Sunday, April 18, 2010

Portrait: Pirate

Yesterday was another live portrait session that I attend on a monthly basis. We were working at the Winslow Art Studio in Cambridge, Vermont. Twice a month, various artists get together to paint for 5 hours and we share the costs of a live model. The woman who posed today had made a fantastic costume. Looked very authentic with the swords, daggers, etc. She did a great job.

As you can see, the painting on the left was done by my instructor, Karen Winslow. The one on the right was done by me. Oooohhh boy! Is there a huge difference between the two. Her's is definitely much more professional looking and a lot more realistic. Mine is too flat, the proportions are wrong, the color is wrong, etc. Not a very good job on my part.

So, what did I do wrong: Lots of stuff. However, let's look at some main areas: background, lighting, proportions, and values. Notice that I didn't say color. Color is always secondary. If the values are correct, then the painting reads realistic. Color is like icing on the cake.

Background: On Karen's painting, notice the variety of the background. The background goes from a light value in the center to a darker value on the edges. There are a variety of colors in the background that work well together (greys, greens, reds, etc). Nothing in the background is to strong to draw you eye to it. On my background, I have just one color and it is too similar to the rest of the painting. No variety to make it interesting.

Lighting: Karen defines the left side of the face in light and follows the light down the entire body. The left side is significantly lighter than the right side and portions of the darker side lose their edge into the background. The areas where the light edges meet the dark are the strongest value changes. On mine, the lighting on the left side is correct, but the value changes where the light meets the shadows are not strong enough. This gives the impression that the light is coming from the front, and not the side. In many cases, the shadow side is not dark enough (especially with the white fabric).

Proportions: Karen's are dead on. There is nothing outstanding that says that the figure is wrong. The foreshortening is done fantastically such that the person is exactly the way that you would expect them to appear. On mine, the proportions are wrong. The head is too big, the body is angled wrong, the legs are too short and at too odd of an angle.

Finally, the most important of all: Values. Karen's painting uses values correctly to show the changing of the shadow edges, the lost/found edges are well done so that your eyes are no attracted to anything other than the face. The face is incredibly well done. The value changes in the nose/eye structure leads to a realistic looking face. On mine, the values are done incorrectly.

Overall, mine is not a great effort. It's not a horrible effort (to some, it may be). To me, there are parts of it that I like. However, it's not what I intended to end up with. This is the reason for practicing.

Study what makes other paintings more successful and learn where your mistakes are.

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