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Portrait practice between paintings

Here in Pensacola, there is a group of retired illustrators, hobbyists, and some recent graduates of PCC who are excellent painters that meet weekly from Sep to May. Since I work full time, perform on the weekends, I come to this class periodically to try to keep up drawing skills between paintings as I usually use a grid and calipers for that. I had quit using the calipers and was drawing stylized faces with the canons until I got on DMP site, and now have gone back to the Atelier (measure, measure, measure). Trouble is, the model moves a little, and I am 10 feet back, so each eye, nose and mouth might look anatomically correct, but they are sort of "stuck on"... and they have a Mr. PotatoHead look about them. I just do value, no color. Charcoal, white, on toned paper. We only have 3 hrs, and I think it is good practice, but few are satisfactory. Any suggestions appreciated...


  • edited May 2013
    Hi Arturo,

    I do a lot of sketching of people in public places who move around and are otherwise uncooperative (probably because they have no idea I am sketching them!). I definitely don't have time to measure or even hold a pencil up to gauge proportions. I do three things to compensate. 1. I always have the basic Andrew Loomis rules in my mind for general placement of features on the head, including relative sizes and distances. They are not hard to commit to memory. 2. I keep an eye on shapes on the face that change depending on how the head is turned. The most common on for me is how much of the far cheek is showing or blocked by the nose, and what the angle is of the line running from the far cheekbone to the chin. 3. Make sure big shapes are correctly placed first then go for detail. If you draw something in the wrong place, erase it no matter how much you like how you rendered the details. If you don't, it will throw everything else in the drawing off.

    That being said, some of my sketches work out and others don't. As you say, its all a matter of practice. If I don't draw for a week, it takes a while to get back in the groove.
  • Arturo, Martin,..... Kingston has a great tip there of using a bigger tool. I could say something, here, but I won't. I use a carpenters pencil. If you haven't ever used one, it might feel a little awkward at first, but it takes only a few sketches to get used to the feel and see how versatile it is for sketching and getting the big stuff first.

    Martin, I can agree more with you on Andrew Loomis's rules on anatomy and heads and hands especially. I don't know how many are aware of this, but these books have been re published and are available on Amazon. These to me are some must have books for art and especially for those doing portraits and figures. I have all from the original printings and because of their value now, I am going to get the reprints for my own use. Everytime I read these, it seems I learn something new or reminded of something I got lazy with and forgot. Great books.
  • Its odd but the distortions from not placing the features on the face exactly right are sometimes quite stunning. Just the old trick of characatures. Sometimes better than the reality.
  • Well, thanks yall for many encouraging words... but as I suspected... I need to continuously practice... and I'm probably not working at it more than an hour every other day, and 2-3 hrs at the drawing class on Wed AM... This week the drawing looks better... but it was one of those expending drawings... something wrong here, so move something there and when your done, the drawing is 20% larger than you intended...
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