Category Archives: Techniques & Research

Artful Subterfuge

So I was recently shown this interesting article about artistic license. It is quite an interesting discussion about how subtle details and hidden messages can add depth to a piece. The Clinton example especially shows how its not just the subject who creates the character of the piece.

Stuart 13More importantly it has allowed me to reflect on what I have added to my own portraits in this series. For instance, with Stuart’s portrait, none of the words he gave me directly signified the laughter seen. Sure, the words suggested a lack of seriousness and a bit of immaturity, but it was my familiarity with Stuart that brought in this fun energy. I know him to be loud and energetic, and to enjoy laugh proudly.

Even though I tried not to let my own thoughts overly influence the paintings, I guess my subconscious was always going to be there in the background. It can be seen in my other portrait too. To take the current on of Louise as another example, I have always been a little intimidated by her and so that’s probably why I am going down this “evil queen” route.

So whilst I am already subconsciously imparting more character into my portraits, it would certainly be an interesting experiment into ways of adding more character to portraits. For example, in a character piece I could add shadows of out-of-shot character to give an impression of the rest of the scene (for example a mighty monster, or a rowdy crowd), or add wear and tear to their clothing to add personality.

Unfortunately it is too late in the semester to properly explore this and so I will have to leave it until another time.


Chopping Off the Skull

I have been reading a book given to me called ‘Drawing with the Right Side of the Brain‘, by Betty Edwards. It has been very useful in teaching me ways of removing the idea of the symbol from my drawing and instead drawing the shapes and shades present.

It has also highlighted a problem I have been having, the source of which I have been struggling to pinpoint. The issue is that I can often render a face with good proportions, but then struggle to frame it upon a well proportioned head. The book has shown me where I am going wrong, I am cutting off the skull.


I am failing to add the correct amount of volume to the head, often not allowing for the head to go far back enough, which in turn squashes the top of the head to match. It is the hair that often tips me off balance with this, as it either has a lack of of distinction or an over-abundance of it, and thus I get lost within its form.

So how can I can combat this? Well as with all other issues there is no magic solution, I just have to practice practice practice. How I will be practicing can be defined however. As I said the hair often throws me off a bit, so I will be removing it, all of it. I am going to go down to the core and practice drawing skulls until I fully understand their proportions.

skulls with ref

Unlike my other studies which focus on the face this one will actually be more symbol oriented. I’m am not interested in the lighting and tones present, I’m looking at the proportions and shape. I will be continuing my life/live drawing studies alongside this and trying to learn as I go.

Looking More at Drawing with Tone

I was introduced to this video which further discusses the ideas and techniques Ryan discussed.

It’s strange, I am no stranger to painting- having spent a long time working with oils before I even touched digital painting- but I never considered the techniques being compatible with my sketching.

With oil paints I get rough lines in for placement/reference, then just start throwing paint on canvas relevant to tone and shade areas.

When I sketch though I slowly build up form and shape with lots light lines, I draw symbols. Then I erase the symbol by filling in the shadow. As you can imagine this is very time consuming and pernickety, especially when strong lights and shadows are present.

I am definitely taking a liking to this method however, and plan to alter the arsenal within my pencil case to better suit it. Of course, it will take some time to get used to the lack of reference lines again as I haven’t painted with oils in a few years, but I can definitely see both the speed and quality of my work improving.

I might actually be able to live draw now….