24 February 2009

Portrait in Gouache: Ross Lynn Moore Sr.

This is the last portrait from my "Portraits in Gouache" class. This is not high art, but it was a great lesson in value and form, and I got a portrait of my dad out of it. The source of this portrait was a color film photo, so I didn't have a clean digital image to work from. It forced me to carefully consider value relationships and required some shape invention. The idea of shape invention is often emphasized in class. Shape, value, edge, then color...in that order of importance.

I described the method in last week's post. The image above is the final portrait. Below left is the original source photo, below middle is during the painting stage, and below right is just before blending. Since this is a posthumous portrait I chose an image where my dad is looking straight out, to create a strong direct connection with the viewer. I also pulled a lot of straight lines to give the portrait a chiseled, masculine appearance. I used Robert Simmons synthetic white sable brushes and Winsor & Newton Designers gouache. The painting took about 18 hours to complete.

Finally, here's a cool trick I learned from Rob Howard's gouache book. If you get stray or bent hairs on a synthetic brush, dip it in very hot water (just boiling) for a minute or 2, and the hairs will re-align. Works really well.

Ross Lynn Moore Sr. 2009, 10 x 8, gouache on illustration board.

17 February 2009

Portrait in Gouache

This past term I took a 10-week class taught by Jeff Watts on portrait painting with gouache. Since this was my first attempt at painting, I limited my palette to black and white so I could focus on value, edge control, and general painting technique.

Gouache is an opaque, matte-finish, water-soluble medium which can be re-activated repeatedly with water. Because it is water-soluble, it is also very fragile, which might be considered a drawback. It can be applied with a bristle brush, pen, or airbrush, and can be used in combination with other mediums. Gouache dries darker. A good technique book is "Gouache for Illustration" by Rob Howard. I found a copy at the library.

In the basic technique, I laid in a rough outline with a 2B pencil on a toned ground, making sure to include some key landmarks. Then working from dark to light I added non-overlapping areas of value, aka tiles, to model the form. Finally, I defined edges by blending adjacent tiles to varying degrees with a damp brush. This piece was a great exercise in shape invention, value assignment, and edge control. It took me about 20 hours to complete.

A note on my subject: Isaiah Berlin was a leading 20th century philosopher. A brilliant mind with a face to match IMO. I used his portrait, shot by Richard Avedon, as the source material for this painting. On first impression, I thought he resembled an owl (good look for a philosopher) so I played that up by slightly exaggerating his facial twists and rhythms .

For artists working in the medium, check out Virtual Gouache Land, a very talented painter there. Also see Thomas Paquette's gouache works. His oils are equally stunning IMO.

Added note: I'll be publishing future posts once weekly, probably on Tuesdays.

Isaiah Berlin 2008, gouache on illustration board, 10 x 8.

13 February 2009

Head Drawing: Add Some Tilt

This is where I'm at with head drawing on a good day. For this drawing, I modified the model's gesture by adding a slight tilt of the head to the left to added energy (and interest) that might not be there if the head was drawn straight up. A simple way to push the pose, and the main lesson I learned from this drawing session. I drew this portrait with a Conte Pierre Noire 1710 2B charcoal pencil on smooth newsprint. It took about 2 hours to complete.

(Added note: I only post drawings which are solely my work. In class, instructors often demo directly on student paintings and drawings. I have lots of good drawings that aren't all mine. You won't see those here.)

Van 2009, charcoal on newsprint, 24 x 18

10 February 2009

Portraits from Photos III

This is the final portrait I drew for the "Portraits from Photos" class. Again, the basic technique was to lay in the drawing with a graphite pencil, add large areas of value with powdered charcoal and a brush, then work the image up with graphite pencils and a kneaded eraser.

I find it hard to do my best work if I'm not emotionally connected to the image I'm about to draw. I don't have to be really excited, just enough to sustain me to that point where I suspect the piece might work. Then I'm just excited about creating something visually appealing.

I asked my husband to sit for this one. I designed his pose to convey a sense of dignity. He thinks he looks mad, but he likes the portrait overall. This drawing took me roughly 18 hours to complete.

Tim 2008, graphite and charcoal on bristol board, 10 x 8

05 February 2009

Portraits from Photos II

Here is another portrait from the "Portraits from Photos" class I mentioned in the last post. This is a portrait of my 15-year-old daughter. In designing the composition, I wanted to convey her guarded personality, so I posed her looking away with arms cross in front. I thought the pose added stability to the image, produced some nice negative space, and kept the viewer's eyes in the picture plane. Instead of powdered charcoal, I used powdered graphite, which seemed to work just as well. This portrait took about 20 hours to complete.

I plan to do a portrait of her once a year. Hopefully she'll enjoy having the set in later years, and it will be a satisfying way for me to chronicle my progress as an artist.

Amanda 2008, graphite on bristol board, 11 x 10