View Full Version : Portrait from a digital photo without tracing

11-28-2008, 03:24 AM
Feel free to jump in with any comments, critiques, thoughts, and corrections! :wink2:
Since there seems to be some interest in learning to use landmark maps instead of copying, and tracing, I thought I would document, step by step, how I use one. Keep in mind that the words landmarks and maps are not my own, nor the concept of landmark mapping my own. All the information and terminology is gathered from various sources (I will list the main ones later on in the thread). However, by combining and applying the techniques and information using modern tools (digital camera, printer, computer), I have stumbled upon a method that seems simple to understand (relatively speaking, there is a plethora of confusing and contradicting information out there) and easy to apply to getting a believable portrait. This method has also trained my eyes in a short amount of time, to be able to apply these same concepts and techniques to painting and drawing portraits from life getting at least adequate results. I will try to be specific and thorough, but keep in mind that I too am just a beginner trying to learn and wanting to share my knowledge. This is by no means authoritative, but for those starting out, it might help.

1. Concept: A concept is an abstract direction/purpose of the painting and has to do with light flow, movement, and voice. The concept is born in the creative part of your brain that I will refer to as the right side (whether it’s on the right or not, or has to do with brain or soul I will leave for others to debate) Concept has little to do with your subject. You should be able to apply the concept to ANY subject and have it work. Since concept is so difficult to describe, I will not attempt to any further. David Leffel explains it well in his book “An Artist Teaches” published by Bright Publishing.

2. Composition: I usually figure out my composition on the computer using one and often several digital photos. I like to use Adobe Photoshop, but there are many other programs that can do basically the same thing. Gimp is a free program available for download. I find the photo(s) that best fit my concept, then crop them and splice them in many different ways until I find a good fit. For this portrait I have chosen to do a traditional vignette on 16 by 20 inch Raymar canvas panel. Once I found the photo and cropping I liked, I color corrected my subject using curves, hue and saturation, and color balance adjustments under the image menu. I played around with different color background arrangement that would fit into my concept and harmonize with the figure.

original photo cropped

3. Value study: This is the quick was of assessing and grouping your values so that they support the concept and composition. Applying correct values to your portrait will allow it to appear 3 dimensional. First you must separate the light from the darks. Remember that they must be of unequal balance for your composition to work—either is has more light values, or it has more dark values. Simply put, equal balance between the light and dark will make it boring. If you don’t use the computer, you can do this with rough thumbnail sketches. In Photoshop, I turn the image to grayscale by using the gradient map adjustment under the image menu, then the threshold adjustment under the image menu. The slider allows you to adjust the amount of light or dark that the image will have. I find the area that fits in with my concept, print it out, then undo (my favorite command!)
Then I again do an adjustment breaking down the grayscale to four values (posterize adjustment under the image menu); light, halftone, receding (from the light), shadow. Again, print and undo. Now each of those four values can then be split making a total of 8 values for your painting (same comands just write in 8 instead of 4). Any more than this becomes too confusing. Remember that even though they are split, the values still need to fit into the two light values and the two darker values. This particular painting will have more light than dark. Here is the study I decided to go with. You can do as many studies as you need until you find the right one, either on the computer or on paper. Personally, I am equally comfortable with both methods; and sometimes I combine them by printing out the four color study, matching the value in oil paint and painting right on top of the printout so that I can adjust the placement of the values to my liking! This is a great time to start exploring edge treatment and find areas of the painting where you will lose edges.

4. Landmark map: In a new layer I select a new path and use the pen tool to mark the center of my canvas (with a bid +sign). This will help me line up the map to the canvas. I use the pen tool making straight lines to mark the critical landmarks of the face. Depending on the pose, I will put in either very few, or quite a few landmarks. The absolute critical ones are the width and length of the head, the vertical axis, and the horizontal axis of where the eyes reside. You can see from the map below, I have added others. I will comment more on standard face proportions in my next post!

Bright Eyes
11-28-2008, 04:41 AM
This is great! I was hoping you would post something like this!

11-28-2008, 05:25 AM
Great? It's brilliant! I dont have Photoshop but I do have GIMP which is an excellent free programme I totally agree. Thanks Tali, I am going to pull up a chair beside Bright Eyes.....

11-28-2008, 10:30 AM
I appreciate this. It is somewhat the procedure I use ( which goes to show that academics can take one only so far, the rest is a pinch of talent and a pound of practice!) I am going to increase my reliance on this! Thanks Tali!

11-28-2008, 04:15 PM
I think this post should go to the Portraiture Classroom. I am learning something here! Thanks Tali.

11-28-2008, 07:19 PM
I'm placing myself on the front row in your virtual classroom!
I will be watching for your next post...this is very interesting.

11-28-2008, 08:28 PM
Thanks you Bright eyes Greensyster, Corby, OziAfricanan and JR1 for joing me on this learning adventure. Please let me know if I'm not being clear, or have missed something you feel should be noted. I'm not sure if the portraiture forum is the best place for this as I do not have authoritative qualifications, only the desire to learn and document and share what I've learned. So just spread the word if you feel this is of any worth.:wink2: I learn best by bouncing information and ideas back and forth with others, so this is a wonderful opportunity for me and I'm grateful for the company.

As I go along, please note that I am constantly alternating between right brained creative thinking and left brained analytical thinking. I am finding more and more that this is the balance of life. All forces have their opposites. This constant tension is imperative for growth. Also note, that many of these concepts and technique that I am applying will work for any type painting/ or visual art, and even more abstractly, to any art form. I’m finding my foundation is music theory is really coming in handy for this as well as my feeble attempts at helping my sons with their geometry. To me, painting is all about the light. Light is truth, and truth is absolute so it applies to everything. Learning to paint is a quest in understanding truth.

I am going to backtrack a little and discuss composition further. Composition is the arrangement of the shapes and values on your painting. I have been blessed with a natural feel of good composition, but were I not, there are still ways of creating an effective composition based on sound principles. It all goes back to the universal phi or golden mean or even harmony. I won’t bore you with all the gory details but will summarize it so you may use it. There are certain universal proportions that are visible in nature that mathematicians, philosophers, and scientists have identified. Putting them in their simplest terms they are halves, thirds, and quarters. You’ll note that is how I divide my values as well. Musical harmony is divided similarly, as are dance steps. Thirds also apply to pleasing and solidarity of the triangle that da Vinci was so fond of. In Classical Painting Atelier by Juliette Aristides, the author demonstrates approaches to understanding composition. I have tried out one, known as the “Armature of the Rectangle” to see if my composition fits within this grid that utilizes halves, thirds, and quarters.
Here are the results, I made the armature in a new layer using the rulers as guides and using my pen tool. This armature can be done on any rectangle or square. You start by drawing the main x diagonals making the half divisions. *Next draw the lines from the center point on top all the way down to the bottom corners , this gives you the thirds. Then put another x on the top half, this divide the top into quarters. Repeat the steps from the * for the other corners. Last, draw a rhombus or diamond all the way around connecting all the center points. These last lines give you the quarters all the way around. Then, I overlayed this armature on my chosen composition.
To aid you in seeing how close my composition is to following the geometric lines, I overlayed the armature over my landmark map.
See how closely the landmark diagonal follow the armature. Were I a perfectionist, I would tweak the composition by rotating and moving my lovely subject to align her facial vertical axis with the diagonal that it is so close to. But as it is, I found it close enough to confirm my chosen composition will be pleasing to the eyes and effective, and will precede in explaining facial proportions. That is, once my head stops throbbing--my glasses broke today and viewing all these diagonals through my old glasses is making my brain protest! :(

11-28-2008, 09:39 PM
I am so pleased to see this so ably put, and in such expansive fashion far beyond my own capability! These principles are to me, the bedrock, a major part of the foundation of what art is about! The neat thing about them being that you can learn and bring the whole weight of their majesty to bear on your work...or you can apply the very basics and still get a benefit. ( I like to think that the latter is the case with me!)

Anita Murphy
11-28-2008, 10:45 PM
WOW this is fascinating - always interesting to see how other people work.

11-29-2008, 04:20 PM
Hi! I heard this was an interesting thread....and it is! This is definitely one to keep tabs on!


11-30-2008, 04:06 AM
I only had a little time today so I decided to start sketching instead of yabbering (I'm sure you are all relieved). Thanks for the comments and for looking, I hope you will enjoy learning with me. So, in short, I printed out my landmark map, full size (I had to tile it) and transferred it onto my canvas board that was primed with light grayed down green and violet. I chose these colors since this will have unfinished edges and I didn't think the freezing cold white showing through would work too well. Better the warmer, but still cool neutrals (well, as neutral as I get at any rate). After transferring, I used a ball point pen to draw over the landmarks so when I sketch and erase (more erasing that sketching), I won’t lose the map. I printed out the ref in full size (this is important) but just on ordinary paper, as I like to get the colors from my computer screen, not a print-out. I still had to measure occasionally to make sure everything was in place, either using my pencil on the photo or I could have used the rulers on the screen as well. I will finish this sketch in the next few days, as tomorrow is the Sabbath, and the Good Folk Upstairs have been patiently waiting for my attentions. (I play the piano as well as teach a genealogy class at my church, so you can see there is not much on my plate :wink2: )

11-30-2008, 04:19 AM
Tali, I'm sitting in your class too! Your descrition is so good and helpful, thank you for your work!

11-30-2008, 04:31 AM
Oh thanks Alfred! But I think you could do the teaching :) I know we have a little language barrier so let me know if I am not making sense. I’m afraid if I tried it in Austrian, I wouldn’t make ANY sense! :lol:

Bright Eyes
12-01-2008, 01:02 AM
Tali this is looking really good! Again I must thank you for doing this thread! I'm pulling all your maps and pictures on here into my photoshop. After your done with the thread I want to pull them all together and make a print out of a poster or something at a print shop to use for reference on my studio wall. Come to think about it, you could really sell something like that! There is just too much good info on here! And the portrait coming out so nicely helps too:D

12-01-2008, 02:39 AM
Thank you Tali!!! now to put it into practise..................after I digest it..........eventually!!

12-01-2008, 03:12 AM
Hey Kim, a poster is a great idea, then maybe I can actually remember what I did! :o No, none of this should be for sale. My hands have guided my slow mind opened by my own Creator every step of the way. It would be quite selfish of me to charge for information so freely given. Selling a painting is very fulfilling and validating. But teaching to paint is freeing another soul, a friend, in being able to express themselves. It brings awareness to the vast benefit of artistic expression and even the academic and spiritual importance of art to the human family. Portraiture in particular draws humans close by inviting us to look a little deeper in each other’s eyes.

Ok, I think Marie is still working on my eyes, because MY SECOND pair of glasses just broke. Two glasses in one week, maybe I SHOULD start charging,:evil: (for those who are unaware, Greensyster (Marie) is working on my portrait while I work on hers—a learning exercise).

Lulu, glad you're here. Yes, it's a lot to digest. The best way to REALLY understand it is actually to follow along and do it with me (I don't think Marie would mind). I'm such a slooooooow painter that I don't think there is any danger of leaving you behind, especially since I'm trying to document everything. Though, there's no telling when I'll finally lose my patience and dive in for the finish!:lol:

Ok back to the portrait. It occurred to me last night that perhaps the transition from the landmarks to the sketch was a little too fast so I wanted to review the drawing. While I do have a “gift” with composition, drawing takes a little more work for me. My drawing skills took a huge leap when I started using computers. In the early days of Adobe Illustrator (a graphics software program—pretty much the industry standard, now), the only way to colorize black and white illustration effectively was to use Bezier curves. And Bezier curves must have completed shapes in order to be able to fill them with color. If you did not close off the shape you were drawing, scanning, or tracing, you just couldn’t add color to it. This limitation was a huge blessing for me, as I started to see that “line” really does not exist except in the abstract geometric terms or in the use of tangents for design. So once my landmarks are on the canvas I just use ordinary pencil (with the eraser on the back—a must for me) to draw the shapes of the face. I use the landmark lines for angle references and as an aid in seeing the negative and positive shapes. I constantly ask myself, “is the angle sharper or broader? Is the shape larger or smaller than the one next to it, how does the shape show the form and planes of the face? Here’s an example to illustrate what I mean.
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/30-Nov-2008/140629-shapesbhbw.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/30-Nov-2008/140629-shapeovrphoto.jpg

Notice that all the lines close to form a shape. Each shape represents a different plane. Each shape has a different value and color temperature. The color that the shape is filled with is a sample taken from the actual computer-generated composition. (I will address facial planes in more detail a little later). For this particular portrait I avoided this kind of detail, but thought showing the example would help explain why my sketch has no values. While sketching I kept in mind the standard facial proportions and noted any apparent differences in my subjects face. There were very few, infact, Marie’s face fits beautifully in the Marquardt Beauty Mask—you wouldn’t be able to fit my big nose in there:crying: !
But the mask also gives a basic idea of standard face proportions which are:

The eyes are halfway between the top of the head/skull and the bottom of the chin.
The face width is about 2/3 of the skull height.
The bottom of the nose is halfway between the eyes and the bottom of the chin.
The mouth is halfway between the nose and the chin.
In an unsmiling face, the corners of the mouth line up with the pupils of the eyes.
Across the eye horizontal axis you can fit five eye widths.
The eye brow is about one eyewidth above the eye and extends wider than the eye
The widest part of the nose is one eye width.
The top of the ears line up above the eyes, on the eyebrows.
The bottom of the ears line up with the bottom of the nose.
There’s an adequate example here (http://www.carvingpatterns.com/woodarticles/images/face2.gif), but I plan on drawing my own some time in the near or not-so-near future.

So here is the final sketch I will work with. I will trace this sketch onto acetate so that if features start to wander, I will still have the original sketch that can be overlayed onto the painting to ensure accuracy. I know it is not an exact likeness, but I am fairly confident that it is structurally correct (yikes! tell me if you see something wrong!:eek: ), believable and represents Marie as I see her.

12-01-2008, 04:56 AM
I just have one thing to say at this point. I am a natural blonde I just bye my roots brown.

People (me anyway) will be downloading this and printing it out and dipping into it and rushing and ignoring then coming back to slowly try again.. and then again...

Anita Murphy
12-02-2008, 11:17 PM
Greensyster - I'm with you on printing this out, reading over and over and inwardly digesting and hoping some of it rubs off somewhere in my work.

Tali - Thank you again - this is intriguing, fascinating and hugely instructional. And very well written too!!!

12-03-2008, 02:27 AM
I think the images will be self explanatory. But feel free to ask any questions. I didn't do much color correction as this is still monochromatic, umber and white. Try to see the photo distortions, when the painting is dry and I overlay the acetate over it, it will give me a better idea than the computer overlay as to how I did in sticking to the landmarks--I'm sure there will be minor adjustment to make. The first image is the acetate tracing of the sketch that is on the canvas. I sealed the sketch with acrylic matte varnish so if I have to scrape (which I often do) I will not lose the sketch. The acetate is also an added precaution. Thanks Anita! I was starting to wonder if anyone was reading all that yabbering :lol: !




http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/02-Dec-2008/140629-nowwithlandmark.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/02-Dec-2008/140629-compwithlandmark.jpg

All c&cs and questions welcome!

12-03-2008, 04:09 AM
oh wow, just beautiful! thanks for this Tali, have printed out the rest, will now add this to it. It is my bed-time reading!

12-03-2008, 09:43 PM
Amazing transformation from all that 'technical' drawing to the painting stages. This is quite the learning experience. You are going to put a lot of college art instructors out of business.

12-10-2008, 10:10 PM
Thanks JR! Now if only I could get some good portraits maybe I could teach for real!

Lulu, hope you had a good night's sleep! Here's some more bedtime reading!:lol:

I bet you guys thought I ended up with more fuel for a fire?! It came close today, buy thankfully I had waited long enough for the previous layer to dry and was able to wipe back. More on that later.

I waited for the underpainting to dry before checking my landmarks. Remember the tracing of my sketch on the acetate? I overlaid it on the painting and saw that there were some minor discrepancies. I call these discrepancies because sometimes I fine that I like the differences in which case I would re-trace the new sketch. In this case I felt I had lost the likeness I had in the initial sketch so I chose to correct. I made a custom transfer paper (I didn’t want to use the graphite transfer paper since this will end up being part of the painting layer) by taking a piece of prepared acetate and painting a layer of acrylic pumice gel to give the surface “tooth”. Once that dried I covered the acetate with a soft burnt umber high-end soft pastel. Since artist grade soft pastels are mostly pigments, I figured this wouldn’t interfere with the painting layer. I could use this sheet over and over again for different paintings. I line up the sketch on the acetate and taped it to the top of my painting (be sure to use drafting tape that does not leave any residue). I took my transfer sheet and laid it pastel face down on the dried painting beneath the taped-on sketch and carefully traced over the sketch with a ball point pen. As it turned out, I should have used a lighter pastel as the burnt umber left too dark of lines, but it did “melt” into the oil paint quite nicely. Here’s the result, you can see I’m getting better at not letting my landmarks wander! Then I made the corrections just using burnt umber and white again and scrubbed more burnt umber into the background to harmonize the painting.
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/10-Dec-2008/140629-marieline.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/10-Dec-2008/140629-marie4.jpg

Later, using a large flat bristle brush (number12) I continued to scrub in more white into the background to lighten it up. Having my computer value study reminded me of the relative contrast I should keep. I then mixed some light colors loosely corresponding with my computer comp, and using the same bush applied my warms and with a different brush, my cool tones for the background. I usually don’t wash my brushed while I’m painting and just wipe them with an old cotton t-shirt. I do this because 1)I’m 2) this is how I’m used to working with I paint with a palette knife, and 3) the left over color in the brushes helps harmonize and “gray down” my colors. (Bet you didn’t think I ever tried to gray my colors down?!) I usually have one brush for darks and one for lights, or one for warms and one for cools. I’m not always good about keeping the separate—but I’m getting better! :o

I usually use a different set of colors for each painting depending on the subject. Most of the time I use Winsor & Newton Artisan Water Mixables. My gotta-haves are cad yellow pale hue (py35, py3), magenta pr122), phthalo green blue shade (pg7) and of course titanium white. I use the hue of the yellow because I’m not crazy about having toxic pigments in the house (though I occasionally make exceptions) and I don’t have anything even close to gray using this mixed yellow. The pigment numbers are important because paint names aren’t standardized, so I look at the pigments to make sure I’m getting what I want. Since the light source in my reference is diffused and rather cool, and I have some higher-end paints left over I used traditional oils over my water-mixable underpainting. These are of various brands most of which are Schimcke Mussini which dry fast (due to the dammar mixed in them) and have a lovely array of transparent colors that are hard to find elsewhere. So—I’m getting to the point, I promise, for this painting I used translucent yellow, helio-green light (phthalo in disguise!), Florentine red (warmer than magenta, and perfect mixing complement of phthalo green—giving me lovely neutrals all the way to the very deepest black), then for good measure also magenta and ultramarine blue. If I’m feeling lazy I’ll also use my Yellow ochere and my Winsor Newton burnt umber. Gamblin makes these “radiant” colors that are actually tints of my primaries, and I have some tiny sample tubes that I used on the background since I know they’ll harmonize with the pigments. Oh yeah, and titanium white—apparently zinc white is a “no no” since it cracks—better safe than sorry, I still might use mine in glazes—haven’t decided yet. So did you keep count? That’s a max of three yellows (I think burnt umber is a dark yellow??), two reds, blue, green, and white. If I need a medium, I’ll use Weber Res’n Gel, walnut oil, or walnut alkyd medium if I need a medium, but I usually don’t when using traditional oils, and haven’t so far except for a little water mixable linseed oil since the water mixable tend to be a little stiff. Your gasp! If she breaking the fat over lean rule?:eek: No, no, I assure you. The water mixable paints are much leaner than traditional and the minute amount of oil makes it “fatter” but still leaner compared to the traditional—it all comes down to relativity.

So after adding the color to the background I could resist scrubbing in a little color. (see above) And then thought, “might as well finish the job” so I mixed four rows for the colors of my relative values (remember the four values?)—left to right; cool light, warm halftones, cool receding planes, warm shadow. For now I'm keeping all the colors "clean" as in not grayed down. I like my final layer will be the less saturated "skin" layer. Even if you don’t prefer my method, just be sure to alternate temperature between planes to model the forms. Within my four values I mixed a warmer version (at the bottom) and a cooler version (at the top) but still keeping them in their respective values and temperatures. (or so I thought....)
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/10-Dec-2008/140629-colors1.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/10-Dec-2008/140629-colorbw.jpg

After painting with these it became apparent something was wrong, as I was not getting the modeling I was after. I got frustrated and wiped of the paint on the face. But in starting to document what I did I realized my mistake and this is real proof that it is impossible to see color and value at the same time. Look at what happens when I turn my piles to gray scale! Though my camera has grouped the lights and darks together (all cameras do this), it still holds that my values were off. The halftones needed to be darker, and the receding planes lighter! So the next painting session should go a little better. I’ll add these to my mud paint pile that I store in the freezer for a future mud painting.

I’ll be amazed if anyone reads this in its entirety, but hey, at least I learned something!:D Let me know if you see anything I did wrong and feel free to disagree with me and voice it--remember I'm just learning too :p Oh yeah, and she has no hair because I wanted it to go over the background. You can't see it in the photo, but my landmark lines are still just faintly visible and ready for my next thicker yummy layer.

12-10-2008, 11:56 PM
This is nothing short of astonishing tali, the work you have put into it and much of it above and beyond the 'simple' painting. Documenting it for our benefit is a work in itself. Thank you sooooo much!

Bright Eyes
12-11-2008, 12:21 AM
Wow :eek: So much information! And its all good stuff too :thumbsup: Your talent amazes me! I'm watching and waiting.:)

12-11-2008, 12:54 AM
Fabulous Tali. :)
And I really appreciate the attention to detail in your description. I am going to try to get a large sheet of acetate and try your method. Previously I have taken a photo and tried to put it in a layer in Photoshop and compare the stages from there.
Thanks for taking the trouble. :)

12-11-2008, 01:05 AM
Me again tali. The transition area between the outer edge of the brow and the lower temple upper cheekbone area that meets it and slides away behind it have always been difficult for me. In this (last above) posting the junction of these two areas as shown at the profile of her left eye seems hard and angular, as a result it seems awkward, the angularity and hardness seems to push her eye inward toward her nose. In your posting number 19# it is beautifully done, soft and flowing as to the surface areas involved. Do you see this? I am a rather good seer even if I am a poor doer...but even in that I can be wrong.

12-11-2008, 03:40 AM
Kim, Corby, Graham, thank you so much. If this helps just one artist (other than myself) it will be quite worth the effort. I don't take all these steps with every portrait, as I am getting more and more familiar with the human face and how light falls on it, and much of this is becoming second nature. Both of your portraits, Graham were so much fun as I found that I can do away with some of these steps! I also layer in photoshop, but I left the edges in all my photos on this particular project so all could see how severely the camera can distort even when I try and make sure it is pointing strait on the board. The board in the photo looks positively warped and I assure you it isn't! So photographing the painting to check proportions can be problematic. If you can find the acetate I will send you some with your painting!
Corby, you do have very good eyes, and I could never slip one past you! Makes me wonder why you didn’t see the problems with the girl in white shirt…perhaps you had been looking at her (like me) for so long that the ½ inche shift escaped your notice. She looks MUCH better now! The problem you see has to do with me misplacing the angle of the brow and then adjusting it. Obviously Marie thins her lovely eyebrows. But eyebrows grow naturally right on the top of the brow, so when a woman plucks (a common problem I run into—I have to tame mine as well) the brow bone catches light that it wouldn’t normally. It’s also easy to get tan lines in the area after thinning. (I only tell you as you seem the type of man that would understand, Bizkit might be horrified to think women have to go to such measures to be considered beautiful , bless his heart ;) )Upon adjusting the brow (in the painting, that is), I had to cover up the old one and extended the edge a little so I could create a softer edge. I agree it looks totally weird right now—as if someone punched her eye in a little too far. Once I adjust the edge and nail down the values (I only scrubbed in this color—it isn’t really what I consider a paint layer), I think her eye will visually return to its proper depth (hopefully). You’ll be amazed as how much the right value can fix problems like these (if I manage to do it right). I really appreciate you pointing it out, because it reassures me that the painting is more than mediocre. I have this theory that mediocre paintings on this forum get lot’s of kudos, beginner painting—lots of advice, and good painting, lot’s of nit picking every possibly flaw, or subjective dislike. Of course there are the outstanding painting that blow everyone so out of the water that there is just nothing to say except, “wow”! But truly, I want to be “nit-picked”; my goal is to learn and train my eyes so that I can critique my own work well enough to improve it. Thank you.

12-12-2008, 12:56 AM
Marvelous continuation of this Tali - thank you. Like many, I am saving each page as we go. I know I will not employ every method presented and I know I have already learnt so much from this thread - dont stop now (besides I would like not to be bald for too long....)

And top tip about photographing in greyscale one's palette! Simple but so effective. I also find your 'greying down' technique interesting.... LOL. I miss my strong chin line but knowing you I guess it is lurking there somewhere! :)

And now to really depress you - are you sitting down with a nice comforting mug of your chosen beverage? Oh good. Then here it is - every third month I remove about 5 renegade hairs from the outer underneath of each brow. Other than that, that is how TGFU made my eyebrows. Gotcha! :lol:

The discourse between Tali and Corby on the spatial distortions of camera images is most pertinent and one I think needs development especially where image source is solely from a photograph (be this human, landscape, structural object). Anyway - I digress. Tom wants to know who the smashing bird is in the latest update of the portrait.

12-15-2008, 08:34 PM
Still here watching and learning. Feel almost guilty....all this information, and all I have to pay is attention!

12-16-2008, 03:19 AM
Yes JR - you got the easy bit - I have to fork over attention too PLUS supply the face. And I have been sitting here for days - all eyebrows and bald, niked and surrounded by LSD lighting - at my age for goodness sake! If Tali is now off doing a portrait of the current Main Man of the Season Old Santa (being as he is so close to her) she better remember what I have at my disposal and they do travel! Trust me.


12-18-2008, 03:48 AM
DON'T SEND THE THE CROCKS! I am busy at work, I assure you. Just working on a zillion things at the same time as always. I had you almost done, them messed you back up, so here's the last photo before the mess-up. Will explain all, much, much later, but didn't want to leave anyone hanging!

12-18-2008, 04:46 AM
Ahhhh - good thing we kept the faith cos I can see myself coming through here - not just my face now but also a lot of my personality - this is fascinating on an objective art learning level and also on a subjective one. I will check back in the New Year to see if I have grown any more hair! Thanks for the post update - that's excellent progress in my view.

12-18-2008, 06:39 AM
tali, it's obviously going to be a winner. One thing which makes the difference is the clean, decisive brush which shows all the way to the finish.

12-18-2008, 07:16 AM
I am maiinly in the cam sections, but I love to look elsewhere too for composition ideas.

I love to see the grid you have drawn up for planning your work. I made a similar one with the GOLDEN MEAN LINES and a group of PERPECTIVE LINES for much same purpose in PLOTTING my subject placement. I had it put on clear plastic (at the photocopy store) so I can use it anywhere - on the P C, outside, over art reproductions in books and on the P C. Ir has helped me greatly - as yours has you.

An excellent image you have on the go here to be sure. Keep it up.

12-21-2008, 04:21 AM
Tali, this is great work and I want to thank you. This is full of ideas and I am sure everybody will take another one. If you are looking for the one you helped, you found him, it's me. I think this is the first thread I will print out (if I make a book out of it I will send you some money).

Thanks for your work! :heart:

12-22-2008, 12:46 AM
What a wonderful compliment, Alfred! Thank you, and no way about sending me money! (unless you want to buy a painting ;) ) But with your skills I’m amazed anything I said was helpful. Your portraits are beautiful, what do you need me for.
Thanks Mickey, I REALLY tried to remember to keep each brushstroke separate and distinct.
Norm, great idea! I’ll have to do that ….soon, when I have a minute LOL! Thanks for the encouragement.
Marie, where are you? See?? You have hair now, I even gave you bangs as requested. I really need your input, does this look anything like you??
Here is my progress. I’m not quite happy with the likeness and there is still more modeling to be done to give her face more dimension. I’m off to go write another lengthy installment in documenting this, but thought I’d post as to not leave anyone hanging. Any critiques or comments are always most welcome. I think this will be my last painting of the year, pretty cool! :)

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Dec-2008/140629-100_9721.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Dec-2008/140629-100_9746.jpg

12-22-2008, 01:26 AM
Reporting in Teacher! :)

Regardless of what I may say, the best critic is my Beloved husband and this is how the conversation went with the above images:

Me: What do you think darling?
Him: It's Great!
Me: Tali has made me look too young though
Him: No - that's exactly how you look.


So Tali - Aside from that strange beard... I love it too and soon as I go and have my browny eyebrows dyed black like in this gorgious painting, it will be perfect!

I have to compliment you on the way you have mastered colour values not tones but actual colours. I love this portrait - and you have imagined my fringe most accurately. The colours in the skin are amazing - not lifelike but more real than reality - I love it (did I mention that?)

Really love it :) And I am longing to read the 'how to' when you get time to write that up. I am 2/3 through a new victim's portrait and I cannot believe the relative ease this time on getting her likeness doing it the 'Tali-Way' - .

12-23-2008, 01:39 AM
Well tali, this is a most amazing record! The birth of a portrait! And though I have not actually met the 'Greensys' I would know her anywhere! And I think this is she! The only thing you missed is that it could have been a three quarter view with a croc in her lap....
LoOVE the painting!

12-31-2008, 12:11 AM
Thank you Marie and Corby. I feel badly that I've fallen behind on the documentation, but at least I've finished, and I did take photos all along the way, so perhaps they will tell what I don't have time to put into words. Here goes:

Once the paint set I started adding "light"


Final proofing: values first

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/30-Dec-2008/140629-paintingposter.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/30-Dec-2008/140629-photoposter.jpg

then likeness--this time directly from the photo

last minor adjustments and final painting

12-31-2008, 09:17 AM
WOW! This is very informative and interesting. I am amazed with how clearly you were able to share your knowledge, you make it all look so simple. Stunning! Beautiful portrait.

12-31-2008, 10:55 AM
This is amazing. I like to use computer helping me draw, too. Your information really helps.

12-31-2008, 01:36 PM
Incredible! What a generous soul you are Tali to share all this information & photos while you were so busy painting it!! :)

I've learned so much. I too have such a complete LOVE of color so to see this done without grays is amazing. You are an inspiration. Plus I love your spunky spirit. :) Thank you!!!

Marie you ARE such an obliging model & you did a terrific job just hanging out. But what a JOY to receive this portrait. You're a beauty & it shows.

01-01-2009, 01:59 AM
Susie, Flying, Cathleen, thank you. After posting on critique forum, I made a few more little tweeks and here's the final recap:
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Dec-2008/140629-1.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Dec-2008/140629-2.jpg
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Dec-2008/140629-3.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Dec-2008/140629-4.jpg
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Dec-2008/140629-5.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Dec-2008/140629-6.jpg
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Dec-2008/140629-7.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Dec-2008/140629-8.jpg
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Dec-2008/140629-9.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Dec-2008/140629-10.jpg
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Dec-2008/140629-11.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Dec-2008/140629-12.jpg
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Dec-2008/140629-13.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Dec-2008/140629-14.jpg

01-01-2009, 02:02 AM
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Dec-2008/140629-15.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Dec-2008/140629-16.jpg
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Dec-2008/140629-17.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Dec-2008/140629-18.jpg

01-01-2009, 06:05 PM
Truly Amazing to check out the step by step....A Gift for sure. Wonderful painting. Thank you for sharing with everyone, it was a joy to see it all come to this.
I am awed and inspired.

01-01-2009, 11:29 PM
I second this! It is inspiring. The colours, the values, dead right on. Amazing. Too bad there is no little "emoticon" with his jaw on the floor, but instead I'll put this one to show my amazement!! :thumbsup:
What a treat for the forum, and for you to have taken the time to share your methods is just so lucky for all of us trying to learn!
Thank you Tali, and I hope you had a wonderful New Year,

Jumping Gemini
01-04-2009, 05:41 PM
I haven't been on this site in about a year and for some unknown reason I stumbled across your thread. I am going to print it out for some friends and try to use your methods myself. I am so grateful to you for taking the time to share your wonderful gift with us and for showing and explaining the steps. I can't wait to try your techniques.

Thank you so much!

01-06-2009, 06:29 PM
Than you so much mrscahplain, carolinekatie and jumping Gemini—I really hope this method proves helpful to you. I actually put it together for Marie herself since she doesn’t like the idea of copying and tracing, and doesn’t seem to have the patience for a painted value study. I have used all of those approaches, in order to speed up my learning curve. But by far the most beneficial has been to paint and draw from life. Hopefully practicing this technique will motivate readers to try their hand at painting from a live model, which is such a rare treat for me.

I do have a few questions... I have been searching the internet to find out more about the rectangle armature, but haven't had much luck. I created the armature layer over a photo I am using for a portrait....there are so many lines, that I'm not certain how to make sense of it...., so here is my question...is there a book that you can recommend? I am interested in learning more about how to decipher what I am seeing when using the rectangle armature. And, are there other books/sources that you can recommend regarding the facial mapping technique? I also created a layer with the mapping technique you described. I am VERY excited to try this out. I work in pastels, so I will have to figure out how to transfer some of these lines to my paper,

So here is a list of helpful resources. I do not personally know these artists nor am I paid to advertise for them. I’ve just found the books enormously helpful and/or interesting.
The armature, there are a couple books I’ve read on the subject:
• The Science of Art: Optical Themes in Western Art from Brunelleschi to Seurat by Martin Kemp
This one is for the serious scholar—it will take me years to understand it all, but it’s fascinating and well written. The author has other books that look to be a yummy read.
• Classical Painting Atelier: A Contemporary Guide to Traditional Studio Practice by Juliette Aristides
This one is easier to understand and more instructively oriented. The composition segment is only a small portion of what the book covers, and is fairly straight forward. IMO a must have for any serious student.

Specifically for portrait painting, the following are my portrait “bibles”:
• Painting Beautiful Skin Tones With Color & Light in Oil, Pastel and Watercolor by Chris Saper
I’ve read it over and over, each time taking in more and more. Saper’s clear instruction is priceless, and her understanding of color and light an inspiration. I can’t sing its praises enough or thank the author enough for sharing her experience and knowledge. Saper’s website is also a feast for the eyes, so be sure to pay her site a visit! Her articles, Portraiture and the Pursuit of Excellence are very informative to artists pursuing portraiture as well as eye opening to those commissioning portraits.
• Portraits from Life in 29 Steps by John Howard Sanden
Very clear and well written by a modern master. I am resistant to his premixed paints, but the information on them is very helpful. Not everyone can have that kind of studio setup (myself included), but the information is valuable and applicable.

• Karin Wells Studio (http://karinwells.blogspot.com/)
An excellent blog focusing mostly on old master techniques. Karin is not a color lover like I am, not does she paint thickly like I do. But her experience and knowledge are far more advanced than my own, and I can’t even tell you how much I’ve learned from her! I’ve read all her posts. Take some time to browse the blog, and it’s all free! Karin’s a class act.

Color/colour resources:
• Painting the Impressionist Landscape: Lessons in Interpreting Light and Color by Lois Griffel
I’m embarrassed to say that when I first read this book, I understood very little of it. I simply couldn’t see the warm/cold and different color variations that Griffel spoke of. But after experimenting with colors and trying to observe from life a little more closely, Griffel’s words started making more sense, and suddenly I started seeing color everywhere! It was also from this book that I got the idea of painting with a palette knife. Highly recommended for all experience levels, and a tremendous influence on my personal vision. The color/value chart was very helpful in enabling me to see colors AS values.

• Handprint.com
This is such a vast resource, that I have still not read all the way through, but use more as a reference for palette color selection. It is written for watercolors, but the pigment information applies across the board. Worth exploring, especially if you love color! I’m getting to the point that I’m memorizing the pigment numbers and the pigment qualities! :smug: To start off read the palette section (http://handprint.com/HP/WCL/wpalet.html), then tonal value (http://handprint.com/HP/WCL/color11.html), and the artist color wheel (http://handprint.com/HP/WCL/color16.html)from the color theory section. Trust me, these three areas will keep you reading for days! This site can be quite overwhelming, with all the information. My best advice is start with the sections I’ve recommended, read all the way through, THEN start clicking on the links, again reading all the way through, and returning to you initial page before continuing deeper into the site. This is hard advice to follow as there are links to click on all over the place, but if you do, the information starts making a little more sense.

Now to answer the question about the armature. Sheesh, count on me to give such a long answer to such a short question! The diagonals are there to show you the quarters, half, thirds and fourths both horizontally and vertically (I was just too lazy to label them all). You have to choose which ones to use as guides. You can even create new ones from the division marks. Here’s what I used for Marie, loosely. Think of this as tangent lines for areas of the painting you want to focus on or to create movement. This is really not my area of expertise, as composition tends to come more intuitively to me. Just move your subject around until you find a nice fit.
Next to transfers your landmark guidelines you can make your own transfer paper out of tracing paper. I brushed a fine acrylic pumice medium to the tracing/acetate paper to give it some tooth. Then when it dry, rubbed a soft pastel into it. Use whatever color will work best. You can use this transfer paper over and over again. Just be sure to press very gently as to not dent your pastel surface. Then spray some workable fixative on it. I suppose you could also do it with graphite transfer paper.
Hope this helps! If anyone else has ideas or input please feel free to jump in!

Gail V
01-06-2009, 09:09 PM
Tali - thank you so much for all this valuable information!!!! I will definitely buy some of the books you mention and spend hours and hours and hours :-) checking out the websites you listed. I really appreciate the time you took to answer the questions. In addition to what you just posted, this entire thread really helped me on a portrait I am currently working on. After following your steps, I found that one of the eyes was a little off....and I was able to fix it early in the process. :-) Thanks!!!

03-06-2009, 11:21 AM
Again, THANK YOU!! You are so generous to share your knowledge; the picture is wonderful and your use of color is inspiring. You have built lots of good Karma :~) !

03-26-2009, 01:54 PM
Thank you Gail and Cath. I hesitate to bump the thread up again but I’m so excited about this that I couldn’t hold back and thought it was an excellent demonstration of the unique qualities of oil paint. The painting has really deepened and mellowed now, with the burnt umber underpainting doing its job. I took a photo before sending the painting off, I’m glad I waited, since it’s rare for me to be able to see how my paintings age. Look at the difference!! I color corrected all of the following images at the time the photo was taken, though the light color cast is a smidge different. While different monitors will show them differently, I think everyone can appreciate the difference a few months made. While most of the opaque colors (very few) have stayed the same, she no longer looks sunburned, and the transparent colors in the halftones and shadows are visually mixing to desaturate the skin tones. This has been such a learning experience!
and now:
The close up come the closest to the colors/values IRL, it's also close in size to the original.

03-26-2009, 02:05 PM
Thanks for sharing I'll have to come back a few times to reread this.....need to let it all sink in but great info. This was fun .Thanks again

03-26-2009, 03:13 PM
I'm glad you bumped it up again, I didn't get back to see the final product. Some day when I grow up I'm going to do portraits and I'll use this thread as a tutorial.

Just excellent work. Great vibrant colors. Just fantastic.

03-27-2009, 07:15 AM
wow, Tali! I missed this thread until now! Ask ME if I mind this being bumped up again!

I am so grateful to have caught this. What a wonderful thing you did to document your very effective working process.

I hope that someone will archive this as a permanent thing. It's one of the best threads I've read that takes us through the whole process of working a portrait. And with the added bonus of your amazing color sense!

This is a true keeper!

Thanks for taking the time and effort to write this.

03-27-2009, 02:14 PM
Tali - by popular request I made this a sticky at the top of the WIP forum. There is so much valuable infomation here we want to be able to find it quickly! Thank you for doing this!

03-27-2009, 10:13 PM
Oh wow, what an honor! Maybe I should have checked for typos more carefully, LOL! Thanks Spyder, Lynn, Cardboard, and Tony for easing my mind and the encouraging comments. Tony, I think you’d do portraits very well, I’ve seen a lot of great work from you. Cardboard, I think a lot of the principles could easily apply to animals as well, and while it is a lot to take in, you’re already doing much of this with your beautiful paintings, but probably don’t even think about it. I have to admit this was very intimidating; as there are so many that have tons more experience, education, and expertise in portraiture and painting. Lynn, thank you so much for saying the thread has some value. I am a huge fan of your work and thorough critiques like many others on the forum. I would enjoy hearing your (or anyone else’s for that matter) thoughts, or alternative methods on some of the ideas I presented. I'm sure the input would be valuable to the thread. The portrait should be arriving in Australia any day now. It’s rather odd to paint someone I’ve never seen IRL, so a little more nerve-wracking than the usual “reveal” to the client, just a little. :)

04-06-2009, 10:08 PM
I was hoping to include a photograph of myself with True Colours framed as she arrived here over a week ago. But due to family circumstances I have been unable to get to the framer.

However I can no longer keep quiet as True Colours graces what may in a formal world be called our mantlepiece and Tom and I enjoy her all the time and friends who call in gasp (literally) and admire and compliment the artist as to what has been captured and everyone is as surprised as Tom and I that such could be painted without ever seeing the subject.

Also during the day True Colours changes quite magically, wearing a soft dawn light, bright attire through mid-day and then seems to become (dare I say it) almost sensuous as evening falls.

Tali - I take my sun hat off to you and thank you for this amazingly beautiful image which we treasure.

04-07-2009, 12:48 PM
Hi Tali - This is been a very interesting and informative thread!! :clap: :clap: :clap: Great!!:thumbsup:

Wayne Gaudon
07-08-2009, 06:54 AM
Holy Crap .. I think I'll wait till I retire before I tackle something of this magnitude .. the painting is stunning.
BTW that means I like it, A Lot. :D

07-12-2009, 04:00 PM
Hi Tali,

I knew this would be an awesome painting and I was right! I am applying this method on a painting and got stuck when I had to draw the outlines. What pencil did you use for the outlines and how did the ball point pen disappear at the end?

08-04-2009, 07:09 PM
Very interesting. i will work on being able to use a digital photo program properly.


01-15-2010, 12:49 AM
Wonderful! I have never thought of doing this. I almost always work from photos and this would be such a help-thanks. Somtimes, i may know something is off, but can't "put my finger on it"-this could be the remedy! Thanks!!

01-30-2010, 06:18 PM
WOWW!!! :clap: :clap: :clap: Thank you so much, Tali. I love your portrait work! I have been wondering how I was going to be able to afford the teacher and books I would need to learn portrait painting, and God has answered my prayers through you. I have been crying, while watching your beautiful painting and the wonderful simple instructions you have used, so that we can all learn to paint from you. Thank you very much.

05-02-2010, 06:23 PM
Thank you Tali. I have enjoyed reading your process. I could never understand the grid (armature or golden mean)you were using. But after your explanation, I tried to do it myself and I think for the first time I am understanding it! Thank-you!!!

Jery Haworth
05-07-2010, 01:55 PM
Thanks for sharing your image/science/data procedure Tali. Much to learn from
your art. I'll visit often....glh

06-20-2010, 09:20 AM
Brilliant post, thanks for taking the time for showing us through this one!

11-05-2010, 04:05 PM
dear tali,

words fail to express my gratitude after having gone through your thread. the desire to paint is gratifying but always comes along with a deep sense of helplessness ,cos one cannot channel the thought processes with clarity.

your thread adds some sense to my madness :clap:, and im so very thankful to you.i respect you as an artist, but even more as a good person, cos you pass it forward. thank you

11-08-2010, 02:47 AM
Thank you all. I'm so glad my mad rammblings have made some sort of sense. Painting is such a fulfilling journey. And while quite a personal one, I believe strongly that it is meant to be shared. I am still learning every day. Were I to document another portrait today, it would be a completely different process. But that's the fun of being an artist--enjoying the journey! Again, thank you for the encouragement--it's made my day. :)

12-31-2010, 12:32 AM
This is wonderfully helpful. Thank you.

03-10-2011, 09:06 AM
I liked this a lot! Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

07-05-2011, 06:11 PM
Hello....this is my first post. I enjoyed reading your thread and I hope that I will eventually be able to achieve this type of work. Needless to say, I am impressed.

As an adult new artist I have been trying to teach myself everything - mostly through copying and thru trial and error. The internet helps a lot.

Along the vein of "there's no such thing as a stupid question" I would like to ask how you go about transferring your computer image onto the canvas. You mentioned "tiling" and "acetate", and it looks as though you are printing some of your image on your computer (on acetate?) and somehow using that to transfer the image.

If it isn't too much trouble would you mind explaining how to do this? My technique has been to print out my image, punch little holes around the perimeter using a finishing nail, taping the 'punched' image to the canvas and then marking each punched hole with a little dot using a pencil. Then I come back and "connect the dots" so to speak. That is enough to give me my proportions and a few 'landmarks'.

There has got to be a simpler way! Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance for not laughing (at least not so that I can hear/see you)!



12-04-2011, 09:31 AM
Thank you too.

01-12-2012, 03:28 AM
headed over here from the pastels forum. I am not a portrait painter, but I appreciated this enormously, it is a brilliant tutorial and a very generous one too.

I was SHOCKED however, to see how the painting "aged", I have never heard of such a thing before. Is this because of the paints you were using, those watermixable ones? Does it always happen with oil paints? As a pastellist, I had no idea that this could happen.


12-17-2012, 07:22 AM
fascinating, i love taking advantage of computer technology

06-27-2013, 07:30 PM
Thank you so much for this instruction, and for sharing your knowledge and your beautiful work. As a beginner, I struggle with identifying values in a picture, and with your step by step guide for the computer editing, I think I might finally be able to move forward...thank you again for helping us combine the both of the technical and artistic world!

12-10-2013, 06:44 PM
Very cool! I use gimp and figure some things out. Love it!

01-04-2014, 06:47 PM
I appreciated this thread and how my computer and PSP can finally get some use once again.

I have spent the better part of the day with a photo and finding out what all my options are. I have a few things saved to a folder and now I need to see if I can find this Landmark Mapping or something similar to it...
There may be hope for me yet. I have only been painting for a couple of months, but my goal is to paint a portrait by the end of 2014..