Monday, December 17, 2012

Charicature Portraits

As I mentioned in my previous post, I've recently taken on a variety of portrait work. The previous one was a HUGe  four foot by three foot imaginative family portrait done in oils with tons of details and more realistic features than caricature but by no means photo realistic. The One I want to show today leans much more in the direction of caricature but certainly not fully as I didn't go out of my way to exaggerate features other than the size of the head and some minor facial expressions and hair shape.
I took some video of me painting this image while discussing things as I go along. Unfortunately I probably won't have time to edit and post that until the new year. I began the image with drawings of the heads which I got approved by the client, then drew the bodies on separate paper and combined the two in photoshop playing with head size. then went into color samples and in particular for this image focused on how I was intending to paint the snow. 
 The drawing taped to a movable board that can be lifted and rotated if needed. The tape keeps the paper from buckling while also leaving us a clean white edge at the end. For this image I traced the final drawing to the watercolor paper with a light table but often I find that you can print the final onto final paper in a fraction of the time. The trouble of course is you have to use a thinner paper than may be desirable and even then will often have a hard time with the printer not being able to feed the paper correctly. For the printer method I find the heaviest paper that works is 140 lb and you have to make sure you have the grain of the paper feeding through the printer horizontally so that you can gently roll the paper prior to printing.
 Before painting the sky I masked out the foreground elements with winsor newton masking and used a supernib masking fluid for tiny details. Then I mixed a decent size batch of the sky color, pre-wet the paper with clean water using a spray bottle and  a large brush to go fast. I let the water dry for a bit then went in with a second coat just before applying large, fast,,horizontal strokes of paint which are more saturated at the top and less towards the horizon. For these large flakes I needed to work fast and get the salt into the paint before it dried to much. gently sprinkling salt onto the wet paint creates this great texture that looks unbelievably like falling snow flakes. For smaller flakes wait a bit more time before using the salt.
 Then let the sky dry. You can use a hairdryer to speed this up. Then peel off the masking fluid and apply some loose color ot the foreground. For a little texture int eh foreground snow I sprinkled some drops of water before the paint dries. Before peeling the masking off I generally use a wet brush and paper towel to get rid of any excess paint so that won't be smudged onto the clean white paper underneath.
 I build the faces up slowly with layers of paint. The precise method for this will depend on if you want hard edges shading on the face or softer. For hard edge, let each layers dry before applying another, for soft edge you'll need all your paint colors premixed so you can quickly lay one color into another int eh limited window you have. This takes much more practice to learnt eh exact time to lay int eh secondary and additional shading.
 generally for faces in watercolor I lay in all of the skin tones first and then hair building up in layers before finishing with the eyes, mouth, lips and such. This keeps darker paint from leaking into the skin tones.
 Unfortunately I was feeling the crunch of time so had to stop taking photo reference at this point. basically I continued to lay int eh facial features and hair in layers then painted the clothing and skis. Then for finishing touches Pulled out a bit of color around the skies to indicate misty snow, then used some gauche splattered on the paint legs to indicate small snow. Lastly I used  slightly wet brush to pull some of the colors off the figures behind them to indicate movement.The final scan is at the top of this post.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Imaginative Family Portraits

The last few months have challenged me with a few opportunities to create portrait work. This is something I decided a couple months back that I would like to consider pursuing in a bit more depth. While portraits have never been my specialty and while I do struggle with them I think I found a couple of niches that work for me and give great results for the client and that I enjoy doing. One of those styles is the new style I'm calling "Imaginative Family Portraits". When I told a friend about this he asked me if I was painting an imaginary family for a guy who doesn't actually have a family.

What it actually is is to use various pictures of a family as photo reference and sort of collage them together if needed to get the best qualities from each photo. Then the really imaginative part is in the background or in how we chose to portray those figures. In doing this we end up with various photo references with various lighting situations so I basically have to imagine the light on their faces and often find other photo references to draw the folds on the clothing and such. It's a far cry from having the family sit in front of me to paint or just using one photo to copy meticulously. In the end it's not a traditional sort of portraiture at all but serves as an interesting conversation piece that hopefully at least captures their likenesses.  For this particular image we went through a number of ideas and decided on showing his family snuggled into a background displaying the various family vacations they had been on.
We also worked in various other interesting tid bits from the family personalities like colleges they attended, the restaurant the parents went on their first date at etc.
I would be interested in doing more of this sort of project for the right price. I've done four of these so far and each of them has fallen between 100-200 hrs. from start to finish! So they aren't cheap but could be just the thing for anyone looking for a memorable gift you can't get just anywhere. Feel free to contact me for a quote or inquiries, Another style of portraiture I've been experimenting is similar to caricature. I'll show some pics for that image in another post tomorrow.