A Longtime Friend’s Wedding Portrait

I am often slightly backlogged on writing blog posts. It’s something that I’ve mentioned previously and is probably fairly common for many artists who write about what they do. Not anything too crazy, but it’s not uncommon for me to share something I sketched a month ago, or to be writing about something that isn’t even my latest drawing. In this post, I’m going to share a drawing that is on the extreme end of my delays; this portrait is over six months old! Definitely an instance of time getting away from me a bit.

Sometimes, I’m propelled forward to write about something I’m incredibly wrapped up in – like with my series of Elden Ring posts. With those drawings, I was still playing the game all the time and wanted to talk about it, so it was incredibly easy to write about. Other times though, I am not quite sure what sort of topic would fit a given drawing, as was the case for my recent “mirror’s reflection” sketch. This was a fun one, but it was very random and didn’t really have much backstory to it. In other instances, the context may only be interesting to me, or to family, or something I don’t want to share to the broader internet. Sometimes, writing gets tangled, and I have to shelf an idea until I feel like untangling it.

As I mentioned, this particular drawing, which was a gift to a friend who I’ve known for more than 20 years, was actually done many months ago. He got married towards the end of 2021, and I thought this might be a nice way to say congratulations to them. Where sharing this got a bit tangled (to return to a useful metaphor) is in considering posting it to all the usual places. I know that this friend does not have a social media presence and values his privacy. He’s given permission before for an older drawing to be published in a book, and it was simple enough just to ask him, but it was enough for me to hit pause and write about other pieces. That pause just ended up being longer than I would have initially thought! Can we fairly blame The Witcher and Elden Ring? Maybe so!

Anyhow, I gave this finished portrait of the newlyweds when we met them for lunch one afternoon. It was presented wrapped in a protective sleeve I fashioned from cardboard boxes tapped together (with a plastic sleeve cover underneath) to aid in transport during their flight home. The cardboard contraption was hilarious because the initial look on his face was along the lines of, “Are you handing us your trash? Are we being pranked?” Fortunately, he and his wife both seemed much better once they got to the actual portrait:

Wedding Portrait for a Longtime Friend

Right of the top, I think this portrait looks much better than the last one I did of him. That previous attempt was in 2018, back when I first started trying to figure out how to use color. A few years ago, I definitely hadn’t yet figured out how to effectively layer and blend. But now, I think I’ve gotten much better at matching and combining colors, which required extensive “learn by doing”…or even “trial by error.” Some areas of color certainly aren’t perfect, but in a general way, it’s a good effort on that front.

Most of all, I’m happy that I was able to draw fairly accurate representations of these two top notch people. They’re both very personable and engaging, and I think that sense comes across in the drawing. But more than the correct “vibe” coming across, overall I think it looks like them! As I’ve discussed many times, that’s the first box I want to check off in a drawing. If I can do one thing right in a portrait, I always hope it’s that I achieved some measure of fidelity to the real people.

As is pretty much always the case, I can certainly find aspects of this portrait that could have been better. There are some zones that look a bit faded; although I’m tempted to blame it on bad photography, I think these areas were faded in the original too. Specifically, his hair and ears, and her hand, have poor contrast that doesn’t look right. This is particularly jarring when compared with the deep blacks and grays I’ve been able to push forward with some more recent drawings. I have made contrast an emphasis lately, but I think this portrait happened before that effort.

Above, I’ve embedded a progression video. Hopefully, I’ve not given anyone whiplash with how often I change my approach to these drawing progressions. Most recently, I had evolved into more of a slideshow time-lapse, which just flipped through photos I took as the drawings take shape. But this one was an actual real-time video, edited to remove moments when my head was in the way, and sped up a bit to make it easier to view. This one also isn’t quite as fast as most I’ve shared this year. Hopefully there’s some value in mixing things up a bit!

Well there we have it – this writing has been untangled. It’s funny, once I get rolling on something, those knots almost unravel themselves. An interesting related trend actually came to mind as I was writing this post. I was pondering how long some of these posts get, almost to the point sometimes if I’ve written myself beyond the attention of any potential readers. Does anyone want to read a novel about some guy’s messy sketches? It’s like a cooking blog that writes paragraphs of backstory before getting to the actual recipe (something my wife in particular doesn’t like). It got me thinking about doing another analysis post, which I haven’t really done in a while. Basically, pull the word counts of all my posts and see how much more “wordy” I have gotten over time. Would I be surprised by the findings?

This blog has overwhelmingly become about artwork, but I used to feature quite a lot of data crunching (airline legroom, sports salaries, etc.). So, perhaps a brief return to data soon!

8 comments

  • Nice painting from the wedding, you really captured the couple well. I really like how you got the texture on their skin!!

    • That’s much appreciated Shawn! Although sometimes I can’t muster the patience to layer the colors as much as I should, I think this time it worked out!

  • The thing I like most about this post is that you are taking a critical look at your work, identifying areas of improvement, acting on it, etc.

    This is a master class in how the process should be in my opinion. Well done.

    As for the blogging, I can related. A few months ago I realised that there were 2-3 pieces I’d done that I hadn’t even mentioned on WP.

    As much as I have a love/hate relationship with Instagram there’s no doubt that it gets faaaaaaaaaaaar more visibility than any WP post so it tends to get forgotten about for me.

    • Thanks Steve! I really do try to dive into the good and bad with every writeup. I’m honestly not trying to roast myself or anything like that, although I admit sometimes it may seem that way. I feel like every single piece is another learning experience, so it helps me to try to take a lesson from each one wherever possible. Even if it seems like the lessons are pretty repetitive! For example, my noted weaknesses with scenery, clothing, and objects comes up a lot in these.

      That’s so funny you mention that about Instagram vs WP visibility – I was just pondering that the other day. I wonder what the next “thing” is going to be? Blogging had its revenue generation hay day, then social media took all clicks. I’m sure it’s something we can’t even fathom (or if you do, go ahead and invest, right?). Maybe the video-centered platforms (Tik Tok, YouTube) will bury the others? Or will virtual reality (Meta) finally become a thing? I doubt that last one, but I’ve been wrong many many times when it comes to tech.

      I’m glad you stopped by though Steve, it reminds me I need to swing by your Instagram and catch up on your work! Haha

      • Yeah, swing on by to Insta – if you’ve been exceptionally observant you may see that my follower count has dropped from over 1,500 to about 700. They didn’t abandon me, I’ve been deliberately deleting them. Apparently I had a lot of “ghost” followers… that’s not something I thought about on wordpress though I fear if I did the same on WP then I’d be left with you and two others. For real !!

        Every painting is a learning experience, fine words !!

      • Wow that is wild! I figured there were always some bots floating around, but that’s surprising there were so many once you weeded them out. 700 is still quite a lot though from my perspective, especially if you feel better about them being actual people interested in artwork.

        I would guess I have a similar number of ghost followers. I know for sure there have been some on WordPress, although I’m not sure quite how many. Whenever someone subscribes, I try to look at their stuff too (particularly if they’re an artist). But there have been times where I click the user and it just says something like “this site no longer exists.” It’s not frequent, but it’s definitely been more than once.

        By the way, speaking of your Instagram – so @moospeed is also yours? But just dedicated to car paintings right? I’ve got both followed now, but I just wanted to make sure I’m on the right track there.

  • Love how you have done the progression. Very skilled and beautiful.

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