Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The Sunshine Of Your Love (session 1 and 2)

For a change I'm uploading progress as I go for this picture. I don't normally upload images and works in progress until the picture is completed, just in case it ends up in the bin. But this time I'm feeling brave.

I got this reference photograph from the Wet Canvas reference library, taken by photographer Cathy Sheeter who has kindly granted permission for me to use it. I have used several of Cathy's pictures for reference in the past, a fabulous resource  for us artists.

I have got a few portraits done in pencil now, one of my most recent being 'Lust for Life, a portrait of Kirk Douglas as Vincent Van Gogh from the 1956 movie. In it as you can see he is wearing a straw hat (which was a bit of a nightmare to draw) and I think this next portrait will match rather well.
So here is what I have so far. I'm using a 16 x 11 inch sheet of white Bristol board and a range of pencils from B to 8B, but almost entirely 3B and 6B. There is a faint outline drawing, just to make sure I get everything in the right place. As I'm right handed I work top to bottom, left to right and so begin with the hat. I'm going to go for much more contrast than the reference photo has so I'm going in a lot darker straight away. I'm using 3b mostly with 6b for the very black area. I use tortillons made from small pieces of rolled up paper to blend the graphite into the paper, then use my putty rubber to take out various shapes and textures before going in with my 3B to add a bit of detail. Then blend again, rubber again etc. until I get somewhere close to how the hat will look when finished, working a couple of inches at a time.
Having got this far I need to get some of the face and hair done before I finish off the hat as I need to get the tonal values correct. I'll be re-visiting the hat as I get more of the face done to make sure it merges together well and that the shadows are in the right place.
For the hair my method is to 'pre-draw' some of the lighter areas and some 'fly-away' hairs with a very sharp and very hard 6H pencil. This can hardly be seen at first but once I over draw with my 3B the indentations made in the paper become visible, then with a bit more work and more delicate putty rubbering I can achieve very realistic looking hair.
So here is the end of today's work. As you can see I've done a bit more on the hat and moved down onto the face. I'm more comfortable working on a craggy, male face than a girls smooth skin so I'm slightly out of my comfort zone. I'm using my 3B, shading extremely carefully before blending it out. Then building up the depth with more layers, taking care to preserve my highlights on the nose in particular.

I've also put in the first eye. After the eyelid is complete I use my B pencil to shade the 'white' of the eye (they are never actually white) giving it a spherical appearance. I then draw a dark line around the iris before dragging the graphite toward the centre of the eye with swift strokes of my hard 6H. This close-up illustrates it a bit better. I then work with my 3B on the pupil, preserving the highlight and dragging the dark out to the outside of the eye. I end up with a nicely patterned iris with striations radiating out from the pupil. A small and delicate touch of my putty rubber to a small area of the iris makes the surface of the eye appear more translucent.
In this close-up you can also see a bit better the effect of the 'pre-drawing' of the hair with my 6H to give highlights and fly-away hairs.

1 comment:

Pat said...

Fascinating. I could watch your pencil step by steps all day and still be lost in admiration.
The work involved seems immense, but must be incredibly satisfying.