Saturday, September 22, 2012

Portrait practice and nature studies

Lately I've been in a mood to practice digital portraits.  I adore seeing the color and value artists achieve with skintones digitally, and I suppose the final push was when I got a bunch of brushes from my friend Sam Hogg, whose digital (and traditional) work is incredible.  She also pointed out something that should have been obvious to a friend and I that we never knew was possible in Photoshop - brush opacity controlled by pen pressure.  I'd long been controlling brush size with pen pressure, but never knew you could control opacity that way as well - I always thought if you wanted your pen to control opacity, you had to use a program such as Corel Painter.

You'll probably think that I've posted these two digital portraits out of order, since the first is much better than the second, but the first portrait is with photo reference, and the second is without.  For my second sketch I wanted to see how much I could 'remember' about facial anatomy and color/shadow without consulting a reference.

Referenced from this photo by Faestock on DeviantART:

Primarily I'm trying to improve my facial anatomy.  My biggest problem spots are noses - even in this sketch, when I finished, I realized the nose was actually too far to the left (her right) and I had to move it over.  Even using a reference, I tend to go 'blind' when it comes to the human face (and body).  This is something I hope to improve upon by practice.

No reference (and it shows!)

Here my weakness with noses is pretty apparent, as well as an all-around unfamiliarity with the human face.  You'd think that being a human myself, I'd be pretty familiar with the features, but it's amazingly difficult to 'remember' all the subtleties to a nose, or the flaps of skin around the eye.  The colors are also weaker compared to the first.

Today, I decided to have lunch on my favorite rock at a nearby wooded area that surrounds the town reservoir.  On my way back, I found a stunning red maple leaf with bright green veins - a leaf that was probably just starting to turn but fell off the tree prematurely.  I took it home with the intention to paint it, and noticed that by the time it was in my house, it had already started to darken and dull!  It's as if autumn leaves have a built-in 'leave me outside' mechanism.

Autumn Leaf Study (watercolor on paper) :

 Even with all its imperfections, I still like this study.  Somehow, the roughness and looseness of nature studies seem more forgiving than human anatomy - perhaps because we, as humans, are more familiar with the appearance of our own species than the world around us.  Or perhaps it's nothing so complex and there's just something beautiful about loose nature studies!