View Full Version : Not usually a portrait person

07-16-2001, 09:24 PM
I'm not usually a portrait peerson (I usually hang out in the figure forum), but a friend asked me to do a portrait for her. I do a lot of compressed charcoal but my first attempt lost a lot of the detail I wanted, so I tried black prismacolor pencil.

This is the result.... any tips on how I can improve for the next one will be greatly appreciated. (I also posted this in the drawing forum for advice).


Thanks for viewing

07-17-2001, 05:29 AM
Hi Pete,

regarding the tip section... I can't give you any. I think your portrait is just beautyful. The shading and expression are excellent.

You are a portrait person.

Have a nice day

07-17-2001, 08:21 AM
This is a lovely image - great expression on the face. Can't tell of course how close the likeness is. Did you work from life or a photo?

I love some of the textures in this - especially the hair. The work on the hair and clothes looks very clean and crisp. However, the face seems to have lost a degree of crispness. Perhaps if you reserved some really white highlights on certain parts such as the nose (not everywhere, though. Don't over do it!). Likewise sharpen up the eyes with some real darks which would unite them more with the depth of tone on the hair.

Personally - and this is just me I dare say - I am not a big fan of faded out, floating bodies. I think the composition would be much stronger if you cropped it so that her body met the bottom edge of the paper.

The other thing is that I would give the figure more space in front of her and less behind. That way she doesn't seem crowded by the edge of the paper - there is room to breathe.

Overall, though, I do think this is a lovely picture and I hope you will post again in this forum.

07-17-2001, 01:35 PM
Originally posted by sandrafletcher

Personally - and this is just me I dare say - I am not a big fan of faded out, floating bodies. I think the composition would be much stronger if you cropped it so that her body met the bottom edge of the paper.

I am in serious agreement with Sandra here. If your figure is gonna fade out at the bottom, you need to do in in a sensitive, dynamic way, rather than the simple, static fade parallel with the bottom of the picture we see here. Why not continue the diagonal of the pearls on the forward edge off the page, and back up the directional flow by supporting it with the dark pattern on the sweater in the same area? I would deemphasise the matching pattern on the left, it's direction is distracting.

I also agree about the use of some highlights in the face.

The prismacolor black has introduced a major problem here. It is the darkest thing in the piece, has the hardest edges and the highest contrast, and is concentrated in the hair, which is really background material in a portrait. You want the attention to go to the face and eyes, not the hair! The eyes of the viewer go first to the areas of highest contrast and sharpness. If this was a painting, it would be easy to fix this problen by either lightening the hair or by going with a dark background. Lightening the hair wont work in prismacolor, though, and darkening the background (it would have to be closer in value to the hair than to the skin for it to work) is going to require a lot of labor and rethinking the whole value structure of the piece.

Its really too bad, as the piece in general has a nice light feel. The collar area is particularly nice with some sensitive line. The hair kills that.

The only options that make sense to me are sharpening the eyes and features (the pupil of the eye should really be your darkest dark) and redrawing the whole piece in prismacolors as a tonal study, using just greys (they have a range of about 10 greys in cool and warm varients), white and black. Prismacolor looks quite different than charcoal anyway, being a bit glossy rather than flat, so for the sake of a consistent surface you don't have much choice. Either that or starting again, with the thought of these value relationships in mind from the start.

Wow, I seem to be pretty opinionated this morning...better have some coffee. Hope this was helpful and not just depressing. Chances are very good that your client will love it anyway, in spite of the technical problems. But you should not.

07-20-2001, 11:32 AM
Thanks everyone.... Isn't WC great:)

mclaughlan... Thank you for your encouragement.. I don't think I'm quite there yet (I agree with Mark and Sandra regarding some of the technical aspects of this drawing).

Sandra.. great comments. I will definately take these into consideration for the next work.. This one was done from a sitting, which is real difficult. I do alot of work from photos these days (my wife is a photographer, and I am currently on transfer in Houston, where its a little difficult to get models for my figure work). My preference is from real life, but we dont always get the choice. This is one reason I am switching from figure to prortrait work :)

Mark... Thanks heaps.. I replied to you part of this post in the drawing forum.

onward and upwards.... The great thing about art is that you are never complete.. there is always something to challenge ourselves with.