Unfinished Art and an Unposed Portrait

I had to double check because it didn’t seem possible, but it looks like it’s been almost a month since my last drawing. Time really flies sometimes. Okay, not sometimes – pretty much all the time. My last post was about using models and figures to help with portraits, which in my case was some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As I mentioned, the Ninja Turtle thing inspired me to research actual human drawing models. I was able to find a good candidate, but I went through eBay…which was a bit of a trial. I have what I hope is a resolution, but it will be a couple more weeks before I receive the figures.

I’ll write more about that process soon, but in the meantime, it seemed like a good idea to come up with something else. Staying in the drawing habit is important to me, so I have to make a point to keep it up at least once a month. I don’t want to experience another huge period away from the hobby if I can help it. Back to figuring out the next subject – I’ve actually put myself in a great position idea-wise at this point. I have a folder full of ideas and inspiration, much of which comes from personal photos and free image site Unsplash. I’ve also got a cache of unfinished portraits that I could return to. And I’ve even got a working idea for a children’s book that would be fun to start sketching.

Some of my unfinished drawings. In clockwise order with reason for stopping in parenthesis: Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys lost in the playoffs), Dragons Dogma video game (liked a different outline better), A dude on his phone (wasn’t sure about the perspective), From Dirk Nowitzki’s retirement game (Dirk and Charles Barkley’s mouths are super weird looking).

I decided to scroll through my recent posts and see what I’ve done over the last couple of months. It seems that the last artwork featuring my family was back at the beginning of summer! That was a portrait of just the kids, so I thought the next one should feature my wife. I considered a group of the three of them, but I’ve done a ton of those. No, this should be a solo portrait. I checked out the last drawings I did of my wife by herself, and had the thought that I wanted to do a more candid pose. Most photos are of her looking straight at the camera though, so this would be a challenge.

I started going through my collection of snapshots to find a suitable reference. Google Photos was a tremendous help due to the ability to sort/search by person. I found several good ones, a few of which didn’t fit my criteria of being unposed – I may return to these for another portrait. Anyhow, I really like impromptu scenes, but examples can be hard to find because most photographic opportunities are planned and expected. I did find one that clicked with me though and seemed interesting. As usual, I’ll provide the finished version, discuss the process, then show the progression. Here’s how this portrait turned out:

This was an interesting one to work on. For starters, the photo itself was sort of blurry as the room was not bright, which presented a challenge. It’s nice to be able to lean on real details. I had some difficulty capturing the subtle lines and shape of her mouth, but it is mostly accurate I think. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to completely depict her eyes. In my version, her eye lashes completely obscure her open eyes, but in the real photo you can somewhat see her pupils/irises through the eye lashes.

Overall though, this does look like my wife. The portrait is recognizable as her, which is always the first victory I seek. I also like the portrait in a general sense – it’s one I can look at and feel positively about, which is another broad goal I look for. My wife is not particularly fond of these unposed shots, so I’m not sure if she’ll like this one as much as I do. But since I found some other good ones that are more in the style she likes (smiling, eyes forward), I can always do another soon. As I mentioned, those pose-able figures probably won’t be here for quite a while.

I made a decision that I’m sort of happy with on this one; her pants are black in the photo, and I decided to only lightly add a touch of color. Although you could make a case that I punted the ball here, I actually think this was the culmination of lessons I learned from other pieces. In a drawing of John Malkovich, my faded skin tones in his hands played very poorly with his dark suit jacket. This recent Jon Stewart sketch had a similar issue of skin tone/shirt clashing. It can be difficult to know when to be bold with color and when to dial back the clothing brightness to draw attention to a face. I’m still learning through trial and error, but here I think I made the right decision! Dark pants at the bottom of the page would have probably drawn your eyes away from her face.

I took quite a few progression photos with this one, so here’s a .gif of this portrait coming together:

Well, that’s a wrap for this portrait. I’ve already pretty well telegraphed what the next post or two will probably be about. So I’ll be back soon with one of those things…or maybe I’ll just change my mind completely! You never really know how this inspiration stuff will play out.

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