# Thread: Portraits for Absolute Beginners (Image Heavy)

1. ## Portraits for Absolute Beginners (Image Heavy)

NOTE: all photos used are free, low res samples from Kindgirls, showcasing nude/figurative photography from many leading websites on the subject.
http://www.kindgirls.com/ - **Warning**Nudity**

There are many beginning art students who post figurative work in the crit section, with largely the same problems. The foremost, which they're often told, is that they don't understand the forms and anatomy of the face. It may seem strange since we all have faces, and see them every day. Certainly, we get the idea of symmetry, that you can split a face in two and get equal, opposite sides (although many people actually aren't perfectly symmetrical). But, there are other geometrical shapes that you wouldn't notice unless you'd been taught, and the spacing of features also is bound by geometrical guidelines.

The 3D structure of the head has been covered in detail by great artists such as Nathan Fowkes, Eric Gist, Kevin Chen, Michael Mentler, and others, none of whom I could improve upon, so here are some quick links to their works:

Andrew Loomis:
Blocking the Head into Planes: http://www.learning-to-see.co.uk/ima...mis-planes.jpg

Nathan Fowkes:
(This first one has a tremendous wealth of structural/geometrical information)
Charcoal Portrait Process, Front and Profile View Proportion Basics to Finished Portrait: http://nathanfowkes.blogspot.com/200...g-post_15.html
Charcoal Portrait Process: http://nathanfowkes.blogspot.com/200...wing-demo.html
Charcoal Portrait Process: http://nathanfowkes.blogspot.com/201...coal-demo.html
Watercolor Portrait Process: http://nathanfowkes.blogspot.com/200...g-post_09.html
Watercolor Portrait Process: http://nathanfowkes.blogspot.com/201...this-week.html

A selection of figure work, scroll down for head structures: http://www.conceptart.org/forums/sho...81&postcount=1
Another selection of figure works, one strong, structural sketch of a head: http://www.conceptart.org/forums/sho...6&postcount=35
Basic forms of the face in light and shadow, some great finished portraits, and other figure work: http://www.conceptart.org/forums/sho...3&postcount=55
Anatomy studies, Notes on forms of the face, noses, eyes: http://www.conceptart.org/forums/sho...0&postcount=79
Beautiful Finished Portraits, note the different light settings: http://www.conceptart.org/forums/sho...&postcount=106
More Beautiful Finished Portraits: http://www.conceptart.org/forums/sho...&postcount=127

Kevin Chen:

Michael Mentler:
This is his sketchbook, go through all of it. Mentler carefully considers all the separate geometric forms of the head and how they join together. He then plays with and distorts these features for dramatic effect. This is a tremendous resource for all figurative artists: http://www.conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=72362

The reason for me posting, though, is not to harp on anatomy. It's to emphasize the importance of light. James Gurney has posted several times in his blog on lighting, both on different types of lighting, and their various psychological effects - an aspect which I could never describe so well. So you're better off reading straight from him:

The Basics of Light and Form:
Types of Light and Shadow: http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/20...part-1_15.html
Overcast Light: http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/20...rm-part-3.html

Portraiture:
Front Lit & Back Lit: http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/20...nd-contre.html
Three Quarter Lighting: http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/20...e-quarter.html
Short Lighting: http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/20...ing-short.html
Split Lighting: http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/20...-lighting.html
Top Lighting: http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/20...hting-top.html
Under Lighting: http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/20...rlighting.html
Color Bleeding: http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/20...-bleeding.html

My intent here is to emphasize the importance of light in finding and describing form, so that beginning artists gain a greater understanding of how light works, and can use it consciously as an artist's tool, compositionally in their work.

Here's what frustrates me everytime a beginning student tries to draw a portrait. This is what leads to dinnerplate-flat faces. The blank, white surface of the page is flat, and it's the strongest, brightest element until you get rid of it:
Last edited by TASmith; October 31st, 2010 at 05:08 AM.

2. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

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Great idea for a thread. I haven't checked out the links yet, but the names you are dropping are the same ones I would recommend, so I am sure this thread will be very useful.

I notice you don't have a link in there for Kevin Chen yet. So here is one you can add in:
http://www.angelfire.com/art3/kchendemos/

And you forgot Loomis! Head and Hands book:
http://fineart.sk/index.php?cat=14

EDIT: I don't have the links off hand, but if you can find some posts on the Reilly construction of the head it would be really good. ccsears on the boards has posted some tutorials of it somewhere here, and I think someone else has too (RaileyH?). Might take a bit of digging, but would definitely be worth it.

One thing I want to make clear, both girls above are beautiful, and you could use either photo to make incredible drawings. Whit Brachna has done some really gorgeous studies with soft, ambient lighting.

What I'm really recommending for beginners is MOAR OBSERVATION!!!

Before you create scenes from imagination, you have to observe from life. I'll be posting some more pics soon, but the idea isn't just to copy the photos. Students need to note the details/etc I post here, look for them in real life, and study them.

4. Here is a series of portraits, all frontal poses, and all in similar lighting conditions - a warm, sunny day, but look at the variety of shadows!

This has to do with the angle of sunlight, either shining from behind, in front, or to the side. I flipped some of these pics horizontally, so the shadow's always on the right, to better compare the differences you get, just from turning the model a little bit in relation to the light.

Again, all photos used are free, low res samples from http://www.kindgirls.com/ - **Warning**Nudity**
Last edited by TASmith; October 29th, 2010 at 01:08 AM.

5. Just to show more examples, here are some more poses in the same lighting, but these models are all back lit.
Last edited by TASmith; October 31st, 2010 at 03:01 AM.

6. Now that I've shown some of the variety of lighting you can get under the same conditions, let's consider different lighting conditions. Let's start with different times of day.
Last edited by TASmith; October 31st, 2010 at 03:04 AM.

7. Thanks for posting this, these photo's and links will be helpfull to many people (including me).

8. well but pretty common smilley girls are the easier ones aren't they?
will it get to old womans with awkward expressions on the sunlignt wearing a dress with bright colours so it would also light her face from botom?

9. older people are easier because they have more lines. Their features are also often assymetrical, so you don't have to worry so much about symmetry. Younger people are harder because there are wide smooth surfaces (cheeks, jaw, forehead) that are hard to indicate through line (without making them look older) and it's harder to affix their features in exactly the right place. Every line you put on a face is going to make him/her look a bit older, unless you can blend it to feel like even value gradation.

The subject of pretty young women wasn't so much my choice, as it was the only source I can find with a variety of head shots by professional photographers in all types of light settings. Anyone with different links, be my guest.

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Yes, young faces are much easier to find references for. I guess people just aren't as interested in looking at old people. I would suggest looking at some artists who are really good at older portraits--Rembrandt comes to mind.

I used to have a link for a bunch of really interesting photographs of Native American portraits, some of which were very wrinkled and full of character. Unfortunately I seem to have lost it...so here are some more links to young beautiful people:
http://www.femalefaces.com/001.html
http://www.atomicpinup.com/PinUpIndex.html

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stupid double post...grumble mumble...

12. Here's my favorite portrait photographer, if you ever want to study some fascinating faces of older people: http://nullermanden.deviantart.com/

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Those photos in that last link are really interesting TASmith, but they look odd in term of lighting. Either very Photoshopped or taken with some weird camera technique.

And because I don't want to post in this thread without dropping a link, here is the biggest ref of all. The lighting sucks, but if you want to do studies of different types of faces it may serve you well:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/themuse...7623741486824/

14. Registered User Level 3 Gladiator: Catervarii
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Love loomis head and hands. I carry pages of that around always. Same for his figure drawing book. They are like my little drawing bibles. But I've been looking for stuff with more detail lately because I want to do some portraits and this thread is a gold mine.

15. Great thread, ill be spendin more time here for sure

16. Great thread, ill be spendin more time here for sure

17. jakebilbao@yahoo.com Level 1 Gladiator: Andabatae
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this was very helpful, thank you very much

19. Nullermanden has really cool themes, and this tutorial is really helpful too. Thanks.

20. Awesome thread. I recommend this photographer, Sudoksa. He has a wide range of subjects, including old people, and his lighting is usually pretty damn good.

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