Monday, August 10, 2009

Elizabeth Dismount

This is after going back in and taking care of that last 20% of work on the face. It’s really about defining edges and checking my value schemes. Most of this work is done by placing the image across the room, or under a heavy squint.

Portraits and likenesses are always a tricky prospect. I find that most failures come from trying too hard to reproduce one's reference. A photo can only portray how something looks, and that is hardly the measure of a person. Looking back, I find that I didn't really understand portraiture until I spent some time doing caricatures. It was a real eye-opener to understand it was possible to capture a person’s “likeness” without accurately rendering their features. Now I'm more concerned with the fidelity, or the truth of a thing.

This piece felt good all the way through. The way spending a day with Elizabeth Montgomery should be. The thing I'm most pleased with is not that it looks like her, I had lots of good reference so that wasn't very difficult, but it feels like her.

Ease in

You'll also notice I more or less stayed away from the figure up to this point. This is because I’m thinking of it as part of the composition rather than part of the illustration. It is a design element I'm using to push the eyes rather than capturing them.

Wet for dry

I didn't have time to take shots along the way as I had to work very wet and quickly on the hair. This was a very traditional watercolor approach. Starting with yellow then progressing on to occur, quinacridone, and finally a burnt sienna.

I also find it odd that I work very wet when illustrating dry hair but very dry when illustrating wet hair.

Cool it down

I've decided to solve the conundrum of hair color by splitting the difference and going for a slight strawberry blonde. Of course, the combination of this and her warm flesh tones is just way too much red and orange. The natural choice for the background was to head to the other side of the color wheel and go for a deep blue-green. This contrast would be a little too much left on its own, so I decided to add just a hint of violet to neutralize the turquoise. I'm still working on a wet background, so I can keep my edges soft.

But wait, there's more

Right now I'm finishing my last few pages of Wednesday Comics, and that takes precedence over everything. But, now that I have that under control, how about we finish up with Sam?

With watercolors I generally tend to work from background to foreground and light to dark, but I like to mix things up on portraits. I want to balance the intensity of the background against the face, so I'll lay in about 80 to 90% of the work on the portrait itself, then I switch to the background. Backgrounds on portraits are traditionally very neutral, and this avoids all possible conflicts. But, I like color… a lot, so I try to balance things rather than avoid them altogether.

I start by sheeting the background with water. Then I use paynes gray to darken the edges of the image and create a texture. I'm trying to produce a halo of light and color around the subject. The texture is also part of the balance act. Creating texture in the background will make the subject seem softer by comparison.