Creating portraits and realism
Every artist dreams of making portraits and creating art that can capture the essence and likeness of a person. Creating portraits is a time honored profession of artists. Featured here are some portraits I have made in recent times, using pencils, pastels and watercolor mediums.
Useful links to free art books
Are colored pencils good for portraits?
Okay, once upon a time, colored pencils were a kids toy or idle plaything, and seen as nothing to write home about. But in the last 150 years, makers of pencils of Quality, especially Faber-Castell, have increased the color range beyond 100 colors, and in varying degrees of hardness or softness of pencil. The result is now that today, high quality advertising and art design and fashion designers are using pencils in ever greater amounts, as they discover the power of the colored pencil, and the rapid way it captures the image.
This image if one from a while back, but I had to resurrect the Swedish Girl for old times sake. It's not just that she is a blond stunner who appears with few clothes. That kind of thing is de riguer in art nowadays. Rather, it's proof, that with some black heavy cartridge paper, and some amazing pencils and a lot of patience, an artist can get some terrific results with what is an often overlooked medium - and getting a result like this can turn heads if the subject looks a certain way. Proving that yes, the mighty colored pencil can be every bit as good (and faster) than painting with paint and brushes.
The technique for Pencil Drawing
The technique is explained to the right here. The method when it comes to any art is to work from either dark to light or from light to dark. Most artists will work from light to dark, gradually adding darker detail to areas and shadows to make the subject more "solid" looking. Since here, the paper is already dark, this gives a huge advantage as most of the shadows are already put in here, so you have to work in a kind of controlled reverse. Working lightly and carefully with the nearest colour to the colour of the subject is critical. I deliberately used a darker shade than the actual colour I was seeing, as that produces a better result, and also is a safer way to render the subject on dark backing. This is a great exercise in patience and technique tweaking.
Colour choices and planning
Notice that in the painting, all the warm oranges, browns and reds are in the foreground, while the blues and greens are in the background. They are given their own areas. This was deliberate, as too many mixes are visually giving the wrong message. Separating colours works in painting, but giving them their due importance is also necessary. Colours have to allowed to "speak". I added some tiny amounts of greens into the woman's hair, to get some balance (also on her arm to the bottom right of the painting). Similarly, I allowed some warm colours to travel to the background to allow the eye of the viewer "move more" around the composition. Colour is so important in a painting. And it naturally helps that the subject is very appealing to the viewer too.
I also mention the LUMINISTS here as a group of painters who specifically use light as part of the medium and technique and part of the subject instead of just an ordinary part of painting. Zero-ing in on the way light is used and treated for rendering people is a great way to help explore the subject more, and develop better finished art. One of my favorite painters Thomas Kincade, the luminist and bucolic painter of late - was a "painter of light" as he referred to himself.
Alan Mc Keogh (c) Copyright 2016.
The finished result
So how was this picture made? It started life as a basic sketch on white (gasps!) paper, but I abandoned this when I began to wonder how I was going to capture the amazing blond hair she has? I decided this was a job for Black high quality Cartridge paper.
And so I began outlining it in white and skin colored pencils. Pretty soon I had the likeness locked down, and began slowly adding light to the dark of the paper. I used the luminist way of painting. Naturally it is not a simple case of just using standard pencil art rules here, these rules force the artist to think different.
The Luminists are or were a group of artists who prefer their subject to be "painted by light", and the subjects ten to be always indoors or in low light, and they are tricky to achieve. Painting people in dark settings is not my thing, but the moody atmosphere this subject offered was too irresistible.
I took a whole day finishing this portrait, and I approached it similar to how I would a painting. Pencils are thin and constantly need sharpening but they allow me to work fast, and the range of colors means I can mix as much or as little as I need to. The hair has whites and yellows and tiny warm hues in it and some slight blues to cool it down as the background is blue.
I spent a lot of attention on the face and getting the skin tones right, with the little light there was. Another trick I used in this creation was to create it in low lighting, not quite candle-light, but dark enough, to recreate the conditions of lighting. There are areas here in this portrait where there is no pencil pigment at all, and the colour of the paper is doing it's job of creating that darkness that I so badly want. It's great to let the paper colour do some of the work.
Another device I used in the composition was to change the background dividing line - the part where the blue background goes from Blue to Black, that change happens just behind her head, forcing an "overlap" and adding more depth in the work. The shading and shadows in the face were tricky, and I had to be careful not to have too many shadows as they would ruin the look of the subject, so I combined some tones in my head before painting the "simpler version of shadows. Simplifying tones is all part of being an artist. Something I will return to time and time again in other articles.
Alan Mc Keogh.
(All art on this page by Alan Mc Keogh.)
From the Sketchbook
This portrait was sketched quickly in a few minutes using a HB pencil. The heavier black line work was done using a trusty Faber-Castell PITT marker, which handles like a brush, giving lines of different thickness, depending on the pressure applied by the hand on the paper. This was created on heavy Cartridge paper.
The colours were then painted in with Windsor Field watercolors, a kit I carry in my pocket, as it is small and compact. It's ideal for capturing a quick painting out in the field.
I will add more to this page in the coming days.
These materials are relatively inexpensive and can be got most art shops or stores.
People are constantly amazed by the many different ways a portrait can be created by an artist. I mean, how can you beat using traditional art paints and colors and materials, right?
This project involved turning a photo of a woman into a successful painting. Except this was going to be a digital painting, all based on a blond who posed with her hand under her chin in a photo and transforming her into this delicate alabaster-skinned woman with copper colored hair. How did I do this?
Basically I used a Digital Art graphics application, called Adobe Illustrator and a small bit of Adobe Photoshop, to alter her and turn her into this. Her original picture is at the bottom of the page. Quite a difference.
What really brought this to public scrutiny is when I was asked by a writer who saw this portrait in the old web page to explain how I made this painting and would I assist in an educational article. And who am I to refuse such a request. You can click the picture or here and be taken to the article, and enjoy reading. The article comprises some text written by me and the writer explaining the art being made. It is well worth the read, and might even make you want to try making digital art with a computer.
(The article will open in a new tab.)