Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dot-To-Dot, One Way To Start A Portrait

One sure method for capturing an accurate likeness: the grid system
and laying out the initial drawing by noting strategic points.
Adjusting the reference photo to fit the size of
the canvas. A 9" x 11" traced study ready to transfer
to an 18 x 24" canvas. 
After two alla prima wipe-outs the last couple of days, I finally resorted to grid and the dot-to-dot layout method. It had been so long since I used that approach, I was glad I remembered how to enlarge a reference photo and reproportion it for the canvas I intended to use. In addition, the grid did facilitate capturing the double tilt of the subject's head, which  gave me trouble when I did some preliminary sketches months ago.  I let too much time pass between those sketches and starting the painting. The grid allowed me to refresh my memory on strategic points.

This portrait  I see done cleanly, but as I paint, my opinion constantly changes as the painting develops, so don't hold me to neat. I did decide to definitely paint him with an open lip smile--which I feel  is more expressive of a  young boy feeling full of himself and crowing about it.

The lines of the background interest me a lot. The way I cropped the reference photo solidly ties the background with the subject and does keep viewers' eyes on the canvas. It is a back lighted photograph, which is not great for portraits, so how I'm going tosolve that issue is still up in the air. The reference photograph was taken in the shade of a canope with  natural light behind the subject. My photographic error was not employing the flash, but the boys movements were fast and spontaneous, so there really was no time to fool around with camera settings--another error: not presetting the camera for the snapshot situation a head of time.

NOTE:  I have edited this post since first publishing.  Feedback was I was embarrassed about using the grid, dot-to-dot method to start a painting. I am not. The method is excellent when resizing is necessary and when there's a tricky drawing challenge--like a head tilted downward as well as  turned slightly upward--also for when a figure is in a foreshortened pose. The method saves time and insures an accurate likeness.










14 comments:

  1. How you get there is of no matter, I have resorted to projection/tracing, usually when time is short or the subject complicated. Practise gives you the skill to draw accurately. I am excited to see how this progresses, because I know how much it means to you.

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    1. This painting doesn't mean as much to me as you might think. Yes, the model is my grandson, but it's his pose that makes the portrait interesting on a larger level and worth doing. It's a painting about the bravado of young boy's, which I think has appeal for a larger audience than his immediate family. All of us as children have experienced that exhileration of youthful prowess of balancing vicariously on a railing with no hands and feeling great that with our accomplishment. This likeness does not have to be accurate--the boy's stance says it all.

      I've never used a projector. I have used a grid many times to resize or to get down a difficult pose. Like I said, dot to dot on a grid is just one method of starting a portrait when painting the darks and lights and getting down the forms isn't enough.

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  2. I'm glad to see you give this one a go again. The subject is great, good luck, fingers crossed. Sorry for not commenting so much, but I do look, don't worry. :)

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    1. It took me a while to get back to it, but I did. I think was seconding thinking it. Alla prima landscapes and such are more fun not being so dependent on accuracy. Thanks, I'll need it. Not to worry. I've been lax myself with regards to keeping up with everybody. When the weather is nice, I'd rather be outdoors enjoying it.

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  3. I can't wait to see the progression of this painting, Linda. I don't see anything wrong with the grid method..
    I know many people who used the grid...and now they don't use it...Is this charcoal?

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    1. I don't either. It's just one way to start a painting when there's a difficult tilt of the head viewed from below and the scale of the reference photograph doesn't match the scale of the size canvas selected. This painting will be in oil. The outline you see is pencil.

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  4. Well I knew you were going to do this, but was still surprised to see it. It is "nice" to see that other painters also have to consider how to approach things. I especially have the problem with the balance between spontaneity and control, especially in the starting phase of a portrait/face painting.
    Looking forward to see the progress of this one. Good luck on your journey.

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    1. This is my first three quarter figurative portrait too, which will have me having to deal with clothing and albeit how it drapes his body and describes his pose. The folds of his shirt are also important for strengthening the flow of the composition. It's no wonder, I put this one off so long. I knew it would be far more challenging than a head shot. --There's also the added problem that the reference photo has poor lighting. I have poor Ellis standing in for this sitter in a backlighted situation and have been shooting him using a flash--as I should have done when I took the photographh. As often is the case when you are doing candid photography and your subject is constantly moving, there's no time to fiddle about with camera settings. Point and shoot and then worry about it. My reluctant stand-in will supply me with how using the flash in that backlighted situation would have lighted the boy's facial features. Ellis wants twenty dollars for his modeling work. :-)) I told him he'd never be broke; I'll always owe it to him. :-))

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  5. Linda!
    Love your latest posts. Love that painting! So exciting and dramatic! Great skill also!
    Great job using the grid. I hate to use a grid but I find it so helpful! I am more of get right into the paint type of guy. For me most of the time a goo "fun of art" is better than a good "work of art!"
    Great sketch and start. I am looking forward to its completion!
    Take care Linda!
    Michael

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    1. I like going straight to the canvas too with the paint Michael. But grids are good when too even if they are a lot of busy work first. I think they are especially useful for portraiture especially if it's commissioned. We do not want any paying clients unhappy with the likeness of the sitter. So I save the grid for those occasions and use alla prima for everything else. Alla prima is an exhilarating way to start a painting, whereas the grid is a bit tedious. Thank goodness I did get down his "perch" and can now go back to my gestural ways with the paint. Knowing I was going to have to use the grid might have been the reason I put off starting this portrait?

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  6. Hi Linda,
    I really like the idea of an open-mouth smile. As for grids, I use them all the time, for transferring, enlarging ... I think it is almost mandatory to re-create a good smaller sketch. And if it was good enough for the "old master", it is certainly good enough for me. :)

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    1. Me too. Frans Halls' Laughing Boy is another of my favorite paintings in the DIA's collection--even though the kid has rotten teeth. JD's teeth are just fine and his smirk is delightful. While I'm fairly certain the 'Laughing Boy' was painted alla prima, such notable painters as Johannes Vermeer used a grid glass and the camera obscura as drawing tools for his domestic interior scenes loaded with details. After painting alla prima for months, the grid is a tedious way to start even if it's accurate and was the right beginning to use for this painting.

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  7. Linda: I hope you realize you do see the world differently than most of us. No matter how many dots or grids you give me, I could not produce that level of art.

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    1. Is that good or bad? Vietnam was the first war that was televised. The horror we saw in our living rooms, made it an unpopular war and kids did burn the flag and boo the soldiers returning home. It was shameful--for the kids doing the booing were the gifted ones, the ones who could avoid the draft by being in college. The ones who couldn't afford college were the ones over there fighting and dying--or the ones disgracing their country and themselves by running over the border to Canada. Good post you wrote. Thought provoking. Freedom? Restricted freedom? What's it gonna be?

      Now, write about tattoos. And how body art as beautiful as it can be, in the twilight of life, turns to faded, ugly inky smudges. I do not understand permanently marking up a body that's beautiful just as it is.

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