Portrait practice

I recently found this blog by an artist named Stapleton Kearns, and he posts lectures and comparisons on various old masters, and their techniques. I’ve been reading it closely, because they know how to do all the stuff I want to do.

Anyway, this post in particular appealed to me because it has a list. He’s talking about how Sorolla studied Velasquez very closely, to the point of using some of Velasquez’s faces as models. Kearns remarks that in this one head study, Sorolla used a red, an ochre, and a black. And the lights and the darks are modeled separately, and clearly separated.

There’s a lot more to the article (such as edges–he’s doing a really fine study on edges right now), but I got excited. A list! I can do lists.

So I gave it a whack. Here’s my laughable attempt at a moderately famous actor.

It doesn’t really look like him, but I’m still trying to achieve this whole “likeness” thing. Achieving likeness means you spend a lot, and I mean a LOT, of time in the sketch stage, doing measurements and corrections and all. And I really just wanted to do a color study. So the likeness is pretty vague. I plan to do a series of these, and if you wind up being able to tell who I’m drawing, it means I’m improving.

Anyway, here’s the palette I used:

I had totally forgotten that Painter has this lovely palette mixer, where you slop on your colors and stir them around. I started with a yellow ocher, black, and a red-orange. I had to mix some white into the red and ocher to make my highlights, and I added a touch of blue to cool them off a tad, seeing as my shadows were so hot.

I think I’m happy with my skin tones for the first time EVER. I don’t have the problem with it being too green (hello, Cezanne!). I’m eager to try another one of these.

2 thoughts on “Portrait practice

  1. You’re getting a lot better at it! The colors are ringing bells of my life drawing class where I learned water color. That’s basically the palette we used. The shadows and the arches around his mouth look awesome. You’re also picking up on shaping noses out of pigment rather than leaving them as line art, which was a HUGE obstacle for me and still is.

    Looks like your trouble area might be the eyes. It’s hard to tell from the size of the picture, but do they have lashes and are is the top of the lower-lid drawn? It’s a very minute detail but can add a lot. They also don’t appear to be looking the same direction, but that’s also a difficult thing to do XD A lot of my people end up cross-eyed.

    All-around, you’ve come leaps and bounds from when you started drawing people! Keep it up!


  2. Thanks for the critique! I do still have problems with eyes, mostly the small, fine, fiddly bits like the highlight on the lower lid, the lower eyelashes, and the fold on the upper lid. I need to do some real serious eye-studies to get better at them.


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