Every now and then, I like to scan a portrait at different stages, for my own use. Sometimes it helps to be able to go back and see how I did a certain feature. I’ve had a few questions about how I do a portrait.
I guess you have to have a certain eye for this kind of work but I always hold that it’s more technical training and practice. I don’t trace a face or use a grid. I have my own method, which I learned from my father when I was very small. I can’t work without a ruler. Here are a few points to remember:
1. Begin with the best reference photo you can get. Even if you ultimately draw it in color, first convert it to black and white and up the contrast so you can better see bone structure, highlights and shadows.
2. I always print out the black and white picture, in case I have an electric failure or computer problem. I can work through it then but I prefer to work directly from the computer monitor because I can enlarge it to get a better look at different spots.
3. Using the ruler, I pay close attention to the distance between features; between eyes, eyebrows, bottom of the eyebrows and top of the crease above the eye. nose and upper lip, lower lip and bottom of chin, the width of the forehead, bridge of the nose, bottom of the nose, upper and lower parts of the jaw, etc. Pay attention to the natural lack of symmetry in the face and the tilt of the features. Those are the things that make a portrait more realistic.
4. I used to do the eyes last but sometimes, it can sort of freak you out, having those blank eyes staring back at you. So I draw in the eyes in the first step. Then concentrate on the darkest shadows first.
5. I never look at a face as a flat picture but almost as a sculpture. When drawing in shadows and highlights, I actually use the pencil or blender with curves, paying close attention to the amount of pressure it takes to get the effect I want. The best advice here is just to practice a lot.
6. I always tell other artists to NEVER throw away a piece they’ve been working on. After you sleep on it, or sometimes years in the distance, you may feel differently about it. If nothing else, a piece you just can’t finish will be a reminder of what not to do.
I think this WIP, from this point on, is pretty much self-explanatory. But if anyone has questions, or if I’ve left out something just ask and I’ll help if I can. Click on the thumbnails if you'd like to see them close-up.
The subject is my niece, Julie Fontenot, a very talented actress, who kindly gave me permission to post these.