Monday, March 13, 2017

Achromatic Portrait Play

Next up in my ongoing yearbook-inspired portrait project: Dr. Chester Collins. It took me a few days to get to know the good doctor's face; I spent a lot of time studying his photo and trying to recreate the planes of his intriguing visage in my toned paper sketchbook. In the initial sketch, I ended up changing the tilt of his head and eyes just slightly; he's looking much more directly out of the frame than in his yearbook photo. He reminds me of a few actors in the original Twilight Zone and I love the angles that are somehow soft and welcoming rather than aloof. I think you can see the resemblance between the original photo and my rendering but also that there is enough difference to suggest a completely different person.

Working from black and white photos - especially if you do it often - is a fantastic way to familiarize yourself with what parts of the face are bright and those that fall into shadow. Values - the range of light to dark - are most apparent in these old photos and it becomes just a matter of taking time to truly see those values and slowly build the highlights and lowlights into your drawing. Colored pencils allow for patient, deliberate layering of color so that was my choice of mediums. It is also worth noting that I didn't use a black ink line to detail the face and features before beginning the coloring process. I wanted this to be a soft, realistic, value-dominated portrait and a strong contour line would have flattened and "cartoonized" the image. Once I got all the values in place, I added the slightest bit of color into the doctor's eyes. I have no idea what his eye color was in real life; vintage photos allow for a great deal of creative interpretation. I hope that hint of color brings the viewer right into the center of Chester's face and adds a touch of humanity and life to this mostly achromatic portrait.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fantastic! And thanks for sharing your process. I really appreciate understanding the choices you made to get the result you were after. Dr. Collins does look like he'd be right at home in a Twilight Zone episode.
-Ellie

Loulou in Texas said...

Your explanation of how you used the colored pencils is so helpful and makes me notice so much more about the portrait. Nice job!

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