Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The power of objective observation, suggestion, and economy in drawing (the portrait)

Portrait of my daughter Kamyla at age four

Tools: 6b pencil, stump blender
Technique: Tonal shading

Tone or tonal shading refers to the idea of applying values beginning from dark, middle and lights soft tones always working around the light until accomplishing your brightest bright. (refer to scale value)

First step, most important and significant step I recommend is your basic foundation.
This is a very light drawing (not hard, heavy or intense lines), gesture drawing or sketch which includes:
Composition: The ability to predict your figure or subject in large scale by pure prediction and observation in your paper space (usually 18 x 24)
-The process of prediction is a repetitive process which you'll acquire with time. It is important to spend more time looking at your subject than your drawing.
-In this process you must think big and should not concentrate in one area for too long.
-Like I said previously, your lines at this point are very light and also multiple.
-This is your very basic foundation, your skeleton or supporter of your figure. At this point you are only positioning your elements of the features including recording a center line in the face for perspective purposes.
-Positioning is the ability of suggesting every single element of the portraits in terms of shapes.
-”Think shapes”. Shapes are a great tool for association. In the process of prediction these shapes help us see what is next to what (measuring) . You can create your own shapes according of how you see, but I strongly recommend the oval. This is a generic standard shape easy to manipulate in any size and circumstance.
-Looking for effective shapes is also a repetitive process but one way is (which I think is the best one) to make connective associations. These connection are simply the light and shadow effect.
-The singles areas of light and shadows become single shapes with different values and this becomes an easy tool when finding shapes.(Example: The chin is one single shape, also the forehead, or the shape of the nose)
Finding a point of reference (after basic foundation)
This refers to the idea of finding a working spot that will help you in the development of your drawing, a reference point or target point.
-The target point is a central starting point to build all the elements of your portrait by association.
-This target point is the nose. The nose is a great tool for positioning and establishing the rest of the features . This is the mother of all reference. This is your guide and map when developing your portrait. The nose is great for alignment, association and finding distances from one element to the next one.
-In conclusion, when you accomplish your basic foundation which is a very light contour line gesture of the head including hair, center line, line for the eyes, nose and lips, then you first draw a location for the nose. With this method you'll be working from the inside-out.
"Making Corrections"
Second step
, we have pretty much built a decent basic foundation in our portrait drawing at this point, but we haven't use any heavy, hard lines or shading of any kind.
-Also at this point all your elements of the features should be in position such as nose, eyes and eyebrows, lips, shape for the chin, area of the forehead, position of the ears and shape of the ears, hair, and neck.
-So now we are ready to make some corrections. This is a great chance for revision, objectivity and measuring our proportions.
-One common mistake is that we tend to make corrections from the very beginning without a basic foundation. This mistake will lead you to a vicious circle and frustration, plus you are also risking your composition and proportions.
-Measuring is really associating by observation (I believe there are not rules or numbers, just eye observation). In this process you are looking for distances and relation from one element to the next one. Here are some observations:
-Make sure your nose is not too long (another common mistake, I call this the Greek long nose)
-Our goal is to get as close as we can to the likeness to the figure we are drawing either from reference or life model so:
-Since we are working from the inside-out and the nose as reference, find the distance from nose to the eyes level, especially the eye lids, this must be very specific.
-Here comes an important step in reference to the nose eyes connection. Find the universal triangle of nose-eyes proportion. The triangle area must include (enclose) button center of nose to whole eyes area (may be eyebrows) and lids. With this triangle you should be able to verify-correct with almost perfect accuracy the appropriate distance/relation of eye-nose area.
-Once this triangle is created and developed, it is a great starting point for measuring other elements such as finding all the distances associated around with this triangular area like lips size, chin, size and distance of forehead, distance to the ears, high and lower cheek, hair width, lips width, size and width of neck (don't forget neck mostly comes from behind the ears)and width of nose.
-Don't panic if your portrait begins to shrink or lessen in size!!! this is very common and with practice and repetition you should overcome this issue.
“Defining your lines and first shadows”
Third step

So far everything that we have covered is basically in relation to our basic foundation which as I mentioned before is based on multiple light lines.
-First of all, clean your drawing from all the extra lines that you don't need by erasing them.
-Also make sure you begin to render you shapes in a more realistic matter. For example, the shape of the eyes. In here you must be very specific and you must avoid drawing from memory. Eyes shape and size must be exact (also of course in relation to the whole figure). This is the maximum expression and soul of the person. (Stay away from the Egyptian eye shape)
-Line definitions bases its roots in the concept of line pressure (hard-soft) and light-shadow effect. Since we are working with tonal shading the main idea is that the line you define eventually must equal the same tone shading value (the line will vanish). Lines must be built from dark to light, thick to thing according to the lights and shadows effect. At this point your drawing should already be giving you some signs of depth and realism. It is important the elegance and consistency of your lines to achieve this effect. In addition, your lines must have a sense of rhythm and unity.
-You first shadows are really your foundation shadows. You wan to go easy on the pressure, always from dark to light. In reality at this point you are only positioning your shadows. Fill in some basic shadings, even on the hair (I recommend the one line direction method for the hair).
------------------------------------------------------------------------ “Building more shadows and the effectiveness of economy suggestion.”
Fourth step
-Economy in drawing is defined by the ability of the artist to control shading, lines (or any drawing in general) without overworking your values (like the phrase “less is more”). Especially in this kind of portrait of my daughter. Drawing a child requires softer values. At his point you are shading all the way. You must be more objective too. Also, make an effort to keep the original drawing while you are shading and keep the same structure. As a consequence you might loose the likeness of the portrait in relation to reality.
- Shading must also be elegant. And the transition or gradation from one value to the next one should be soft and consistent. Remember to always work around the light, don't draw on the lightest area (you can always erase if you need to get a brighter spot)
-while you are shading use the stump blender while you work to blend your values more naturally and realistic (make sure to clean your blender from the graphite)
-It is important to accomplish high contrast in your drawings. Don't be afraid of going dark where is dark and light where is lighter. Confidence is part of the artist development of building impacting drawings and high contrast plays an important role.

More to come...

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