Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Unorthodox Lighting for Portraiture


The grid system used for a dot-to-dot initial layout drawing for this portrait worked well. Back to having a brush in  hand, I'm more at home switching to the alla prima approach for a more gestural portrait.   The gesture approach suits the subject's perch on that fence; he's not secure. He's balancing on that rail with no hands. I'd like to catch the vicariousness of his position.  With the slightest movement, he could lose his balance and fall forward or back. He is a boy caught feeling his oats in a fleeting moment of time. Where at first I thought I'd paint him in a controlled manner, I've changed my mind. There's nothing controlled about the way this sitter is sitting--including how I took the photograph.

I spontaneously snaped the photo in a back lighted situation without thinking, without using the flash to correct the situation. Consequently, the subject is very dark and the features less pronounced.  There was no time at the time to fool around with camera settings. JD's pose was spur-of-the-moment and my settings were what they were, (set to take photos of art on the easel in the studio). What to do? I employed Ellis as a stand-in. Standing with the light from our doorwall at his back, I photographed him with the camera set appropriately to get an idea of how the light would have hit JD's face and shirt. I was about the same distance from Ellis as I had been from JD. Ellis was standing. I was sitting approximating what my position to JD had been. Ellis' face came out very well lighted--too well lighted--nearly washed out. The flash lighting was  harsh. I will paint the kid as I saw him. A back lighted portrait is more unorthodox than a teethy smile, but in this situation, it was the truth.  A gestural portrait style is also the truth of the informal situation and the subject's casual dress. The loose style will describe the briefness of the event.

Today's session involved pinning down the initial pencil drawing by covering  the lines with a very thin mix of oil paint and laying down some values to test my back lighting decision,(I like it).

NOTE:

Because I do love taking snap shots and the lighting situations are nearly always imperfect, I went looking for a photography book on using natural light.  I found a wonderful one titled, Natural Light Portrait Photography by Douglas Allen Box, copyright 2001. It tells you everything you ought to do when photographing subjects out of doors and got me to play around with my camera--and Ellis. It told you nothing about snap shot photography. I'll keep looking--or I'll forget about it and continue as I have been: following my intuition on the spot. But if you would like to know more about natural light photography, do take a look at this book. It's excellent and very affordable. I got it used from Amazon for $1.18 plus $3.99 for shipping.





29 comments:

  1. Man, I am so behind. I started a new job 6 weeks ago with long exhausting hours (good, though), but mostly my problem is that my feeble mind forgets when I don't see you on my list. I never forget you, mind you. Only to check the posts. (As the old folks say in unison, oy!). Anyway, let me catch up a little. I have used the grid; it is fine. I have also done worse when I have cared more about the painting than the drawing. I never deal with light in my photos - I trust luck or my fertile imagination. Finally, I have seen a few Kehinde Wiley paintings in person. They are so well done and, as you say, the concept is creative. But I prefer a more impressionistic style.

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    1. Why don't you see me on your list? Am I or Blogger doing something wrong? Drawing is the foundation--but, as you know from may of Picasso's works, his drawing skills seem missing in many paintings. Only the knowledgable eye (and the art historian) would recognize the significance of his lines and forms. I am amazed though how many blogging artists do use the grid regularly. Where I always use it with my graphite work and commissioned portraiture, rarely do I use it with portrait sketches, landscapes, still lifes or florals. But this baby was too big with just enough complications in the pose to tackle with nothing in my holster, but a brush.

      You do too deal with light in your photographs--indeed, dear sir, photography, the word, means light writing. You can't avoid it. YOu can ignore it--which I usually do and did and will do again. The snap shot is my way to go. Life happens too fast to fiddle about with settings, so auto shoot with no flash is my permanent mode--until I come across a refence photo like JD and wonder what I could have done better to make this portrait easier. Answer: nothing.

      Glad you're working hard. Ellis was suppossedly wrapping it up and in walked another giant job. There goes my art agent. I might have to move my own ass out into the business world.

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  2. Bonjour,
    J'aime cette oeuvre où ce sentiment de la sympathie transpire... Je me sens bien à l'admirer.
    Lui-même vous retourne un : "oui, c'est bon ! ce que vous venez de faire !"
    Gros bisous à vous.

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    1. Je suis transpirer. Je pense que c'est pourquoi je l'ai mis hors depuis si longtemps. Je savais que ce serait une lutte à ce stade de mon expérience de portrait. Noir et blanc, je le fais bien. Ajoutez de la couleur et de peinture et trepedation prend le dessus - mais jusqu'ici tout va bien. Merci pour les encouragements.

      I am sweating it out. I think that's why I put it off for so long. I knew it would be a struggle at this early stage of my portraiture experience. Black and white, I do fine. Add color and paint and trepedation takes over--but so far so good. Thank you for the encouragement.

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  3. Personally I prefer portraits with unorthodox lighting. And this one is truly wonderful Linda. :) I just got a photography book too that I LOVE, it's about photographing children and I can't think of the title. But it has been so helpful in so many ways that are translating to my art!

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    1. I think you're right. They are less stiff and more how life goes. But a read about photography in natural light won't hurt me. I could use a brushing up of my photography skills--articularly on speed shots--which most of them are as well.

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  4. Your sketch is well placed on the canvas and considering the lighting conditions in advance will surely help avoid some of the pitfalls associated with using photos.

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    1. The composition was a result of my skill looking through the view finder of my camera plus some cropping of the photo in the computer darkroom, which is where I usually compose my photographic compositions for reference photos. The lighting was just the luck of the snap shot draw--and fixable with brush and paint and years spent looking at and making art. The pitfall of the camera is it flattens forms and alters color. So copying photos forbattum should be avoided. But what fun would painting be if there weren't these little adjustments to make us pull out skills and add our painterly touches? Momma never said it would be easy. :-))

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  5. I absolutely love the expression.. love it.. it makes me smile.

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    1. And your work definitely makes me smile. After my visit this morning, my mind is just going all over the place thinking about the work I saw at your place--very stimulating--very uplifting--very inspiring. It makes me want to rush down to the studio and get to work. You've got a friend here.

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  6. That's a good start. I see people start with establishing values. I never do, wonder if I need to or not.
    Looking forward to see next step.
    PS! Not sure why I like "bird's nests". It is partly Julie Ford Oliver's fault since she gave me the inspiration and challenge to do one. Otherwise I think I liked it for several reasons. I can work with my lines, can play with colors, shapes and repetition and I can take it in many different directions (more or less abstract).

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    1. Your acrylic work is more graphic than portraits done with oils. Soft edges and chiaroscuro are the elements of oils; hard edges and flat colors are best done with acrylics.

      I mentioned that birds' nests could be read as vortexes because vortexes and funnels and spinning objects could be a new direction? You'd have to do some research. You said you were contemplating new directions. I was trying to be helpful.

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  7. You've done so much since the last post, Linda.!! It's coming along beautifully. I love the way the light is hitting him...need to see more!!

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    1. I'm in the apprehensive state now. I waited for the sienna to dry and now I have no excuse for not moving forward. When I get down to color is when I freeze up, but I did sellect the red for his shorts. A wildfire painter, I am not. :-)) I really shouldn't chastize myself for being cautious. Aside from a few head shot oil portraits done for practice and only one done very slowly for a commission using the client's photograph, this is my first attempt at a serious portrait following my own aesthetics. I do hope I have some. Scary. :-)) (I laugh, but it's a nervous laugh).

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  8. I love that you are doing this alla prima, seat-of-the-pants, gestural. :) I think this really deserves such treatment. I look forward to see how you handle the backlit look, as I have a photo of my niece - backlit - that I'd like to paint, but am not sure how. You're the leader ...

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    1. Pressure's on! I have no idea what I'm going to do. As you said, seat of my pants. I'm guessing I will keep at it till it feels good and the boy is sitting firmly on that railing and won't fall off onto the viewer--till he's anchored to the picture plane. I suspect that will be achieved by tying the lights in his shirt and the side of his face to the light of the open background? The gift is, it's oil paint. You don't get it right the first time, wipe it out and try again--much more forgiving than watercolors.

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    2. I truly look forward to seeing what you do. [MORE pressure!] I just read a few comments, and noticed a few people, myself included, are not getting your posts coming through on their blog list.

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  9. Linda- I signed up for email updates and haven't gotten any. Wah!! And you aren't in my feed. So I'm going to resubscribe and update your feed. I don't know what the deal is.
    My apologies for not keeping up.

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    1. You're way out of my league when it comes to understanding feeds. I wouldn't know where to begin. Do what you can. I really think subscribing is a great way to keep up, since I've grown a bit lax visiting everyone I'd like to. I owe apologies too.

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  10. Hi Linda. The latest LWRoth that showed up in my blog reader was the March 14 one. Until today, I thought you were still suffering from SAD. I checked--I'm still one of your followers; don't know what happened.

    This will a nice portrait.

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    1. Others have told me the same thing. I have no idea how to fix this; RSS feeds are a big mystery. I am glad you found me now though. Thanks for telling me. And thanks for the thumbs up Hallie.

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  11. Linda- you might go into your settings configuration and make sure you've not turned off the feed somehow. In the meantime, I'll start checking my Google reader in addition to my Blogger reader.
    I'm not getting emails either even though I've subscribed. Again, I think you must have some setting turned off. My feed is set through Google's feedburner service. I suspect Blogger is too. You should be able to look directly at your feedburner account and see what's happening.
    Don't worry about keeping up with comments. It's an impossible task. I think most of us just comment when we can. I always look and rarely comment.

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  12. Well crap Linda! I just found out Google reader is going away July 1st. I did check my blogger reader and you were there in my feed. So disregard my last message. I don't know what I'm talking about!!!

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    1. Oh great! I thought I'd have to crash course Greek. Words like feedburner and settings throw me into a frenzy that usually lasts for days as I have to click into that strange HTML world and decipher codes only 007 can.

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  13. Hi Linda! Oh I remember this pose--it will be fun to watch it come together. I know you'll do a great job of it! Yes, something happened to your "feed"--your icon doesn't move on my sidebar. It is stuck on 3 months ago. Wonder what the deal is!

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    1. You're asking the wrong gal. As I said, Greek.

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    2. I looked through all the settings and everything looks kosher here. I have no idea why you're stuck three months back. You're coming through here visible and readable and properly dated.

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  14. Dear Linda I found the look inside(on amazon.com) the book you mentioned. Really interesting!
    This way we buy books for me, is on amazon.co.uk .... And as always brilliant your work on portraits, like the landscape "realistic-abstract" full of your energy.

    I have bought, low cost, a number of used books and sold out to paint flowers!
    With what astonishment I discovered that my favorite flower painters, watercolorists award winners, in these books admit to be used with discretion, in some cases, or in large doses acrylic colors!
    So I started experimenting with acrylics in hopes of making a synthesis of what I have learned from Jericho and what appeals to me. Maybe the best is yet to come ... it seems that freedom of brush, joie de vivre and summer time go well together.
    Hugs, Rita

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    1. Watercolor has been a favorite and respected medium for centuries, I wonder why deviate from such a respected discipline? Your flower painting is superb. Your acrylic work is impressive as well. Acrylic has a different feel to it than watercolor--not as delicate, a bit more robust. Gauche and acrylic seem similar.

      My productivity is down this year. My enthusiasm has cooled a bit. Biking, gardening, photography, American and swimming are how I want to spend time as long as we have this glorious summer weather. After finding my niche, I seem to be making decisions on what I want to do with it. Finishing this portrait is the only art I have on my list of any importance.

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