sandra, you made me nervous hehe
here comes the tutorial
In the tutorial, I explain things that seem work for me best. There are many things I could say, but I try limit me with some simple things (Edit note: I dont believe that when I read all this text below. Be prepared). More tutorials will come, more pics that show progress especially from start. Feel to free ask any question or point out some technical errors since the tutorial will be re-changed to be more understandable for all people. Im afraid I overcomplicated things
1. Firstly start with biggest brush as you can. I dont usually make drawing that I paint over aka glazing. Why other way is more beneficial, I'll explain more later.
2. When you start to paint, think about the head as big block mass. Act like you are sculptor that you have a block in the hands. It is 3d dimensional thing in the head that will be transferred to 2D. It is hard to have 2D image in mind if I want understand light, it often turns out to be blind and thoughtless copying from 2D to another 2D.
3. Decide where light is pointed. Simple lighting is preferable for simpleness sake. No two, three light sources at beginning. Look at image below. Where you see are largest shifts in the large mass regarding form, surface structure? Test to touch your face and imagine three dimensional thing of your face in your visualisation (shut one's eyes or pretend be blind guy that have not seen things before) and with dedicated light (for example light lit from above), figure where value shifts occur in large shapes or where parts are mostly stuck in and out in face, which parts are large and small ones.
4. In the image, the largest shifts of shape & value you see are nose, eye places and cheek (also main head) But if we ignore details, we see the head divided to two parts as shown in left part of image. The lit area is middle part of the head (also forehead), it is because the flat surface is perpendicular against light, another surface beside this is bent off sharply hence getting shadow (light makes cast shadow) as eye places, part of cheek, chin. Due the surface is in another angle than its "neighbour".If light source is lit from below, it will be reverse for those divided surfaces. Does it sounds simple?
5. If we come to smaller shapes as lips, beneath lips, ears, eyes, parts of nose. Those are generally more bent off more sharply, hence higher contrast (darker & brighter values). For example lip in shadow has more darker value than shadowy area in cheek. They are bent off at each own way, one is less, other - more. It is easier to bend off the smaller shape than larger, doesnt it? For value scale, smaller parts are distributed on larger parts. It means it extends latitude from bright to dark when we come down to smaller shapes. If I do large shapes, it couldnt be bright and dark unless it is very strong light or very glossy surface. Brighter and darker values on smaller parts help our brain to read how they look in form in details along with larger parts.
6. Confusing? I will come back to that in another tutorial with more pics. But test yourself looking at your face in mirror and experiment with light. Just check cheek and lip then compare values of both (lit and shadow areas) and see if there are difference between them. What means bent-off shape? Test paper, bend this lightly (round surface) and then bend this flatly again and open it and see if there is a difference between "round" paper and other with sharp line in middle? There are lots of objects to look around, cubes, cylinders, spheres... Imagine that the face consist of those such things, some flat areas, some round, other cylinder. Each own surface at particular light angle reacts differently.
7. Anybody want to paint those objects (same objects in the picture ) in reverse (change light to below from above)? I guess not
It is fun experiment from memory, learn from mistakes, put a stroke and see what it looks like. I recommend George Bridgman's book , there are lots of simplified forms of the whole body (simple heads painted in the image above are taken from the book) Play with them simple forms under any light you want from memory. When you understand it, it helps much better to see how it really works when you look at life, photos and still imagine things firstly in the head and compare that to life. Life and photos provide much more info, yeah but it is sometimes overwhelming with much details at beginning without light knowledge.
In another image, I painted with larger then smaller brush. It is how it look at left part for my original images. I blurred those at right part of image with "surface blur" (photoshop filter). It looks like you're have squinted your eyes or go back from image in longer distance and the image gets blurred more. It is definitely good way to find error in shape and value. As you noticed when I did use the smaller brush as below of the image, I go for darker and brighter values and putting where it is more bent off in some areas. The part above (top line) is more blocky, matte surface (less contrast)
In the finished image, I get problem often is to do a proper drawing. I could spent less even half or one third of time to define values and shapes enough good without caring for drawing. I also look so much on forehead and cheek, they are about flat areas but still show small, subtle value shifts. In forehead's shadowy part it is darker because it is more bent off, due smaller and more round surface than cheek. The cheek hides comfortably from nose and lips and has lighter value compared to shadow side of forehead and is relatively flat with some bulge. It gets a bit light bouncing off from surrounding because I have white table and monitor screen and have one light source from right side in the room. The farthest side of forehead shadowy area should be added bouncing off light (many faults in my selfportrait
In close-up, it doesnt look clean, but it works when you see from longer distance. It looks more interesting with own "texture" (it is my personal opinion)
- use mirror, from life (photos dont help you to think and learn independently at beginner stage, photos are limited to latitude, you see images through photo camera, not life, often clipped values. it is nothing wrong with using photos, it depends how you know to use them at right way)
- large brushes as possible while blocking
-squint eyes, go back in longer distance, zoom out image to find errors
- flip image (or use mirror for oil painting), rotate upside (also to find errors)
- stay in middle values defining shapes and go to both ends of values slowly (from middle to bright and dark values)
- if it doesnt work, simplify, do block the object again to get 3d sense.
- look at negative area (silhouette) it gets the brain going easily (a tip from betty edwards book), It helps also find errors.
- keep things simple, it can be everything else. It helps one to understand things better, also find new small things that didnt exist before. As I mentioned above if something feels hard and difficult, go back at earlier step and look where it did went wrong. Though it is easier to say than to do.
- use many different media is good way to develop yourself, it helps to see different aspects under progress, development of techniques.
- go wildly, experiment even if you know it leads to bad works. It doesnt stop you. Our feelings have broad spectrum to register from any strange shape, color, whatever. When I do a serious work, I feel too restrained, so I do a stupid image for contrast's sake and often it get me feel relaxed. Try it!
- rush to details without blocking (it applies both to value and shape)
- leave blank canvas and working on small parts. In blank canvas one part reads differently than in middle gray canvas or black. One part looks dark in white canvas, but appears bright in black canvas. So better is to fill the whole canvas quickly in order to put next right value.
- not looking enough at the object, not thinking to make up what kind of stroke/-s I'd make, not understanding why light affects the object so. The whole makes things more difficult and no possible proper blocking.
- use drawing to overpaint (I'd not see that as mistake but I avoid that) Why do it if drawing is not shown when it is overpainted. if one works with details caring to not touch other laying surface beside, it kills spontaneity. Better make points, short lines to know where parts are laid on and start blocking with large brush ( it may sound Sargent's way but I like his method and it goes fast!) Another problem with drawing & glazing, it is hard to make large areas blending easily without overrun other smaller parts. (in digital media is different, it uses one special layer , joy for lovers of that technique
) Another big plus for Sargent's way that it looks more spontaneous than stiff, it looks like it moves, "sings". Another thing, while blocking it helps you to correct big shapes into right place early, in the drawing you never know, at other way it takes time.
- not make attention enough for proper drawing. Make lots of exercises for drawing, it helps painting definitely. I dont think anyone artist is good on drawing even until death.
- smudge middle value when one is using brighter/darker value. It makes hard to see shapes. (I do that a lot
my bad) Good exercise is using gouache that doesnt allow much blending. It helps to see where light and shadow meet (there value shift occur in shape at simplified way, a line between light and dark areas)
Maybe it is lot of texts and little pictures but I felt if I show image progress, it doesnt help much for other to understand problems and limitations, they just continue to make the same mistake again och again (I love when somebody improves, we all do). I think it is more interesting to dig deeper in the ways making an image and discuss about it. To understand things really, one has to make lots of mistakes, experiment with light. It is no way for me transfer my things to other, it is like to say that honey tastes sweet, buy you dont know until you taste it. To suggest some particular techniques dont apply either, because each person is different and I encourage everybody to find own technique that suits best for one's personality. Some work methodically, other - go very wild.
To copy, study is one thing but to create own light requires another type of knowledge. I think that having such knowledge is beneficial for study and vice versa to build on things more. I have to thank to Craig Mullins who has shared of his advices in another forum. His advices seemed very similar to Sargent's (who knows if he is inspired from him too) and he has a link to Sargent's notes
in the website. He works as illustrator and often have create things out of mind (fantasy). His tutorial of his figure is here
(it explains about same idea as here, though more specific for digital)
Phew, Im sure I'll come back and add things when I come more on new things, but I think I will leave this a while and announce the change of text when it is time. Better than worry you where I made little text changes.
Good luck for other and especially me who dont follow my own advices