View Full Version : Gift-WIP-(X-post from Figure)

07-27-2009, 09:10 PM
Please give me your honest thoughts on this pastel portrait (Ludwigs and Rembrandts on sanded paper, 20" x 30"). Likeness? Proportions? Colors? Something is off and I'm not sure quite what it is or whether it's correctable. Anyway, thanks in advance for your help.

07-27-2009, 10:16 PM
Hi Bongo!

First let me say that any portrait with a smiling person is a difficult portrait. A broad tooth-filled smile is extremely difficult. And yet, when the expression is so dominating, as it is here, the expression becomes the most important thing to depict accurately!

The first thing I see is some problems with the angles. Lots of key angles - the crease lines from nostril wing the corner of the mouth and the angles of the chin. Also the angle of the nose. Here is what I mean:


The yellow lines are those crease and chin lines on the photo. Compare them to the red lines on your painting. It looks like her smile is quite a bit wider in the ref. Those chin angles tell me her chin is not located exactly right. By drawing a blue line straight down from the bridge of the nose, I confirm that her chin should be farther over to our left. That center blue line also shows me that the angle of her nose (green line on photo) is off a bit on the painting - it goes straight down without the angle.

With a wider smile, you might find that her eyes are a bit wider and they also seem to me to be narrower and more squinty. A wider smile will (unfortunately) mean that her teeth need to be a bit larger, too!

I know that I have thrown a lot of stuff in my critique, but really it is just a few angles that have caused all the trouble! If the likeness is not that important, than I wouldn't bother changing things because it is a nice painting. Lots of good things happening, especially the hair and the sunglasses!

Again, Smiles are hard. I avoid them at all costs!!


Kathryn Wilson
07-28-2009, 06:57 AM
I think you have alot of nice things going on here, so I'd do the changes Don suggests and see if they make you happier with it.

One thing I noticed is that the ear is smaller than in the photo. I also think the hair in front of the glasses makes it look like there are two pairs of glasses - but I imagine you are still working on that area.

You've done a nice job here and look forward to seeing your changes.

Merethe T
07-28-2009, 05:40 PM
You've got excellent advice, keep going! You have a good start, and this will be a nice portrait. Remember to show us if you decide to make any changes... :)

07-28-2009, 11:05 PM
Here's the latest. Thanks all for your great critiques. Don, I tried to make as many adjustments as I could without moving the entire mouth to the left. I can see that my efforts at capturing a strong likeness (which is critical for this piece since it is a gift to the subject) will be limited because the center line is off. Please let me know your thoughts. I will continue to make adjustments.


07-29-2009, 10:56 PM
What do you guys think of this version?

07-29-2009, 11:35 PM
I'd say vastly improved! I think she will love this gift! Nicely done!


07-30-2009, 02:42 AM
I think she may be happy, and you have been given excellent advice about the angles and features, but also for me, there are one or two touches still to consider.

There is strong light from the left, and the lightest parts of the entire image are ONLY on the left of the face. there is some subtle reflected light on the right side, but it is not as light as the light on the left of the face. For instance, there is some light on the apple of her cheek on the right side, but it is not as light as you have made it, and it should not be quite as light as the pure, directly-light-struck parts of the face on the left.

You can see from the greyscale images that this is very, very subtle, but I think we would get a stronger sense of structure - particularly on the forehead and the nose- if you rendered the light and angles more accurately and slightly played down the tones on the right side of her face. I believe that the second light source from the right, whatever it is, is not helping at all, it is slightly destroying the illusion of three dimensions tht you need for a head.

Her upper lip, on the right side, the latest version, is lighter than it should be . You can see from the pics below that the way you have used the tones on the upper lip gives the impression of more curving form than is there, I believe this is to do with the contrast, on the upper lip, between the dark left and light right side, where the two tones meet in the middle is much too strong.

I think you have made her mouth a little too deep? As a result, her smile does not look as wide as it should, and sorry to say this, but that chin is still not quite right :( But you may feel disinclined to change this and I doubt anyone will notice anything wrong if you do not change it.

I do hope, also, that the picture is not as yellow as that final image you showed us, sorry to say this but to my eye, she looks in that one as tho she has a nasty case of jaundice! I am really hoping that it is just the photo, it is not that you have used so much yellow:)

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/29-Jul-2009/1805-PK2.JPG http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/29-Jul-2009/1805-Preference1.jpg

In fact, despite all of the above, which is fairly nitpicky really, I think you have done a good job with a tricky photo. Like DAK, I avoid smiling pics at all times, smiles change facial muscles dramatically, and somehow, living with a smiling PAINTED portrait is quite different to living with a smiling photo. I have thought about this a lot and come to this conclusion, which I will add here, for whatever it is worth. I think there is an acceptance within all of us that a photo is a "snapshot" in the true sense of the word - a flick of a button captures a moment in time, and that is natural. There is just one step, one thing that happens between subject and the photographer. We know, and understand this, when we look at a photo. However, a painting is something which everyone KNOWS takes time, and patience, to create. When you paint someone smiling, it is therefore patently obvious that you have worked from a photo, which somehow makes the image "once removed" from the subject. When you paint someone whose face is in repose, it is just possible that you were painting directly from the sitter - and the feeling that the viewer gets from that painting is quite different as a result. The viewer begins to feel something of the EXPERIENCE of a subject being felt, understood, and captured, slowly and carefully, on "canvas".

Just my musings, as I say, for whatever they are worth. Hopefully, this gift will be well received, and none of MY musings will matter at all!

07-31-2009, 12:12 AM
Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. In this version, I've lowered the value of the colors on the right of the portrait (her left) and tried to bring the values on the lips closer together. The flash does exaggerate the contrast; not much I can do about that.

Thoughts? Keep giving me C&C. Even if I'm nearing the end of this one, I may do a new one and resort to your pointers in that one.

07-31-2009, 02:51 AM
I really think you are virtually there, but something kept bugging me about it.
In the end, I took finished image, and the original photo, into my Microsoft Photodraw, made the original transparent and floated it over the painting.

Now we can see exactly what has happened. You have made the face slightly, ever so slightly, narrower than she actually is. I am not sure you will want to make it wider, but ifyou do feel you want to try for perfection (!), this might help!

I do think it is a good likeness regardless. It is just helpful sometimes to know WHY something feels/looks slightly wrong.


Also, and you can tell me to shutupandgoaway if you like, I would not blame you!, I find the skin tones look rather pasty, this girl has the most BEAUTIFUL warm glow to her skin. I am not that good with a computer "brush" but here is my version, for whatever it is worth. Maybe,in fact, your camera is not showing us the colours you have used; if your version gives her lovely warm glowing skin, then leave well alone by all means.


I do hope you plan to put in the earings, they add a rather special touch, I feel.

Kathryn Wilson
07-31-2009, 07:03 AM
My, Jackie, that sure is a good tool you used to find what was off. Such an expert in PS!

Bongo, I think you did a great job on this and I like the background much better. And please add the earrings!

I look forward to seeing more portraits from you!

07-31-2009, 08:05 AM
Kathryn, it is a much simpler tool than I have used before. I do have a tutorial on file which shows how to do this in Photoshop, but I thought I would see if it could be done in Microsoft Photodraw, which is a much more user-friendly programme. If you have it, why not have a bash, it was really very effective.

You open pic 1. Then, open pic 2, which replaces pic one. But both will appear on the left hand side of the "desk" as little icons.

You can then drag pic 1 alongside pic 2.
Say you want to make Pic 1. transparent. go to "effects" "transparency" and a slider pops up. Make the pic transparent, and then drag it over pic 2.


It was so much easier than the same steps in Photoshop.

Microsoft Photodraw V2 came with my "office" discs.

Incidentally ...just wanted to say in case anyone else wants to know about correcting pastel....if you want to change tones and colours in a picture, it is NOT always a good idea to keep on working over the top. Dont be afraid to brush off some of the layers which are not working well, better to have fewer layers to work over again. Use a medium stiff brush, like an oil painting bristle brush, and get rid of some of the layers. You can even then reclaim some of the tooth of the paper by spraying lightly with fixative.

Then begin again with the new tones and colours you want to use.


Kathryn Wilson
07-31-2009, 08:19 AM
I am a PS user, but my version is ancient! This does sound more user friendly - my next project is to buy a new computer and I'll make sure that that program is included! It used to be I was up on all the programs and technology - now I feel like a stodgy old gramma when I listen to all the computer geeks talk about the software and hardware available now.

Not to get off track here - brushing out is a good idea - get down to the original layer at least. Not necessarily on this portrait, but a useful little tool in correcting paintings in the future.

07-31-2009, 11:26 AM
Ok - my small idea for this wonderful piece are the eyes...

Make sure she's looking at you.... how to do that? Look closely at the location of the pupils.. and the corners of the eyes. Location and size and value of each. It will help tremendously.

I personally love your style very very much. Barb

07-31-2009, 12:28 PM
Here's the latest: warmed up the colors throughout and rounded her right cheek slightly. What do you think?

07-31-2009, 02:07 PM
much better.

Just a tiny touch...where the skin folds at the corner of the eye, perhaps a touch of shadow?

I reckon she will be thrilled.