraction. ( why is No.1 green?)

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    I think that last painting is best because it have a defined light source, and good under drawing. Also different colour in shadow and light gives more depth to this form.

    In other pic your drawing seems to be lost (eyes on the green man, and nose on your portrait), (also dont use pure white for eye balls (If you want realistic aproach) eyes also have they own purplish colour, and could be in shadow too) and light source is missing. Define one light source at start and keep it all the time.

    About the brush moves, just fill up your brush well, and use larger brushes.

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    Okay, so the drawing is as finished as it's gonna be. The likeness isn't really great, and I got a little lazy on her hands, but I'm happy with it anyway. If you see any errors please point them out.


    Now, tensai, before I transfer this to another paper I should decide on a background and paint that first? Should I just do a wash in an earth color to get rid of the white or should I paint something proper? Have you got any tips on backgrounds in general as I seem to be less talented with those? Like how to avoid that feel of the background flowing around the portrayed person?

    Can this tutorial by DSillustration be applied to gouache? If it can, I'm thinking I should do an underdrawing in burnt umber and ivory black and a wash of purple on top of that (since the finished painting will be in yellow and orange). Or will things get messed up if I try this technique with gouache; like the black underdrawing gets mixed up into the purple wash leaving puprle/gray wash?

    Ras, I'm gonna go try that thing with blue and red strokes right now to see what you're talking about. Thanks for your help.

    Ronmatt, that kinda went over my head... I checked out Maxfield Perrish tho and I really liked his work. The guy is green cause I was experementing, no real valid reason behind it.

    Danilo, thanks for the tips. I see what you're talking about with my drawing seems to be lost. As for the light source is missing, I just draw it as I see it. Green guy is from a photo with multiple lightsources plus a flash, and my selfportrait is backlit sitting in front of a mirror... The girls portrait tho is made with a spotlight directed to her face.

    Thanks all for your time and your replies.

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    Nice work on giving the last one a lively feel/rhythm. Her prportions are off though, eyes too wide apart, shoulders too wide also(the right one)
    Hard crease on that smile makes her look older, I suffer from the same mistake everytime I draw younger lassies.

    -ras

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    Thanks, I'll try to take care of that in the painting. I checked the eyes tho and they are spaced proportionally as far apart as in my reference (as far as I can see). Maybe there's some screw up in the nose area that makes the distance seem bigger.

    I tried the red/blue thing and I see what you mean now. The white really does make the color much more opaque, thanks for that.

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    just to state upfront - im not even close to a gouache authority. i know some stuff and used to wrestle with the stuff abit.

    Quote Originally Posted by Boogieman
    Now, tensai, before I transfer this to another paper I should decide on a background and paint that first? Should I just do a wash in an earth color to get rid of the white or should I paint something proper? Have you got any tips on backgrounds in general as I seem to be less talented with those? Like how to avoid that feel of the background flowing around the portrayed person?
    just slap it on before doing anything else - that way you dont think about the figure and you dont have the BG flowing around it. youll probably add to the BG later on anyway but just to have the white gone and have something to work against, just take the biggest brush you have and slap on some paint.

    Quote Originally Posted by Boogieman
    Can this tutorial by DSillustration be applied to gouache? If it can, I'm thinking I should do an underdrawing in burnt umber and ivory black and a wash of purple on top of that (since the finished painting will be in yellow and orange). Or will things get messed up if I try this technique with gouache; like the black underdrawing gets mixed up into the purple wash leaving puprle/gray wash?
    the principal is similar i guess. sorry, no time to compare/check the differences between oil and gouache for now so. no experience with oils either. if you dont know how something will turn out, get a piece of scrap paper and do a quick test.

    there are quite a lot of ways to use any medium of course so do what you think you can. if you really want to transfer the whole drawing with all the values and stuff you might be better off by sealing the drawing after you finish the transfer. use some acrylic medium perhaps.

    but! - i think you should at least consider this way; use the drawing as a value study and dont transfer the drawing exactly but just keep it next to your painting as reference. then use the paint to put down mayor lines and points only. then focus on putting your middle value down. then the average value for your darks. then the average value for your lights. (you use the pencil study as a guide. and you probably know where is what. a pencil study like this can help a lot more than a photo cause you already studied and simplified the subject).

    use one brush for putting down paint, another brush (clean just damped with water) to soften edges. (soft edges for where form turns, hard edges for cast shadows - just like with pencil drawings)

    then do another pass of darks/lights. find the average value for your darker darks, put it down on the board in the right places, blend with damp brush where necessary. same for lighter lights.

    sorry for the whole book. seriously i dont know much about it and will be struggling as well when i pick this up again.

    have fun.

    Last edited by tensai; October 28th, 2005 at 12:05 AM.
    tensai


    check the Tensai Tokyo Sketch Thread (Sketchbook)

    check the Tensai Cityscapes Thread (Finally Finished)

    bLok


    Quote Originally Posted by strych9ine
    Fuck backgrounds, who needs em.
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    Id like to thank you guys aswell for the tips!
    Cheers Tim

    [url=http://galleryonefone.blogspot.com[/url] This would be my gallery in Sweden

    This would be my Pleine Air blog
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    Thanks tensai, that was really helpful. I'm doing this painting the way you suggested and I think it's turning out pretty well, atleast better than my previous attempts. Right now the painting is mounted on foam board and don't really fit in my scanner, but I'll post it when it's finished.

    Thanks to everybody who replied. You taught me alot.

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    Okay, here it is. Took a brake from it for a while and took my good time finishing it. Not that it shows...


    It started out nice as I used the process tensai described, but as I closed in on the finish I slipped back into my old habit of painting very wet and very fast, too eager to know when to stop and think things over a while. Making the finished picture just as muddy as my other attempts... However I do feel I learned alot in the process, and believe that with training I might actually become good at this.

    Most time spent on the face. Rushed the body and was very frustrated trying to do her hair. Any crits you have give em to me. I'd very much like to hear some tips on how to render her hair, cause with this painting I realized I kinda suck at that.

    Thanks.

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    yo man, I think that's a fucking awesome effort, I'm trying to use gouache myself. It's tough.

    A few portion problems: the nose seems to small, in your sketch it seemed bigger.

    Some value problems: the highlight underneath her nose is too bright, it's almost like a shape that doesn't belong. Her eyes are way too dark in comparison to her whole face and her body.

    Now for my reverse self: Keep it up! IF you don't want to do anything to destroy this piece (I wouldn't because it's a great example of discovery and growth) just trace over it with tracing paper and using that trace paper, use some charcoal and scribble on the opposite side of the paper (not too dark or messy) you can clean it up with some toilet paper or napkins (yea I'm ghetto haah) and then re-trace it onto another clean sheet of paper and perform the same methods you use and alter whatever you might think seems more preferable. It's a time saving process. I'm not a genious in this process but I really honor your work and strength man.

    KEEP ROCKING IT!

    If life gives you , use that SH** to DRAW !
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  18. #18
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    boogie man - i think it shows an incredible improvement dont you? the hair looks pretty fucked and as a whole piece it doesnt look real pretty but thats not the point. point is to learn from this right and i guess you learned a lot. it looks way more three dimensional than the previous two and is much closer to a finished piece. better BG too. i think the next one you should try an even more simple task, so you can focus more on some essential things. now you rushed the body. i would leave the body and only do a face and neck/shoulder next time. i would also not to a famous person, as youll be trying to get a likeness, which is not that important right now. i would also leave the color for now. just make it black and white. or mix burnt sienna and pthalo blue (50/50) as your dark and then add white for your lighter values. you will focus even more on value. with value you show if a surface comes closer or not so its quite important to get right. a lot of oil painting is/was done first monochrome to get the values right, and then glazed over for colour.
    just to make clear though - im no painting and no gouache expert. far far from it.

    glad you saw this through man. good effort.

    tensai.

    tensai


    check the Tensai Tokyo Sketch Thread (Sketchbook)

    check the Tensai Cityscapes Thread (Finally Finished)

    bLok


    Quote Originally Posted by strych9ine
    Fuck backgrounds, who needs em.
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  19. #19
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    hi,

    good effort!

    I am no expert either but i would say you might be happyer if you tried using a bigger bursh size for your skinn rendering. You are getting alot of strokes in your paint and i donno if thats somthing your going for or not. Using a larger brush for the basic shapes will help with the blending of your light / shadow areas. I would also suggest try blending wetin wet but not to much water. Also try to work dark to light gouche is an opaque watercolor so the lights will cover up the darks. I think you coudl really push your values some and agree with the suggestions givien about working in monochrome tones.

    you can also draw under your gouche painting in pencil and go over the drawing in monochromatic values using your drawing as a guide.

    Do some value studies in the medium and get used to how it feels.. you will get the hang of it. do studies of simple obejcts and get used to blending and shading..

    you may also want to experiment with different supports and see what works best for you.. watercolor paper is great for gouche! you could also try those watercolor canvas that they have now.. and clayboard is great too!

    good luck keep painting!!

    ~Carol

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    The nose used to be even smaller, then I went in and tried to fix it but ended up just screwing up the values in that area and still not getting it the right size.

    Anyway, thanks for your support and your tips all of you. You've given me alot of motivation to improve For my next painting I'll take your advice and make it monochrome. I'll try to give the girl from post #1 another go, she deserves it. Maybe some cooler composition this time tho..

    Thanks.

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    I'm not sure if anyone else mentioned this, but what size brush are you using? It looks like you're using some type of round brush, but you should try using a wide flat brush to lay down areas of color. I use rounds only for details.

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    I got a big ass (3/4 inch) flat brush that I use to block in large areas in the beginning of the painting. The rest of my brushes are all round from size oo to 8. I've been thinking I should get more flat brushes and use them instead, and beeing told so now kinda cemented that... Prob is I'm broke. So that'll have to wait for payday.

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    hi!

    brushes are a good investment. I normally have to get one or 2 at a time though cuz they are exspensive. Better to buy ones that are alittle more exspensive and better quality than cheep crappy ones.

    any way, You might also wanna get some filberts too. I love those and they work really well..

    good luck!

    ~Carol

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