"Does It Look Like Me?"
One of the artists that attend my Wednesday Studio has completed a portrait as a gift for her grand son.
|Portrait of Tank, Framed|
Colored Pencil portrait of “Tank”, her grand-puppy.
When she came in she was overall pleased with the likeness. This is definitely Tank, not a generic bull dog. But there were still some problems. Overall there was more of the texture of the heavy paper showing than she would have liked.
“When I bought the pad, (it is #140 lb paper) it said ‘Gray Scale’ on it. I thought they were talking about the color, now I think it is the texture of the paper, scaly!” was Mary Anne’s take on it.
The pad does scale through all the shades of gray. And I am sure this is what they meant by gray scale pad, but the texture of the paper is very definite and it can overpower the art done on it. And it looks like scales. With colored pencil this can be a problem. Finding a support that has enough tooth to hold the colored pencil but does not have an overwhelming texture.
Also, she was not at all happy with the forepaw. It looked like a blob, she said. The fine details were giving her trouble. There were also details in the face that needed attention.
It took some time to stop and think.
When you run into problems in art, the instinct is to push ahead. Drowned it in details, in fancy brush work, lines or gobs of color. Wrong approach.
Art happens in the head first, and here is where the solution will reside.
With Tanks paw, we had to come back and think of just what we were drawing. The leg is a column, the foot (paw) is basically a rectangle attached to the column (leg) by a fat little ankle. So these shapes must be accurate first, then shaded to give shape to the volume. The shapes of the shading is important too. It needs to make sense with the light source, and there is always a light source, or how could we see it!
Once these issues were address, Tanks leg and paw emerged from the page.
Background is still there.
Mary Anne elected to have a simple, color block background. Fine, it suits the portrait well, but it still needed to be addressed with the same care as the rest of the portrait. Background is not an afterthought, but an important part of the composition.
Sometimes we as artists can be a bit lazy about this, or even cheap. We don’t want to spend our time and effort on what may seem an unimportant part of the art. But a good background is what makes the subject pop.
|This is Tank, |
And he is looking fine!
So time was spend to develop this background, first layers of crimson lake then blue indigo. Not just one layer each but multiple layers red/blue then red/blue. There is even a layer of black in there.
The result? A strong background that makes tank jump out and give the appearance of an oil portrait.
Other than the canines, bull dogs have rather small, delicate teeth. These where hard to get with regular pencils. Here is where Very Thins, by Prisma color came in. These harder pencils are not something you would want to use every day, but are just the thing for fine detail. Which is what they are designed for.
|Tank- reference photo|
Addressing the eyes, Mary Ann’s reference photo did not give the eyes a good go. Dog pictures seldom do, but this is a dog she knows and loves, and here memory came to her rescue. Instead of solid black, which in a photo a dog’s eyes can appear, she worked layers of black/brown and white to give his eyes life.
All in all this is a drawing of Tank, not just any bull dog.