Every now and then I get an idea that I want to do a painting that challenges me. Sometimes it’s a still life, sometimes a figure, sometimes a portrait, and I know it’s going to take a bit longer to get everything in the right place than usual. One such is this portrait.
When we paint someone or something we know, we tend to fill in the blanks or make guesses based on what we “know” about that person or thing. For example, I could say I know that this portrait’s eyebrows go at an upward angle with little curve, however when we’re painting or drawing, it’s really essential to let go of all of those pre-conceived notions. While you may think oranges are round, they’re a series of angles that form a not-perfectly-circular form.
For these kinds of challenges, where I know in advance I will be possibly messing up – I do a sketch. This isn’t really a “drawing” drawing, it’s more of a quick idea with only as much detail as I need to figure out what challenges I will face when I actually paint. In this case, I had started the face too wide, the shadows too far from the center of the face. It’s these kinds of mistakes I would run into when painting, but at that time I may not be able to put my finger on what’s wrong. Since drawing is the foundation of painting, it’s always best to start with a sketch to check your idea. Figure out what bothers you before you’ve invested a day into an under-sketch. Then fix it, and remember to keep an eye on it when painting. It makes the process much faster!
Here you can see my lay in. I already corrected the eye on the left that went out too far.
You can see some of the issues have been corrected here – the right (our right, his left!) part of the face has been moved in, the eyes have been corrected, even the nose’s bottom has moved up quite a bit. All of these are things I’ll look for when I paint.
Here I’ve made several more adjustments. I’ll probably keep working on this sketch just for fun, but for now, it’s shown me what I need to look out for in the future.
Thank you for reading!