Friday, May 10, 2013

Richard in a Restaurant

A couple nights ago I was in Boston having supper with some artist friends. While we waited for the food to be served, I painted a portrait of Richard, who sat across from me under a down-facing spotlight.

The light hit his forehead and nose, leaving the rest in shadow. Within the shadow, the bottom half of his face was lit from the light bouncing off the table. This lighting gave him a film noir look. He has chiseled features, with well defined planes, which makes him fun to draw.

It was a fancy restaurant, and I had to be careful not to get my paint on the cloth napkins. To keep things simple, I limited the colors to black and white casein paints. Even though my transparent watercolors were open and available, I didn't use them.

Two steps in the process.
1) I quickly sketched the main shapes with a red-brown watercolor pencil. Then I quickly massed in the shadow as a single tone.
2) I used darker values for the up-facing planes and the side planes within the shadow.

This detail of the final sketch is about an inch square. You can see how I was trying to group the values within the shadows according to planes. So for example, the side planes of the mouth barrel, the jaw, and the forehead received a darker tone. A little of that red-brown pencil shows through the shadow.

Right before the meal arrived, I went to the rest room to wash out my brush and palette.

Paints: Jack Richeson / Shiva casein colors 
Moleskine watercolor notebook

Winsor & Newton Series 7 round watercolor brush


Mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Whoa man, you have got a good talent. I have also this in me. I can sketch people but I never took that talent to another level. Thanks mate for the article. I enjoyed reading it while having my cup of coffee.

Have a great day!
Finn Felton
Kopi Luwak

Mark said...

Always amazed at how you can draw and paint moving targets. Whenever I try to draw from life, my subject moves their head and the shadows shift and I end up having to basically make it up. It doesn't look consistent. You not only keep the lighting consistent in the larger shapes, but also in the little details in this and other sketches you've shown here. I think you must have a pretty good visual memory, and draw half from your subject, and half from a memory of your subject before he moved his head or changed expressions.

Tim said...

"Whenever I try to draw from life, my subject moves their head and the shadows shift and I end up having to basically make it up. It doesn't look consistent."

This is my biggest struggle too. You start out drawing learning to not draw what your mind tells you to see (your memory of objects) but what you actually see - then you have to shift in the opposite direction, mentally: draw what you remember and bot what the object looks like now, having shifted its position.

I wish somebody with the teaching ability of James Gurney would address this two=stage mental journey of the artist, which feels in real life like schizophrenia.

Unknown said...

That's incredible that you can do that so quickly, but I know it comes from hours and hours of practice that you've put in. I appreciate the way you describe the process too. Very helpful!

Jenny Woolf said...

Hey that is good. Catches such an intent and strong look. I love it.

Robert J. Simone said...

Responding to the struggles of Tim and Mark....(with the disclaimer that I am not a portrait artist but I draw head studies to keep my drawing skills fluid)I think the secret is the massing in of the big shadow shape(s) quickly right at the start. If that's done with a decent level of accuracy you always know where the light is. The smaller planes within the shadow won't change much even if the position of the head shifts. So, from there you can infer when necessary.

Aggie said...

How fantastic to see this in stages! I discovered your blog a few months ago and am grateful for everything you share here - your process, thoughts, videos, reviews - all so helpful to this out-of-practice artist. I have years of practice ahead of me and your posts are an inspiration to keep on plugging away, Thank you thank you!

James Gurney said...

Mark and Tim, you've put your finger on one of the central frustrating challenges--and also greatest joys--of sketching people in the wild. Simone said it right: in a case like this I tried to map out the shadow shapes right away, as I could work out the subforms later even if his head moved around a lot. Which he did, because even though he was willing to sort of hold still, we were all having a lively conversation and everyone was moving a lot.

The advantage of a moving model, once you develop those memory skills that Simone is talking about, is that the resulting picture usually has more conviction and expression, qualities that rarely come through in a painting from a static model.

Jim Douglas said...

James, your mention of reflected light from the table top made me wonder the following somewhat random question:

Do you think Hollywood uses red carpets to reflect warm color into the shadows in publicity photographs of actors & actresses?

I never thought about it before, but it would seem to make sense.

Tim said...

Simone and James, thank you for that pointer, I'll work on it. Thanks to both of you for taking the time.

This blog is the best.

Meera Rao said...

Reading your 2 step process I see that it is incredible how wonderfully you simplify and make it seem so easy:)Its finding the masses of shadow I am still struggling with! - so I guess looking at your out put my take away is 'practice, practice, practice' Thanks for the inspiration!