Our twelfth pastel portrait came from the same pose as Portrait Nine, but with a much softer treatment. Toned tan paper has served as the background for most of our drawings since July. Here, we used instead the white surface of the interior cover of the notebook. It made the skin tones and the blended pinks and blues much brighter, almost glowing.
You learn something new every day. They forgot to mention that some of the stuff you learn really sucks. Today we learned that white paper causes the scanner light to overpower much of the more delicate shading with our charcoals and pastels. But, it’s nice to know that before you do 100 of them or something. This portrait used a friend’s baby photo as a reference.
Check this out. You may know we’ve been frustrated with spray varnish, the way it makes our pastels and charcoal drawings look different once it’s applied. That was the spray varnish from the craft store, so we took a look around the hardware store instead. Where men go to make art and be men, etc. We thought polyurethane might work, but the guy at the paint counter suggested this Rustoleum product, shown below. At about half the price, it also gives us better results. It requires an optimum spraying technique. Spray too close and it soaks into the paper, leaving a darker area. Spray too far and it seems to dry in the air, covering the paper with a layer of grit. Spraying too fast or too slowly yields similar results.
Maggie in Violet
Acrylic over collage on canvas.
A couple days ago we posted a painting that needed corrective eye surgery.
Our art teacher advised us to burn the photo reference to really tune in to the painting itself. Well, it was digital. After pouring gasoline on our hard drive and throwing lit cigarettes at it… we did our best to reconstruct the eyes. We gave her perhaps a half dozen minor procedures – strictly outpatient.
She seems more confident now, albeit a bit intense. Did you know that people respond to large pupils? Dilated pupils send a visual cue to your viewer that you are very, very interested in them. Certain pharmaceutical chemicals enlarge your pupils, and you may notice people respond to you differently in those times. (Please, do not drive a car on MDMA, kids.) Eye tests can do it, too.
Regardless, all the doubt and hesitation we mentioned before becomes acute when you go to do eye surgery on a painting. It isn’t like touching up a tree or some Kirby krackle. It’s someone looking back at you while you reconstruct the window to their soul.
You know what the awesome thing is, though? White paint. If you screw it up, your worst case scenario is covering all your mistakes with white paint and starting again.
And remember: your cat doesn’t give a damn about the whole enterprise anyway!
We need to tone down the pink on this one, but it’s coming along pretty well.
We’re in uncharted creative waters here, attempting to render the human face in nothing but light and color. We don’t honestly have much of a clue what we’re doing, but we do know exactly what we did.
Here we started from a photo reference. We got the image on our monitor, held a piece of 8×11 office paper up to it, and traced the basic lines of the photo with a fine-point Sharpie. The original photo included the figure from the waist up, and the arms were raised so that her hands touched her hair. That was a bit much for our modest talents. We decided to zoom into the face when we got to the 16×20 canvas.
For our guide, we quickly scrawled the basic shapes and proportions of the face on the canvas in Sharpie. If you ever do this, realize that its going to take a lot to cover up that black ink. It bleeds through paint like crazy. We solved that by painting white over the messy parts, sealing that layer with Mod Podge, and using perhaps two more coats of white to get full coverage. Your basic artist’s paint in a tube may not cut it, but your basic white semi-gloss house paint does a decent job.
After that comes refining the shapes, like the eyes and lips and bone structure, and the clothing. Do you know how hard it is to paint two eyes at a slight angle that appear to be realistically looking at the viewer? Well, let’s say these eyes have been re-painted about 20 times, and leave it at that.
We ran the original photo by a friend to get a consult on the color of the lighting on the face. This is especially challenging for us, and we still don’t have it quite right. The pink remains too starkly pink, not the suffused glow of the original photo. Still, we learn as we go, and not every painting problem can be solved by splashing Kirby Krackle on everything until it explodes. This portrait has been a nice change of pace from the more abstract stuff lately.