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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Digital Images, A Boon to Portraiture

Maggie in Progress, measurement lines visible, not a good likeness yet.

Reference photograph borrowed from Bing Images, measurement lines visible

Drawing free hand from photographs allows for easy documentation of measurements. Lay down a straight edge and see what  points line up with what.  When points don't line up as they should, make adjustments.
Yesterday I lifted an eye.  Today, I enlarged the nose and zeroed in on the lips widening the space between the nose and the mouth.  Her apple cheeks and smile lines were revisited  and repositioned and I began reexamining the darkest areas of her hair, for they suggest the shape of her cranium. From a flat photo, I'm working a flat surface just as most portrait artists do during most, if not all, of the process.

 John Singleton Copley's George Washington
Right now, Maggie is more Bette Davis than herself.  Jane from Milan noticed the resemblance.  I noticed it too.  Maggie's  face is narrower than Bette's. That's why I'm looking at a close up of both the drawing and the reference photo today on computer.  The change of venue offers insights easily overlooked looking at the whole.  I raised an eye yesterday and that raise dictated taking another look at the related features--and the overall structure.  Translating  the current state of the drawing as well as the  the reference to computer, I can see more clearly where I stand.  Maggie isn't Maggie yet. Right off, I see the bridge of her nose needs a bit of narrowing down.  (This is why I like
using a grid for portraits that count).

Digital images, from the camera, from the computer, are a great boon to a genre that depends heavily on likenesses.  Last year, I particularly liked looking at the portraits of George Washington.  I favored Copley's work over the others-- because Copley was hired by nearly all the founding fathers.   Word of mouth gets around, clients favor likenesses--but there's a hitch:  some clients like to be better looking than they are. Given that piece of information, sorely won in my own early experiences, the portrait artist should ask the subject for their favorite photos of themselves, as well as take their own  more formal shots. The painter/cameraman is most likely to get the best lighting.  [Erin, is better looking in my portrait, than she was in the candid photo I took of her where the lighting was poor and I should have, could have, would have used a flash had I known then what I know now--but she looks like Erin looks to me. Nana is pleased--so's the other Nana. Good enough] .


Daylight Savings is starting in three weeks.  I will be putting my Sun Torch Light away.  I've enjoyed my thirty minute early morning drawing sessions very much and will have to find something to replace that bit of  educational fun.  An hour of gestural painting is a consideration. I say an hour because there's set up and clean up--not so with graphite.

HAPPY PAINTING GUYS.  The studio is calling.


  1. Such a good idea, the black and white comparison on computer. I shall have to steal for my current portraits. Thank you. I too have really enjoyed your TMD-s.............!

    1. This is what I was talking about in our last email. This post was with your project in mind. With my blessings, glad I could help. I'm pulling for you, but that's really unnecessary. You're very competent.

  2. Poor Maggie - no phototshop-ing here! BUT you did a great job on a caricature portrait.Lighting works wonders to take away those deep wrinkles and bags, She looks so different on Downton Abbey.
    I got my nose up to Copleys work in Boston... great flesh tones.

    1. There was no photoshopping before either. Portraits done free hand go through a series of adjustments throughout the work process as new information is discovered. Discovery is the fun of it. A crow is a crow is a crow. This Maggie isn't just any Maggie; there's no repetition in portraiture.

  3. I knew who this was when she appeared on my sidebar. She has a wonderful face. It is fun to see your drawing and the photo reference. :)

    1. I have a resemblance, but not a likeness---or is it the other way around? :-)). Anyway, you keep on till satisfied, just like with any other painting and eventually you get it. In Copley's day, it wasn't unusual for the portrait artist to go live with the subject for however long it took to complete the likeness. Washington ordered new clothes for his portraits. He liked fancy military uniforms with lots of ashes, brass and whatnots.