Nonphenomenal Lineage

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Bob Portrait

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I am doing a portrait of my friend Bob, and I thought it might be fun to post my process here.

1) Choose Original Photo: He sent this one to me when we first started talking and, despite the fact that his face is partially covered by his hand, and drawing clothing folds is hideously difficult for me, I decided this picture really captured his personality. I think he told me he wasn’t really doing anything here, and the bit with the walkie talkie was totally posed, which makes me laugh.

2) Initial Sketch: I printed out the photo at a decent size so that I wouldn’t have to draw it from the jpeg off my screen. Then, I sat down and did a super-rough, super fast sketch so that I could get an idea of some angles and scale.

When I draw, I usually have this fear that I’m not going to be able to control my hands and my final drawing will end up horribly out of proportion. So I usually start by drawing a really messy, rough version first. This warms up my hand so that it’s used to drawing, and it also allows me to draw freely without fear of messing up the real drawing that I’ll start on another sheet later. I usually learn a lot from these little sketches, and when I start my underlying sketch for the real drawing, I usually feel tons more confident and don’t make the same mistakes as the first time’ round.

3) Pencil Drawing Foundation: After the super-rough sketch, I start a new drawing, this time with a little bit more of an idea on how to draw the curves and measure the scale. This stage is definitely the most important, because if I mess up here, it will ruin the whole drawing. So I take my sweet time, and usually spend several hours developing around messy lines so that I have correct proportions.

4) Clean up the Pencil Outline: I try to be very methodical in this stage, constantly checking my proportions against the photograph. I find that a really good way to check proportion is to hold my drawing up to the mirror, especially when doing portraits. Part of the problem with drawing people is that we have such an ingrained idea of how humans are supposed to look, that when we draw them, it’s easy to confuse our idea of what a person looks like with the the actual lines and shapes of the particular subject.

Holding my drawing up to a mirror abstracts it enough so that I immediately see any flawed angles or mis-measurements. Sometimes I’ll draw a particular line 7 or 8 times, checking it each time in the mirror until I’m satisfied with it.

5) Final Ink: OK, So I skipped a bunch of stages here. It’s just that I forgot to take some pictures of the drawing while I was progressing. However, you can guess the rest.

I drew the rest of the lines inside the figure and then used my fountain pen to ink in the lines. I’m not quite as skilled with an ink pen as I’d like to be, but I also think that if I drew my drawings on a bigger scale, I’d have much more control over the small details, which are the ones that sort of get fudged in drawings like these. I think I’m eventually going to have to start drawing portraits on 16×20 paper, instead of the 9×12 I currrently use.

You can also see the background sketched in a little, which I later removed.

See on his right eye where the ink looks blurred? I made the mistake of trying to erase the pencil lines underneath too quickly after I had used the pen to ink the eye. Augh, I’m so impatient. At least I can clean it up in Photoshop.

6) Scan and Rasterize: This image looks a little screwy here because it’s been bitmapped in Photoshop. My drawings always loose a certain organic quality when I scan them, and I think the real ink drawing looks a bit nicer, but bitmapping it is necessary so that I can convert it to vector later.

That being said, I kind of like how the drawing looks when it’s not perfect and it’s a little messy. I don’t like things to be perfectly clean, I find them to be boring and they’re never as interesting to me.

I always work very hard in the beginning to get a solid foundation for the measurements and shapes in my drawings, and then, once I’m happy with those, I try to have some fun when as I begin to ink them in.

I took a couple of weeks off between inking the sweatshirt wrinkles and the short wrinkles, because doing them terrifies me—I start thinking, ‘I’ve already put a bunch of time into this drawing, I can’t screw this up!’ So I sort of dragged my feet on that part. But I finally got it done, scanned it as a bitmap into Photoshop, cleaned it up a bit, and here we are.

I didn’t draw any of the background, because I want to draw it all in Illustrator, so I have a clean, very simple illustration that won’t compete with Bob, whose clothes are already rather busy and intricate. I was worried if I drew a background by hand, it would be equally as busy and then Bob would no longer be the central focus of the portrait.

7) Adding Color: This part is my favorite, because I think the color is such a distinguishing factor in art. Also because, now that the drawing has been digitized and converted to vector, I can now use the “undo” button, something I don’t have the luxury of doing in the inking process. I converted my sketch to a vector illustration, and the started filling in the color in Adobe Illustrator. It’s easy to switch colors, so I play a lot with these until I find an interesting combination.

Here’s where the graphic designer in me takes over…I normally don’t like natural colors when I’m drawing portraits, and I often like to work with a very minimal color palette. I have started with three colors here, but am thinking about adding a green. I’m not sure if it will weaken the drawing or not, so I’m going to have to experiment a bit before I proceed.

It’s a pretty Memorial Day, so I’m going to get off the computer for a bit and head outside. More later…

Currently listening to The Sounds of the Sounds of Science by Yo La Tengo


*PART 2*

May 30th
8) Rethinking my color palette. Although I usually like to keep the palatte at a minimum, I’m thinking I may use similar colors to the original photo, cause I like the photo colors, they’re nice.

The super flat colors and shapes make Bob look like a mystery fisherman dectective here. Yes, I like it.

See tiny fish, as well.

More tomorrow?

May 31st
Looking at this with fresh eyes this morning, I am super happy I decided to go with wider color range. Normally I always think the design is stronger with less color, but this is not the case in this particular instance. The flatness of color and shape remind me of A)a comic book character B)a 70s nature pamphlet, both of which please me. I’m really looking forward to tackling it again this evening after work.

At this point, I don’t really have a strick vision anymore, I’m just going to let this evolve at will.

June 4

Well, I’ve managed to put a little more time into this this morning. I’m much happier with the flesh tones, and I’ve added some of the background. More later….

OK. It’s later now. I’ve decided to get rid of the water waves in favor of a tree line, which I think is better. I’ve started putting in the forest, which is really labor intensive, so I’m going to take a break on that for a while.

Also, you can see I finished the shading in the face and hand. Also, I’m not 100% sure yet what to do with the shorts. That may change again in the next round. I’m hoping to get at least one more hour of work into it tonight. Two or three, if I’m feeling motivated.

June 5

Yay, progress! I really feel like this drawing is starting to come together. I have the forest in now, yay! And I’ve started working on the left side of the boat. I am happy with how it’s turning out, which is good, cause I wasn’t so sure about it for a while…more tomorrow! The end is near.

June 8

I think….I’m finished! I might come back later to tweak some more stuff…but I think it’s pretty much done. Yay!

But what do you all think about the fish? Good? or Bad?


Currently listening to The Action is Go by Fu Manchu

Written by pocheco

May 29, 2006 at 6:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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