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Exploring Portrait Styles

I usually approach painting portraits with a simple complimentary color scheme.(Reds, Browns, and Greens). I slowly build up the tones and colors with each layer to get the subtle variations. It does help if you apply a color layer on top in Photoshop, and subtle color variations. Even if the choices are arbitrary, it gives the piece a certain kind of 'color quality'. I also like to have my brush strokes to be visible. So, I leave some of the areas unfinished. It serves as an interesting compositional element, in that, there is a contrast between the rough and the well rendered. Here's an example of how I usually paint portraits (or have been of late). This is more of a quick study than a finished piece.

This Week, in our weekly Skype sketching sessions,  Matt and I thought we would explore various portraiture styles, picking out a reference, using one of our favorite artists and spend two or three hours working towards the style.

Richard Schmid has a style that evokes a lot of emotion. I love the perception and the interpretation of the subject in a direct simplistic way. I think his vignetting helps you to focus on a particular moment in the character's life, a sharp and clear impression about a character without distracting you with  too many details. James Gurney has a lot of interesting thoughts on vignetting.

I don't read a lot of comics, and I don't usually find most comic styles interesting. However, I'm fascinated with noir. Marcos Mateu-Mestre's Framed Ink, an engaging read, got me to explore this style. As a side note, I found it helpful to set the Angle Jitter to Pen Pressure and use a rake like brush, create random brush strokes and build on them. I ought to do more of these. It helps with my line quality and also to get a solid head construction and likeness in, before I dive into painting.

There are quite few classical styles I've been wanting to explore. Sfumato is one of them. The soft, blurred(almost smoke like) painting style gives it a nice atmospheric feel. Here's a quick study of Jean-Jacques Henner's 'Head of a Girl'.

Caricature is a really interesting way to go about studying features. Here, I was trying to combine an exaggerated style with the realistic lighting techniques of style of the Disney Interactive artists. Sam Nielson is one I keenly follow.


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