- Lesson details
In this three part series, Chris Legaspi covers everything you need to know about beginning portrait drawing, from start to finish. In this first lesson of the series, Chris goes over the steps to take in the planning phase of your portrait drawings. He will begin with a thorough lecture that covers the first two steps in his process: Observation and Placement. Chris will demonstrate these steps by analyzing a variety of different model references throughout. Following the lecture, you will have an assignment that will give you a chance to put these concepts into practice. The lesson will conclude with Chris’s version of the same assignment, allowing you to compare your work with his.
- Sharpie Markers
- Drawing Paper
- Digital Tablet
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specifically how to start your portrait. I’m going to begin with the lecture. The lecture
is going to focus on observation. Before we learn how to draw we’ve got to learn how
to see, so I’m going to share some ideas that’ll help you see better and help you
connect better with your subject before you draw. Then we’re going to talk about placement.
This is the beginning of the drawing. We’re going to show you how to do a thumbnail so
that you can put your portrait in a good composition before you get started.
In the end, we’re going to do some exercises so you’ll be able to start your own portraits,
practice observation, and practice placement. If you’re ready to get started, let’s begin.
If you can’t see correctly, you can’t draw correctly, right? So it makes sense.
When we look at a model, when we look at a reference, there is a lot of information to
soak in. The head is probably the most complex subject matter known to man, known to artists.
Now, because it’s so complex we want to learn how to distill the information that
we need to make our drawing. Obviously, we’re not cameras. We can’t draw every little
detail. We’re not scientists. We’re not going to be able to clone a face on a piece
of paper. What we want to do instead is communicate the essentials of what we see in our drawings.
That begins with observation. What we’re going to do now is share some of the things
that I look for when I look at reference or when I look at the model and just some of
the key elements that I think are important that we want to transfer into our drawing.
The first thing I like to do when faced with the model or the reference is to just stop.
Stop. Take a deep breath. Absorb all the visual information. Take in the moment. Be present.
Drawing is fun. This is the moment for us to kind of relish the task that we’re about
to do, the journey that we’re about to take. Drawing is fun, but it does take a while to
do a high-quality drawing. So here is where we can kind of soak in the model, soak in
what we see. Kind of get our first impression. That’s really important too. It’s to kind
of go with your instinct, and that starts with stopping, breathing, you know, just kind
of get into a meditative state. Take in all the visual information. That’s really what
we’re going to do. Remember, there is a lot to look at. We need a moment to kind of
let our minds absorb the information. Let it soak in.
The first thing I do when I make my first visual impression, taking my first visual
impression, is I want to ask some good questions. Again, there is a lot of stuff that we have
to look for. Some of the questions that I ask are who are they? Who is this model? Kind of get
an idea for who the person is because when we’re doing a portrait we want to capture
more than what we see. We don’t want to copy by any means. We want to, of course,
capture the personality, and that will really bring life to our drawing. That’s a what
with an A. The next question we want to ask is what are they doing? What is the head doing?
The head, as you know, is on a pretty complex joint known as your neck. You want to get
an idea of how much of the face you see. Are they looking up? Are they looking down?
Three-quarter…Also, you want to take a look at what the body is doing too because the body can add some
gesture to our head. That’s one of the things that I like to include in my portrait drawings.
It’s to kind of give a hint as to what the body is doing as well.
It gives the drawing more grounding, more mass, more stuff.
The next question I ask when I’m looking at the model is what is the best graphic shape?
This approach to portrait drawing is more thought driven. We’re not going to copy
what we see. In a lot of ways we’re going to approach it first as a designer. By design
I mean 2D graphic pattern of shapes of value, and when I look at the model I want to know,
what’s the best two-dimensional graphic shape that I can use to capture the model?
That’s part of the first series of questions that I ask. And we’ll explore more of that
later as well.
And the final question that I want to know, what is the light doing? Obviously, when we
draw a portrait a huge part of the drawing is going to be light and shadow, adding the
beautiful tones and the rendering and all that stuff that makes the drawings pop and
sizzle. You know, this is what excites a lot of people. It’s the rendering, the tone,
the edges, all the cool brush work and things you do. That starts with paying attention
to the light. The light on form is another complex form that we have to deal with. It’s
tough. I’m not going to lie to you. I still work on it every day. Now is the time we really
want to absorb not just the model, but also the information the light gives us because
that is such a huge chore. We’re also going to explore some of the things that I look
for when I look at the light, especially in the beginning. We want to pay attention to
the light so we kind of plan our strategy. Again, we’re not just going to copy the
light and shadow and the tones that we see. There is a linear strategy that I’m going
to show you as well. I think that’s key to accomplishing good light and shadow and
in a limited time being more efficient and also making it more professional and more
impactful when you get to the final stages of the drawing.
So, I’ve made my initial observation. I’ve taken the time to soak in the model. Now,
I kind of want it to go into detail about these questions that I ask so that we can
better understand what we’re looking at and better extract all the essential information
that we need.
So, first impressions are important. It’s kind of the first gut reaction that you get,
right, when you look at someone. Not just someone you’re drawing, but people out in
the world. You tend to get like, oh, kind of a gut instinct. I think that’s important
as an artist to tap into that because when you inject that into a drawing you inject
so much more than just 2D visual information. This is where you inject that emotional impact,
that narrative story quality. It’ll add a lot of punch to your drawing and just add
a lot of meaning, a lot of personal meaning. To me, every drawing, every good work of art,
every great work of art is capturing a moment in time. Part of that is being aware of yourself,
of your own emotions. What you feel, essentially, when you first take a look at a model or at
In this example, I have a female model here. Now, some of the questions or some of the
first impressions I got is about who this person is. It’s obvious. You want to know
the general age, gender. This may sound silly, but a lot of these things that we can get
just by looking we can almost emphasize in our drawing and really drive home the idea
that we’re trying to get across. Remember, the first impression is important. That’s
the thing that I want to drive home in my drawing. Here I have a female model. I have
no idea who this model is. I’m just going to go with my gut instinct. My first impression.
What do I feel when I see this person. Her age, I’m guessing she’s fairly young.
You know, I’m guessing 20-ish. That’s important because I want to capture that in
my drawing. Maybe I want to exaggerate her youth. Maybe play it down. At this moment
I want to log it in to my mind so that I have it as a tool that I can use later that I can
communicate in my drawing. So age, I’m guessing 20-ish young woman. She looks like kind of
a confident young lady. She has this like really confident stare. You can tell by the
way her eyes are focused that she’s kind of determined. She knows, I don’t know,
I’m making this up. She kind of knows what she’s doing in the moment. She’s present.
She is like very aware of her situation. It’s these kind of things that I’m thinking about
putting in my drawing right now.
What other impressions do I get about this woman? I’m noticing because of the tilt
of the head here she’s kind of looking down and looking away. Maybe she feels surprised.
I see an element of surprise. Again, I don’t know. A lot of this stuff is just coming off
the top of my head, off the cuff. I see an element of surprise. She is kind of looking
back, like oh, what are you doing. She’s not expecting to be seen. She’s not expecting
to be photographed. She is not expecting to be drawn, so there is a little bit of surprise
there. I’m going to write that down. So, some of the things that I wrote down. Surprise,
youth, confidence. She’s assured. She knows what she’s doing. She knows what she’s
looking at. I can tell by the way her body is going in one direction too that it looks
like, you know, maybe she knows what she wants out of life. She knows who she is. I don’t
know, but these things again will, they may sound silly, but these are the things that’ll
make your drawing and your portrait much more meaningful to the viewer or to the audience.
Okay, now I’ve gotten an idea of who the model is, at least my first impression. Now
I kind of want to know what are they doing? What’s the head doing? This kind of gets
into the actual mechanics of the drawing itself. What are they doing?
Here we have another female model, so I’m going to take a moment, kind of breathe in
the information. Just relax. Loosen the shoulders, maybe, I don’t know. See what we’ve got
here. What have we got? We have another young woman. When I ask what are they doing, I first
want to know what is the overall gesture of the pose. Like I said, the way that I like
to draw the head and portraits is I also want a hint at what the body is doing, so when
I look at this pose I get this kind of gesture in her body. But her head is kind of doing
this kind of thing. Her body is moving in one direction. There is the action, the thrust
of her pose. In this case it’s a reclining type of pose, but her head is kind of turned
away moving in the opposite direction. Her gaze is turned away. I also want to note the
tilt, in the yau, and the rotation. Tilt, yau, and rotation are aeronautic terms, I
believe, the way a plane spins in three-dimensional axis. That’s what I want to do with the
head. Let me quickly just jot a note down here. In terms of tilt, this is very important.
We want to know how much the head is tilted up or tilted down.
The yau is how much of the face we see. Is it rotated this way? Is it rotated that way?
In this case the tilt is almost straight by slightly turned up. It’s very subtle. I
can see that because I can see underplanes. What I mean by underplanes is if you look
at her nose and you look at her chin, you can see a little bit of the bottom of the
nose, a little bit of the bottom of the chin. That tells me there is a little bit of a rotation
up. That could also mean that we’re below her. Our eye level is below the model. That
happens a lot too especially if you’re drawing from life. Typically a model will be on a
stage, and you will either be sitting or standing. Therefore, your view will be a little bit
lower. So, that can happen as well. But in this case, I feel the view is eye level, but
her head is actually tilted up. She is looking up. If you look at her gaze, her stare, she
is looking up. This, right away I know I want this in my drawing. When I say I want this
I’m going to draw this, and I’m going to pump it up. I’m going to do this times
10 or a hundred. I’m going to exaggerate this uptilt so that if I were to finish this
drawing this would be a huge part of selling the pose, the actual action. You’d be surprised
that if you add a little bit of action to a seemingly static subject like a portrait,
man it’s just going to pop off the page. I do this a lot in figures, but it works great
in heads. Right away I know, but when I saw her gaze, this is going to be a huge selling
point in my drawing.
Now, next is the yau, I believe. It’s an aeronautic term, basically how much do we
see? Do we see front? Three-quarter? Or Side? Front, three-quarter, or side? Most likely
you’ll get front, three-quarters or somewhere in between. Looking at our model we have an
almost, it’s a three-quarter, meaning you see some of the front of her face, and you
see some of the side. You can see her ear, some of the side of her face and shadow. Yeah,
that tells me it’s a three-quarter.
What I’m thinking, I’m thinking ahead a few steps when I’m drawing, imagining
this drawing. I will have to communicate the side of her face and most likely I’ll do
it in both a combination of line or shadow. But that’s going to be a huge part of the
drawing, so I want to be aware of that now. I have to communicate not only head slightly
up, but also three-quarters. Some front and some side. Also, here I want to begin to add
a little bit more of the body. I want to indicate kind of what the neck and the shoulders are
doing. Even though a lot of portraits focus on the face. I’ve seen many excellent portrait
drawings, where it’s just a beautiful face, cool, abstract background, shadow. I want
to at least hint at the neck and shoulders, at the body because this to me kind of grounds
my drawing. It makes it a meaty, like a big three dimensional statue kind of thing. I
really love that feeling in drawings.
So, looking at our subject here, she has a beautiful kind of twist in her head. Her head
is rotated slightly away from us, looking away from us. The body is actually moving
in this direction as well. Shoulder is actually coming forward. I want this in my drawing.
If I were to draw this I would focus 80% to 90% of the head. I want a hint at some of
this gesture because this will add a little bit more story, a little bit more life. You
know, the audience may not even know why it’s important. Maybe the audience can add their
own meaning which, of course, makes your drawing more compelling when you suck the audience
in like that. I kind of want that feeling, that Ah, that kind of feeling she’s kind
of, it feels kind of shy, you know, like we did in our first observation example. We kind
of want to get an idea of who this model is. This model feels a little bit more shy. Maybe
she doesn’t want to be seen. Maybe she doesn’t want to be photographed. I can tell that story
in her neck and shoulders because she’s kind of like, her shoulders are slightly raised.
They’re supporting her weight. She’s kind of moving away from us. That’s the feeling
I get. She’s moving away from us, but yet she doesn’t want to be seen. She’s turning
her head and turning her gaze away from us.
All of this stuff, it sounds so silly, I know, hearing myself talk I sound like a crazy person.
You’ll be surprised. If you can put these kind of emotional qualities in your drawing
you’ll be surprised how it pops off the paper. That’s my justification for having
all these weird thoughts in my head, but when we actually get to the drawing this stuff
will make the drawing pop. That’s always a good thing. That’s pretty much it for
what this pose is doing. I think I have a good idea of some of the physical action that
I want in there and a little bit of a story and emotional quality that I want in there.
Now I’ll be ready to make my next set of observations.
going to begin thinking about the mechanics of the drawing. At this stage even though
I’m just looking at the model, I’m already in my mind planning the actually drawing strategy,
actually what I’m going to do on the paper.
Thank God I’m an artist and not an English/writing teacher. Graphic shape. The reason why I say
graphic is because the way I like to draw is I draw more as a designer and a draftsman
versus an academic kind of approach. But, by no means do I want to copy what I see.
Of course, I’m going to be very realist, very naturalist, very true to the model and
what I see. I also want to add my own idea, my own narrative to the portrait drawing.
This to me begins with shape because shape can tell a lot of stories. At the end of the
day a drawing is a flat 2D thing. No matter how much hours we put in the rendering, it’s
still flat. Sorry, I hate to break it to you, but it’s flat. This is a flat piece of paper.
I want to get the most mileage out of the two-dimensional quality. This to me begins
with the observation step.
Here we have an example here. We have a male model. When I’m examining his shapes, the
graphic quality of the model, there are a few things that I look for. First off, I just
want to share the most basic shapes we can use. When is say graphic shapes it may sound
kind of ambiguous. In reality there are only three we can use. We can either use a circle,
a square, or a triangle. We can use variations of these. Essentially there are three of the
basic shapes. Of course, we can also use combinations. We can use hybrid shapes. Most likely you’ll
use a combination of all three. This is where I can get a lot of mileage out of my drawing
just by making good graphic shape observation. I’m taking a look at this model here. I’m
going to breathe a little bit, relax the shoulders, kind of soak in the information. Now I’m
already getting an idea of who this model is. It’s obviously a male and it looks like
a young male, muscular guy. Looks like he has nice traps. His shoulder muscles, neck
and shoulder muscles there are pretty developed. He looks fairly lean.
When I see his face I see chiseled brow, but yet kind of soft cheeks, at least in this
angle. I’m trying to think of the strategy. What would be a good shape? Also, the shape
of his hair. His hair is fairly short, so it’s fairly tight to his head, which means
that we can see almost the shape of his skull. His hair is in hiding. The skull is actually
what shapes the shape of your head, the actual structure of the bone is what drives your
head shape. I’m seeing a gesture, so I’m just going to jot a note down. I’m seeing
this gesture at the side of his face. I’m seeing that strong corner of the brow ridge.
The first gut impression I get is young, looks fairly tough. I don’t know. It’s just
a read I’m getting, just fairly like a tough kind of masculine, muscular build guy, and
a softness in the cheeks. Maybe he is a little bit hard, a little bit soft. He’s balanced.
That tells me right away that I’m going to use something in between.
Generally, for males I like to use boxy shapes, especially young males, lean males where you
can see their facial structure, athletic males. Basically, the idealized male, like the handsome
model-type dude. He’s going to have fairly boxy square shapes, you know, the cut jaw,
define brow, defined cheekbone. So, to me that speaks of boxy. Generally for females
I think curved oval shapes work great for females. That’s a general thing. Of course,
we’re going to use them both for both in hybrid shapes, but that’s generally the
idea that I start with. The point is for this example I’m thinking boxy, muscular male,
kind of a tough guy. So boxes, corners, angles. A lot of straights. But there is a softness
to him. There is a softness to him. Softness in his cheek. Even his chin isn’t quite
as chiseled. That chin is quite soft, his chin and jaw. To me this is probably the best
graphic shape for this model and for this pose. A lot of times even the pose may change
the nature of the graphic shape you begin with. But I think for this guy it’s good.
One way I can test if the shape is working is by observing the height and the width of
the model in the pose that is see from my perspective, my eye view. And by width I mean
looking at the top of his head. In this case his hair is fairly close to the top of his
skull. It doesn’t obstruct the shape of his skull. The bottom would be the actual
bottom of the pose we have. In this case it’s pretty much his chin as I’m looking here.
The sides, in this case the side would be his brow. And that’s what sold the boxy
nature was that brow. If you look at his brow it’s a fairly straight gesture going from
the hairline to the eyebrow here. There is a nice sharp corner there and to the left
is also fairly boxy. That tight hair almost has a military feel so it has that kind of
boxy rigid quality. That’s what I wanted. And just to double-check. Yeah, when I look
at these four points, the top, bottom, and the sides, it reinforces my initial gut instinct
to draw sort of this hybrid/curved, boxy thingy-shaped thing. Then from here we can just go ahead
and, you know, we can begin the rest of the process that we’ll get into much later.
I’m starting to hint at what he’s doing as well. See, I feel like this was a successful
shape observation. Okay, the last thing I want to note in my observation is what is
the light and shadow doing, so the light is going to be a huge part of the portrait, obviously,
especially when we render. Rendering is tough. We really want to take the time here to kind
of plan ahead as to what the light and shadow is doing because if I skip this step and just
kind of jump into the light and shiny, I can make critical errors and just ruin the drawing
and make it much longer than it needs to. It’ll drop the overall quality. I think
that at least for me it’s important to kind of get an idea of first what the light is
doing and think ahead a few steps as to what I plan to do with the light itself.
So, what is the light doing? When I look at the model we have another female model. First
thing I want to note is the direction, and the second thing is the intensity, how strong
it is. This is going to help us get an idea of the overall contrast and the edge quality
that we’re going to get. Okay, first I want to get an idea of the light direction. Looking
at this model it looks clearly to our right, her left is coming from the right, and it’s
fairly intense. There is a fairly clear shadow pattern. There may also be ambient light coming
as well. You can see her shadow side has some definition. Either it’s ambient light. A
reflector was used in this case, I’m feeling a—it’s slightly, it’s up. Maybe I want
to force it down. I’m not sure. I could always tweak the shadow to help tell my story.
You know, making the observations I did earlier. I could use the light as well as the storytelling
element. And in this case… You know what? Maybe I will lower it. Yeah, why not? The
reason why is say that is because looking at the pose, meaning the gesture of her face
and gesture of her neck, she’s kind of looking up. She’s kind of doing this. We’re clearly
beneath her in terms of our eye level. We can see a lot of the underplanes of her jaw,
underplanes of her nose and the underplane of her brow structure. To me this is a fairly
dramatic pose, right? Her head is kind of like this. She’s looking slightly down at
us. What I’m going to is—the light may be in this direction. I just might lower it
just a little bit. Maybe tweak my shadow. Maybe move the highlight. That’s the thing
we want to look for too is where are the highlights? Where are the darkest parts of the shadow.
That is often determined by the intensity. Intensity can be two things: Either the strength
of the light, the wattage, the power of the light. It’s also direction, how far it is.
You can either have the light here or you can put it here. Here, obviously you’re
going to get a much darker shadow than lights and a much stronger contrast. In terms of
contrast, in my drawing I could force the contrast, or I could be naturalistic and try
to capture the contrast that I see. Judging by the light side, and now I’m looking at
the light side, I’m going to—yeah, she has fairly light skin. The local value is
fairly light, and I think the highlight pop that I want is going to be a big selling part
of this drawing. It’s going to add an extra bit of drama that I want in this drawing.
I think that to me is the initial gut instinct that I get when I’m looking at this model.
It’s drama. I want to pump it up.
I’m going to do two things. Already in my mind I’m planning ahead. Two things: I’m
going to lower the leg a little bit, make it a little bit more dramatic. I’m going
to darken an image, meaning I’m just going to lower the key in this case, meaning make
it slightly darker, low-key, slightly darker. I’m going to kind of plan to have the highlight
pop in this direction. As far as the core shadow goes, the core shadow as we know is
the border of light and shadow. Where light and shadow meet is called the core shadow
or the form shadow. Because of the feminine quality of this model, I do get a softness
in her shape. I want maybe the core shadow to be a little bit softer. I’m going to
make that the contrasting element. The highlight pop, the direction of the light, and the pose
will give me that little bit of drama. But the softness of the core shadow. Pretty cool,
huh? I know it sounds crazy. It sounds crazy and I know. In my mind I’m like what kind
of crazy man goes through all this trouble. But it’s cool. You can trust me. When you
get to the finished product, all of this stuff will add so much more to your drawing. Who
else puts this kind of thought into it? Usually you just draw and just like, oh, I have to
draw my thing and do my thing and make the face pretty, make the girl pretty, make the
guy handsome. Whatever. Which is good too. We’re going to do that too. But I think
this really adds a little bit more.
So, let’s see, I’m going to make my shadow soft. In essence, what I’m going to do is
pull back the light. I remember going from here and getting a nice core shadow. I’m
going to pull it back. I’m going to make the core shadow softer. At least that’s
what I’m thinking in my mind. Actually, when I execute I may totally change, but at
least now I’m getting an idea of what I want to do because these decisions now will
save me so much time in rendering because, boy, rendering is hard. I ain’t gonna lie.
You’ll see later when we get to the later stages of the drawing. My God. It is tough
especially for this subject matter because there is very little margin of error in head
drawing, especially in a portrait drawing. Especially if you’re doing a commission,
oh my God. Very little margin of error. To me this is important to really plan ahead.
I want to be as efficient as possible. I’m going to make this decision now. I may change
it later. It’s no big deal. I’m just kind of hinting at the softness of the shadow that
I get, that soft contrast. Actually, like I was saying, I could always change it later.
When I actually lay the charcoal down versus this Sharpie marker, I may totally get a different
feel. This could always change. That’s important too, to be flexible. I’m going to put the
highlight out here. What I’m doing now is kind of visually drawing what I see in my
mind. Little contrast. That’s pretty much the feeling I get in terms of the light. I
know its intensity. I know the direction, and I know the overall mood. A lot of this
stuff is going to set the mood, the tone, lowering the key, making it a little bit darker.
Adding that highlight pop to tell its own story about her personality, or at least my
impression of her. I’m setting the table for me to set the mood in the rendering in
the charcoal. Okay, and that was pretty much the last important observation step that I’m
going to make. Now I’m going to actually begin the process of the drawing itself.
idea of where we’re going to put the drawing on the paper. This is important because when
you’re doing a charcoal drawing you’re using other mediums. You can’t move it around,
obviously. It’s going to be very tough. Even if you could erase, you don’t want
to have too many marks on your paper. I like to be very conservative. I like to think about
this process, put a lot of thought into it. That way when I’m ready to execute I have
a nice little game plan for where it’s going to go. I’m going to go through some ideas
about how I like to place the portrait on the paper, and then we’re going to talk
a little bit about composition and how to make a good composition using shapes and the
values based on the reference or the model that we have. So let’s begin.
Placement. Placement just basically means where are you going to put it, right?
If you have your little paper here, mine is set up vertically. There are generally three ways
you can think about placement, or three things you have to consider. Three locations. One
is directly in the middle so we have our little guy here. The other is where you’re going
to place it horizontally so you can go slightly up or slightly down. In this case, I’ll
place mine slightly up. Also, you want to know vertically where you can go. In some
cases you can go a little bit off-center, either to one side or the other. Generally,
placing it off-center is a good idea. Although you can’t break this rule, of course, you
can break any rule. I like to place things in the middle just for a lot of reasons because
I think it’s very—it can be a very dynamic composition depending on how
you use the values and things.
Generally, off-center is a good place to start. You don’t want it to be too—in the middle
it becomes very static and a little boring. You can use ideas like the golden ratio, the
rule of thirds. Those kind of help you to place it off-center and give you a better
idea of where it should go. But, what I like to do first is to consider the value, consider
the light and shadow pattern. The first thing I look at when I’m considering the value
of the image is first the shadow shape. If I have a little drawing I’ll be getting here.
Let’s say we have a nice three-quarter light.
We have a nice little three-quarter light, creating beautiful form shadows.
Now, in this case there is nice balance of light and shadow. Halfway light and halfway
shadow. When it’s something like this, right away I know I probably begin to move it off-center
because if the face is centered, and the light and shadow is centered, then that’s way
too static. Again, we can break some of these rules depending on where the shadow is. If
we have an example like this where it’s, let’s say the shadow shape is slightly,
it’s a minimal shadow shape. Then this we can play with too, depending on placement.
The other way we can look at it is another way light can be arranged is mostly shadow.
Here we have balanced light and shadow. Here we have mostly light. Here we have mostly
shadow. This is all—we still haven’t considered the local color or the local value of our
model. What’s more important is the shadow to begin with. If first get an idea of how
much light I have, then I go back to how I’m going to place it.
Now, let’s take a look at a couple examples using some reference just so you can get an
idea of how I would make these decisions. First I’m going to start with a nice balanced
light, a nice front view. In this example, I have a male front view with a nice balance,
three-quarter form light. It’s pretty balanced in terms of light and shadow. It’s a front
view with a slight tilt. There is enough tilt for me to give it a little bit of an angle.
I can exaggerate that tilt to the head. It’s kind of doing this kind of thing. I’m noticing
the background behind him is fairly dark, so I could use all of that, the dark background,
the value of the shadow as all one big mass. I’m deciding whether to do that now. The
only way to find out is to actually try it. So, let’s give it a try.
What I’m going to do first is just give myself a nice little sheet of imaginary paper.
These little marks, sometimes I put little dots on the paper so I know where the center is.
It’s total approximation. It’s just something that I like to do. When I’m working
in pen I don’t do it, to be honest with you, but just give me an idea of where my
paper is in my little thumbnail here. I’m going to start by placing him center and see
that works out. I can break the rules, also in terms of size, too. I like to give myself
enough breathing room on the outside so that the drawing doesn’t feel cramped. That rule
can be broken too, of course. Here I’m just going to draw the shadow pattern, an approximation
of it. This picture has a nice, beautiful form shadow. I’m exaggerating that tilt.
I’m going to exaggerate the tilt of his shoulder. Give me that dynamic contrapposto.
I like to—yeah, why not? Eyeline going this way. Shoulder line going that way.
That tells me right way, and if I fill in this mass that placement wise, it’s going to be, this area
can draw a lot of attention. I may possibly move it and use the dark background here.
I think that the center alignment is okay. I’ll try one more where it’s not center
line just to see. These little drawings, you know, you can do these in your sketchbook
or off to the side. They just take a couple of minutes.
Actually, right away after placing it off-center, right away I like where it’s going. It just
feels much more dynamic. I think because there is some expression. There is some character
in this pose here, in his face. I think a little bit off-center will add to that drama.
I like that. I like the way his eyes are slanted. That would make not a bad compositional choice.
I’m already liking this decision. The point is you want to try these little thumbnails
before you begin your drawing. You definitely want to try. A little bit off-center. I’m
going to feel the shadow. I know that because they have so much negative space here, I can
drop the tone here. I’m going to try that and I’m just going to see. If we’re doing
this charcoal I’ll probably drop a nice tone there. I’m liking how this looks. The
last thing I would consider too is horizontally how high or how low it could go. Let’s just
do a quick one. Let’s take this idea. So we’ve moved it over. Let’s take this idea,
a little bit to the left and play with vertical. Let’s try a little bit higher. I’m not
going to spend too much time on the drawing here. Just a nice balanced leg. Let’s just
exaggerate a little bit lower. See where that takes us.
You’re probably thinking like me,
like when do we get to draw, Chris? Come on. Come on, man. Yeah, I’m thinking the
same thing. I want to jump into my drawing too. The moment I did this, I’m like, okay,
I’m ready. But, you know, I’m going to be a little bit disciplined here and plan
this out. I want to do a good job, right. This is a much more disciplined way to work.
It’s quite rewarding. You’ll see when you get to the end product. So slightly up.
Not liking that. Slightly low. Way too much negative space. Not liking that. Neither one
of these were good ideas, but we tried them. I’m definitely liking center in terms of
horizontal, but slightly to the left in terms of vertical placement. It’s only because
the light and shadow was nice and even, the ratio, and the light was on the left, the
model’s right. I made that decision to counterbalance tone in the background. I could always change
that on the fly. At least I know I have a rough idea of where I’m going to actually
begin to make my first marks on the paper. That’s the important part of this step.
Let me look at one more example to show you here.
and it’s another front view. She has a nice dynamic arch to the shoulder. I like what
that’s doing there. I’m definitely going to exaggerate that. There is another tilt
in her head here. Slightly tilted. There are a lot of nice things going on, actually. The
shoulder is going one way. Neck is going one way. The head is going another way so there
are a lot of things I could do there in terms of angles and composition. Looking at the
light and shadow pattern, her face definitely is mostly light. Her hair is light brown hair,
but it’s fairly dark in this light and shadow, at least in this image. I would even say it’s
darker than the background. In this case I can even leave the background the light value.
I’ve got to figure out where we’re going to go horizontally and vertically first. Let’s
start. Let’s see. Let’s get an idea of where this is going to go. The only way I
know is I have to try it. That’s the only way I know.
I like the shoulder thing she’s doing. I like the little head thing. Let’s see if
I can play with that. Now, because there are so many angles I’m just going to start smack
in the middle. Why not? It may not work, but it’s a little thumbnail. It’s no big deal.
I’m liking that. I’m liking. I might try a few variations. In terms of vertically,
it’s smack in the middle too. Actually, I like this. I like this. I don’t know.
I may not go with it, but we’ll see. Minimal shadow pattern here. I’m grouping her hair
with the shadow. I can even use her shirt there. Smack in the middle. Vertically, horizontally.
I’m going to drop my shadow pattern. The only way I know if this will work or if this
looks good at all is to create that first shadow separation, just drop in a little tone
like this with my marker. Yeah, that’s okay. That’s okay. I don’t hate it.
Let’s try a few more. I like where it is vertically. Let’s see if we can play with
it horizontally. Don’t know until we try, and this is the time here. This one I’m
going to push it mostly—oh, I’m liking this. I’m liking this. I’m going to push
it slightly to the right. Of course, I have to try the other way next. Again, I’m getting
myself plenty of breathing room. You’re looking at least two to three inches on each
side and a lot more top to bottom, I would say. Or about the same. I don’t really have
a rule for size. I just know that I like to give myself some room. I’m very finicky
with the composition. A lot of times I’ll either re-crop, cut the paper, or take a matte.
I’m not married to the placement on the paper, fortunately. You can get away with
that using drawing mediums. It’s fairly easy to re-size your paper. Unlike with oil,
it can be a little tricky. So, I’m going to drop my tone. I just want to see if this
works. Does it work? Does it work? I don’t know. In this case I could do something like
this. This just came to mind as some sort of diagonal bit of tone. I like a lot of diagonals
in my work, which is just fun. It’s exciting, dramatic. I’m liking that. I’m liking that a lot.
I’d like to try one more to see if it works. Of course, the next option would be to push
it slightly to the left. This was slightly to the right. I’m liking the vertical. I’m
not going to change that. Okay, right away I know this is not going to work. I can tell
just through experience making this first mark, knowing that this ratio, all this space
over here may not work. Who knows? Let’s give it a try. These little things take like
two minutes, three minutes, no big deal. This is all part of the dress rehearsal. We are
in a lot of way very similar to performers. Even though we make static images in a lot
of ways. We only have one chance really even if you’re doing a drawing medium. You really
don’t want to erase too much. I almost think of it as a permanent medium. That’s why
I love drawing in pen and marker so much. It forces you to be very deliberate with your
marks. You have to live and die by your marks.
Eh, I’m not too crazy about that. I think the only way this can work is that if I put
something here. To me this is just going to take away too much from her. There is a light
here, a lot of light, her eyes—boom—right in the middle. Right away the focal point
will instantly be here. This will make too many, that’s just too—that’ll make too
many reads. This will be read one, and this will be read two. That doesn’t make sense.
What I’ll probably do is compromise between these too. This is definitely not going to
work. Move it to the right, but nudge it slightly to the right. That way this eye, the focal
point eye most likely will fall into one of the quadrants if we’re going to look at
the—use the rule of thirds basically dividing the canvas into nine even squares is a very
compositional idea. The eye will fall over there, and I’ll still get the diagonal that
I want. I really enjoy diagonals so much. I want to look for any excuse to use them.
This shoulder was a good enough excuse, and I think it’ll be nice too because I can
already see like the direction of the strokes. The movement is going one way, the shape is
going one way, but your brush work or your pen work or your charcoal can go the other
way. I’m seeing a lot of potential already here.
So yeah, I’m definitely liking that. I’m glad I did that. I was getting ready to start
with this. I hope you can see that there is a lot of value to going through these, and
doing them in pen or marker or another quick medium is time well spent. If I were to do
this drawing I wouldn’t go to the placement yet. The next thing that I want to talk about
now is planning the value composition. Now that we know kind of where it goes, how much
light and shadow we’re going to use and possibly some of the background shapes and
design we can use. We’ll talk about that later as well, the vignette. Now I want to
know exactly the values and how I’m going to plan the composition based on the values
alone, so we’ll take a look at that next.
thumbnails to decide what values I’m going to use, how dark or how light I’m going
to make it and where to place the values and specifically the design of the value, so that’s
a huge part of making a very attractive and compelling picture, is arranging the value.
So we’re going to do that. The first thing we need to do is we need to simplify the values
that we use. Generally, I like to think of it in terms of three values and three values
only. That is light, dark, and middle. Or you can just say what’s in light, what’s
in shadow, and what’s in between. Something in between light, dark, and shadow. That means
generally when you draw a portrait you want the face in light would be light. The face
in shadow would be shadow, and then what we do with the value that we can use in between
which is known as half tone or mid-tone, that is when the compositional choices come in.
We can either use it to model form, to create more three-dimensional structural form, have
the drawing come of the page, or we can use it more in terms of design, you know, popping
2D shapes off. There are a lot of things we can do, a lot of ways we can do this. That’s
why I like to make these decisions now and do little thumbnails
before I jump into the final drawing.
Okay, so the first thing I think about when I do these value thumbnails is the general
local value. That means what’s the value of the model. What’s the value of the model’s
skin? What’s the general value of the background or the environment they’re in? Generally,
what’s the value of the shadow and also things like maybe their costume, what shirt
they’re wearing. Even their hair or hat or any accessories. All these things have
local value their own, so I like to take the time to examine some of those before I make
the finer decisions. But first, I want to look at local value. The first two things
I consider is it generally a light subject against a dark background or a dark subject
against a light background?
We can really only have two initial choices. Something relatively dark against relatively
light or vice versa. Something relatively light in front of relatively dark. There are
a lot of ways to make this decision. One is to look at the local color or local value
of the model. Also, the light, the intensity of the light. If the light is very intense
and the model is fair-skinned—maybe the model has light blonde hair. It might be a
good idea to go with this kind of set up. To play up the lights and, therefore, generally
give it some tone, some value in the background. If the model is fairly dark-skinned or if
it has more shadow or maybe she’s surrounding by dark local colored hair, maybe you’d
want to go with something like this. This is also good too if you want to do a lot of
work in the shadow which I definitely enjoy doing in my drawings. That’s the first thing
to consider. Is it mostly light against dark, mostly light against dark and mostly dark
against light? The next choice would be a halftone, and for that we have to look at
the shadow shape.
When we look at halftone we want to first consider what’s the shape of the shadow
and how much of the face is taken up by shadow and by light, the ratio of the two.
Let's say we have a nice balanced image of light and shadow. My first decision would be, you
know, once I have an idea of where I want to go in terms of vertical and horizontal
placement, I look at the shadow shape. Let’s say I like the light of the model in light,
the light value of it. What I may decide to do is push the value of the shadow to a darker
range. So now I have dark, middle, light and shadow. Then the third choice I could use
would be the halftone. In this case, I can drop my halftone in the background. Depending
on how far apart my value range could also depend on how dark or how light I make the
background tone or how I’m feeling that day. Some days it can be kind of laborious.
I may be feeling lazy that day. Who knows? Generally, I’ll go based on the amount of
contrast I want, really. That depends on the local value of the model, the skin, or the
intensity of the light. In this case, I like, let’s say I want to push the brightness
of the model in light. I may go one more. Use that idea, the darker mid tone, and then
maybe drop some of it here in the gradation. That’s just one way to work. A quick example.
Now, let’s say I have my thing and it’s kind of placed in the middle. Of course, I
should probably make a better decision about that. Instead of playing up the overall brightness
of the skin in light, what if I just, I want to tone it down a little bit and focus on
the form. What if I really like the light in shadow, the core shadow and the form, all
the beautiful forms popping? What if I want to do that? In that case, what I could do
is—similar to before—push the value of my shadow, the darker range. Now, what I can
do is use halftone in my drawing. Use the halftone in the model’s rendering and maybe
save this section of my light.
So now I have one value shadow, two is light, and my light is only reserved for the highlights
or these light areas, and the third value, halftone, I’m actually using it in the skin,
in the model in light, and this will give me a lot of flexibility in terms of rendering.
This one, not so much. I have less flexibility in rendering if I want to keep that nice high-contrast
pop happening. In this case, I have more flexibility. So that’s a total decision based on what
I saw in the moment, depending on what I wanted to focus on. This one is more about the overall
image, the design, the pushing the shapes forward off the canvas. This one is about
pushing the form off the paper or off the canvas. That’s going to be totally up to you.
Whatever you decide in the moment, whatever grabs your eye. That’s why I spent so much
time and observation getting my gut instinct. I’ve been making note of that before I even
touch my drawing. That’s way before this step. This is another process that I’m going
to go through in terms of decision making. What’s more important to me, and the how
can I use value to tell that story.
So, let’s say I like this idea, but maybe the background is a little too flat. Let’s
explore this real quick, and then I’ll go through some examples so you can get a better
idea. I’m liking this idea. I like to render form. We all like to render it. That’s one
of the fun parts of drawing, is making that cheek pop out, that nose pop out, and erasing
that highlight. That’s fun. I like this. I’m glad I took the time to make this thumbnail.
Let’s see if we can make it better. Or worse-we might screw I up. That’s okay. It’s still
a thumbnail. No big deal. I like this shadow. I like reserving this area for light. I’m
going to go halftone, halftone, No I want to know should I put tone in the background?
Maybe I’m not feeling laxy today. Maybe I’m using one of those big turtle sticks.
Give me a lot of coverage. Maybe I’m using some powder in a brush. Let’s try it. The
only way I know is to try. I have value one, which is this. Value two, which is halftone.
Value three is the light of the paper. Only way I know is to try. Let’s try, I’m liking,
I’m noticing this angle I’m getting here. Again, going back to angles. Let’s try that
nice bit of tone. Half tone in the background. Yeah, it’s kind of moody. Yeah, I like that.
In this case, it’s really going to make that come forward. I like where that’s going.
Let’s try one more. I’m going to go full Caravaggio Chiaroscuro, which means super
coming from the dark. Let’s try a super-dark version and see how that works. I’m going
to plan my placement a little better. This is pretty dark shadow. I’m going to reserve
my lights. Drop in my midtone. A dark background helped my drawing. Here’s the halftone.
Let’s just try it. The only way to know is if you try. If you try with the marker
like this, that looks pretty cool, actually. That looks pretty cool. I have to make a huge
decision here. The only way I know is if I try this first. Let’s start with the halftone.
That looks pretty cool, actually. Right away looking at this and thinking of all the labor
I have to do, I might change the shape of that mark. You know, let’s try that angle.
What if I go darker on the shadow side as well? Wow, I’m liking that. I’m liking
this nice little angle vignette.
You know what? I’m like that. I’m liking this. I don’t know why. This is good. They
can both work. To be honest, what I’d probably do is start here, start with the halftone.
It’s definitely the shape that I’m attracted to, the shape and the angle of it. I would
start with the halftone and then smudge some dark. I wouldn’t push it all the way to
the same value as the shadow by any means, but I would start here and then evaluate.
That’s the only way to know for sure, but I think my gut feeling tells me that this
is a good choice.
a pretty important step before I move on to the drawing. I like to take my time here.
Because I’m using just a quick little thumbnail drawing. These are about 2 to 3 inches. I
do them off to the side on a fresh sheet of paper or often in my sketchbook just using
pen or marker. They’re very easy to generate. This is definitely time well spent. Again,
I want to make all of these decisions before I even touch my paper because I want to be
as clean and efficient as possible, I think this is a great way to work out some of these
very, very important problems. Composition is probably one of the most important problems
that we need to solve to make our picture much more compelling. We definitely want that.
So, let’s get started.
Okay, here I have a male. This is a three-quarter view. I’m going through some of my gut reactions
as to who he is, what he’s doing, some of the angles that I see of the pose, the gesture
of the pose. It looks like a static pose, but I like the movement. He’s kind of doing
this kind of thing. Looking forward. I like that a lot. There is a nice forward thrust.
That’s my first gut reaction. I love the core shadow happening there. I love the shadow
shape. That’s really exciting to me. I love the angle of that core shadow, design-wise.
It’s coming at this angle and has these little steps and these little bumps. The ear
is nice even though it’s shadow. It’s some beautiful small
shapes and highlights coming off it.
Right away I know, even though this is balanced in terms of light and shadow, it’s a little
bit more shadow. Right away I know I’m thinking about form more than design. In this case
I’m going to drop the halftone on this face, and I’m going to use the halftone to model
the form. I’m going to reserve the light value for the light and highlight area, which
in this case is on this head. There is a tiny highlight on this nose, but it’s on this
forehead and his eye. I want that nose to pop out, so that tells me I’m going to have
to pretty much surround him by dark. That’s my thinking. I may not even go that way, but
I’m just kind of letting my mind explore right now. To me this is about form. When
I’m looking at this reference I want to start drawing right away. I want to start
getting all those cool little details and form shadows. But, let’s see if I can make
this drawing more compelling and still get what I want out of it, just a fun form drawing.
Let’s see. I like the angles. I like what the shadow is doing. Alright. So, let’s
get started here. If you don’t want to draw this big on your thumbnail—you can, you
can go through a large—but I generally keep them fairly small, anywhere from 2 inches
to 5 inches. This is like a 5 inch. In my sketchbook I draw them very small, actually.
It’s up to you. I like to work these ideas out quickly, and I don’t want to get too
involved in the rendering or detail by any means, so that’s why I like working small
for these thumbnails. Alright, so I get my little hatch mark here, and I think I’m
going to go. I’m going to start slightly off center to the left. That’s because I
want the focal point to be the nose and its features. The focal point will be right here,
right in the center of the page so that his head is going to be a little bit off-center
to the left. In terms of up and down, vertically or horizontally where to place it a little
bit higher, a little bit lower. There is really only one way to find out. It’s to do a thumbnail.
My first guess will be slightly higher. Let’s just try it. The only way to know it is to
try. It’s a thumbnail. No commitment here. Even though I don’t want to do a full rendered
drawing by any means, I do want to get a general idea of the shapes that I’m going to use.
All this stuff we learned about in observation. Looking at shapes, making decisions on what
shapes to use. Because he’s a male I like the boxy shapes. Right away I’m thinking
boxy, but in terms of the nose and the things that I want to highlight will be more curved.
That’s just more of a shape and design issue. Let’s take a look at the value real quick.
Just giving myself a nice rough—drawing his lips will be—his mustache hair will
be grouped with shadow. It’s fairly dark. This is played slightly to the left and slightly
in the upper left quadrant. I like where that’s going because that’s going to drop the nose
and focal point near the center of the page. It’ll give me some room down here to create
interesting vignette, basically just a nice way to frame the entire picture. I’m looking,
the placement so far. So now I’m going to drop a shadow tone just to separate. I’m
going to start with like a nice middle shadow tone. Right away I know that I’m going to
have to go slightly darker. I have to go slightly darker because I want the halftone in his
face. That’s going to be a fairly light halftone. Just for the sake of this little
thumbnail on the video, I want it to show up a little better. I’m just going to drop
in a little bit darker tone. See where that goes. Now you’re really seeing a nice compositional
pop happening here.
I’m liking where that’s going. I want to reserve this nose. I kind of want that
eggy kind of look with the egg highlights there. It’s kind of a feeling that I want.
I’m really going to make that nose to forehead, and not so much the eye, but the cheek. This
area would come forward. What I want to do is just give myself a little coast mark.
Note to self. Maybe touch others. These are getting my lights. I’m going to reserve these areas
for the light. Highlight will be here and here. Now I’m going to drop my halftone.
Start with this light halftone.
Nice little vignette there. May change that at any time.
That looks pretty good.
Now I have to make a decision about the background. In terms of design I’m thinking about this
shape first, but what I want to do is consider the value. Should I make it as dark as a shadow
or only take it up to halftone? Let me try halftone first.
In terms of the shape I’m going to go this way.
The only way to know is we try. That’s okay. I can live with that.
That looks okay.
Do a nice gradation here. I might even do this. I’d probably gradate from a dark down—let’s
try that. Let’s take a look at that. Same exact reference. I just want to try a different
design in the background. I like where he is in terms of placement. I don’t want to
spend too much time on the drawing. Just get the general shape and placement. Back to the
shadow. I know that I like that. I’m thinking just for the sake of comparison, maybe not
make the background so light—excuse me, so dark. What if I did something like this
and kept it more conservative here. I’m liking that actually. That just feels a little
busy. I lost some of this. I think this is a better idea. I want this ear to be somewhat
of a focal point too. I can use this opportunity for light, dark, and then the ear—I’ll
play around with it. I would play around with the ear to help that pop off the page in terms
of value and contrast right there. That little nugget or as many nuggets as I want.
Maybe this could be like read one, maybe read two down here back to the ear. I don’t know.
I’m just thinking out loud here in terms of the light flow. I like this actually. Looking
at it now, there is definitely less labor involved, so I like that. I like that. I don’t
mean to sound lazy, but sometimes when you put too much thought and energy back here
it takes away from your portrait. You definitely don’t want that, and you don’t want it
to look overdone, overcooked. Do you know what I mean? Overworked. You don’t want
to spend too much time and energy on something that doesn’t need it. I think this is good.
This is good. I’m liking where this is going. I’m glad I decided to try it and also try
a different shape in terms of the background tone, so that’s an important part of the
design. I still like what’s happening down here. I like the value of the shadow and the
general placement of my tone. So now I have an idea just by doing this thumbnail of how
dark I want it to go, how light I want it go, and where my lights will be. What will
be the focus of this drawing. In this case it will be form and the general value of the
background. There is a lot of space back there. I don’t want to ignore it. I definitely
want to put some time into thinking what would be the best choice for the background? I’m
really glad I went over here. Hopefully this gives you an idea.
and she’s looking down. Right away I notice the darkness of her hair, the shape of her
hair. It’s mostly in this picture. Minimal shadow. The shadow is off to the side. There
is a lot of light around the face, but she’s surrounded by dark. Dark, light, and her hair
in shadows is very dark. I definitely want to play with that. Hair is a cool element.
You don’t have to copy the hair by any means. You can use it as a design tool,
and I definitely want to do that.
In terms of the background, the background is fairly dark as well. Her local value is
fairly light. Right away my first instinct is high contrast. Keep her skin light, minimal
light and push her hair dark, even darker than what it is. I can see that the eye will
be the focal point, that eye that’s slightly covered by the bangs and the hair. That will
be the focal point. I definitely want to frame that with enough light since that’s in shadow
and half of it is covered. I’m seeing a lot of light. Even the light is upper right,
it’s above her. I’m feeling a lot of gradation of value coming from below. You can see the
way the bangs are catching it lately. They seem fairly bright. Her shoulder is catching
a lot of light. It’s fairly bright.
To be honest, I’m not 100% sure what I’m going to do with the halftone. There is only
way to find out; we’ve got to try. Only one way to know if it looks good; it’s to
try it. Let’s do a little thumbnail here. These are low commitment. Now in terms of
vertical and horizontal placement, I’m going to scoot her to the right. It’s just my
gut instinct. Why not? Why not? I’m liking the decision already. I like the angle that’s
coming in and the fact that this image will be all about to me my first gut instinct is
to make this image about design. The last one was more about form and rendering. This
is going to be about cool design, meaning I want that face to jump off. I need contrast
for that. This is more of a value contrast, shapes. Less about form and rendering.
That’s my call. I’m actually, right now I’m thinking about cool techniques I could do, depending
on the medium. With so much this big dark mass, you can play a lot with the technique.
It’s really cool. That’s one thing I love about drawing hair or accessories or things
that you don’t really have to copy and get right. You’re free to use them to redesign
the shape to fit your needs, and I really enjoy that. Right away I’ve placed her smack
in the middle in terms of the horizontal and vertical slightly to the right. I’m liking
the decision. I can always do many more thumbnails to decide which would be best.
But, first thing I want to do for this value examination is drop in the tone. I have no
idea if what I’m thinking in my head will work until drop this tone. I have no idea
if this looks good until I drop the tone anyway. There is that shoulder. I like what that shoulder
is doing. Let’s drop a tone and see what we have here. Right away I know I’m going
to push it dark. I’m just going to try it anyway. This is my first gut instinct. It’s
to push that hair dark and maybe leave a little gradation down here. Maybe that’s what I’ll do.
I know this area will be a focal point. Maybe I can get this to pop off. This definitely
will all be light in the face. My first gut instinct with the halftone is to do a gradation.
That’s another thing we can do with tone. They don’t have to be static like this is
value number 8 in terms of darkness. It doesn’t have to be value number 8 everywhere, you
know what I mean. We can do gradation. Same with her skin. Let’s say on a scale of 1-10,
0 being white, 10 being pure black value scale, her skin would be like a 2 or 3, maybe a 4
even. It doesn’t have to be all the way through.
Right away I know my first halftone decision will be gradation.
What I’m going to do is gradate down from the top of her head into her cheek and then
gradate from the bottom of the neck into this because I want this to be the brightest. That’s
just the judgment call I just made off the cuff right there, in the moment. I like that
feeling of light tone because it feels like heat. It feels like she is on fire. I can
already picture some of the marks that I’m going to make. That’s pretty cool, you know,
like the warmth of that hair.
Alright, let’s just try it. There is only one way to know; it’s try it. First I’m
going to push the value of the hair. There can be gradation in the hair as well. Even
the top can gradate down. Shadow. Where this hair tucks in, gradate that. There is a nice
gradation. Subtle. Now let’s see where we’re at in our face. I’m going to use this marker;
it’s a little bit drier. Going to do a slight gradation. Just start with that. See if that
works. It can go down a little bit more. This eye is going to be a focal point. Yeah, look
at that eye. That eye is looking good. Looking pretty. It’s a lot of fun when it works
out, when your idea works out. That’s why I’m getting a little excited here. Gradate
down. Gradate down. My halftone is only a little bit. A little bit of halftone. I could
also do a little bit here. Warm. A little bit here. I really want this to pop off.
Let’s see if I can make this tone slightly darker.
Okay, so now I’ve got a problem.
I’ve got a little problem that I might have to try another thumbnail. I like this framing.
The placement is good. I like what’s happening here. But, now I have two competing, interesting
areas. Because this gradation, this symmetry. This area is going to compete with the face.
We can’t have that. Because this is going to be, I can picture the, not just the way
the tone is interesting, but the way the technique will be later placed. That’s going to look
interesting. That means I’ll have to knock one of these down. I’m going to have to
lose one. So, judgment call, for this thumbnail, I’m going to do a separate one, another
one real quick. I’m going to knock this area down. I like where that was going, but
I’m just going to knock it down. Make it less interesting, meaning maybe not make it
gradate so cool. Try.
Okay, so that looks good. I’m digging that. So this one just turned—instead of having
that interesting lighting coming from the bottom, now it’s all about her face, which
is good. Your eye is going to go here anyway, so I might be a good idea to pop off that
cheek. I can get a little bit of rendering in that cheek, but yeah, I like where this
is going. I do have to make a decision about the background. The shape, the value of it.
I don’t want it to go too dark. Let’s just try. Why not?
I’m just going to try this real quick. Technique, rough that up and then do a lot of smooth tones here.
That’s okay. I’m okay with that.
Okay, this next one—let me take a look at some of the things that I like.
This next one, I’m going to make this area the hot spot. I’m just going to try it.
What I’m going to do is actually move her the opposite corner, the opposite corner.
Instead of being slightly lower, I’m going to raise her slightly higher and give me
more room to make the value pop in her lower body.
I’m liking this placement. Right away I can see this placement is cool. It's working.
I think this eye is going to be so cool as a focal point.
I’m liking where this is going in terms of value composition. I know what I’m going to do here. Okay,
so I know exactly what I’m going to do. Dark, dark hair. That I’m 100% on board
with, so let me darken that up. I’m 100% on board with this, and 100% sure that most
of her face will be the light value. It may not be pure white like this paper, of course,
but it’ll be fairly light, light tone. I’m 100% sold on this gradation that for sure
is going to stay. Nice, moody gradation happening there. Alright, so I’m liking that.
Now, instead of making the cheek kind of the focal point, I’m going to make the lower
body the focal point. I know that sounds crazy. It sounds crazy, but let’s just try it.
This is a cool-and I didn’t make this technique up. I stole it from a painter named Andrew
Zorn, and I see it in a bunch of paintings, especially around his time in the 19th century.
He probably got it from somebody too. Why not? I’m probably going to make this a gradation.
And then boom, boom. It’s just going to be like this kind of glowy kind of effect.
That’s what I’m thinking. Do you catch me here? Are you with me here? This is kind
of a glowy kind of a thing here. I’m going to use a rough technique. This eye is going
to be one of the reads for sure. So one, do I say make this one, make this number two,
and maybe the hair will be number 3. Maybe the lips, I don’t know. But this, for sure,
will be one. I like where this is going. Dropping a little more tone. This is a cool little
portrait, composition trick I learned using the gradation, making the
bright hotspot away from the face.
If you look at 19th century artists like Zorn and Sargent, they do this quite a bit.
One of the ways I learned composition is by stealing from other greats. Of course, if you don’t
like that term, there is a French word called homage, which means the exact same thing.
It sounds fancier. Yeah, why not? Zorn was great. Sargent was great. Let’s take from them.
I’m liking where this is going. I may have to darken just a little bit, or I
can raise—actually I’m going to raise the value, probably take out that little dark
nugget of thingy, of our shirt there. Maybe make this. Now, I have a vignette decision.
We’ll talk about vignette next. It’s basically the background, how I’m going to frame my
idea. I like the dark on light. You know what? There is only one way to find out. That’s
to try. So, I’m going to try this. This is nice, dramatic angle.
I’m liking where that’s going. I like where that’s going. I may not have this
much I’ll probably do some cool technique here. Probably leave that white or not. What
I could do is hint at tone with technique, so latter technique. If it was watercolor
I would hit the splatter brush. If it were charcoal, I don’t know, I’d throw some
powder on there. I’m doing something. Right now I’m looking at this and going, you know,
I don’t need to manually hatch, what I can use is my own personal flair, some embellishment.
I’m thinking a few steps ahead, but at least I know the game plan. I’ve got the game
plan. Dark hair and shadow framing a bunch of light. The last decision I had to make
is the halftone. Should I make the halftone minimum and reserve light for most of the
picture, which I agree it should be based on the reference I have? Or, can I use halftone
pictorially to sell an idea, to make a dramatic compositional idea. I like to air on the side
of drama because that’s just the way I look at things. I want to make it very punchy,
and then if it’s too punchy you throw it down. Unlike cooking, if you add too much
spice it’s very hard to take the spice out. When we do drawings and things we can always
tone down the kick, tone down the spice. These are both good.
Actually, they’re both really good.
If I was doing maybe like a really long, planning a long, finished drawing, what I would do
is I would try a more refined thumbnail, either in charcoal or whatever medium I was going
to use. Actually, then take the time to figure this out in the actual medium. But just based
on these marker comps, these quick value comps, they both work. I’m leaning towards this.
It just looks—I like this and I’m seeing some things I could do with that tonal pop.
It’s very important that we make these decisions now. My whole goal here is to work these things
out now, and you can tell I’m starting to get excited. The more I do these the more
disciplined I am. It kind of builds up energy so when I get to the drawing I’m ready to
go. I’ve already done a bunch of practice, a bunch of rehearsals. If we’re an athlete,
we’re doing practice here. I’ve done a bunch of practice. I can’t wait to get to
the game and actually play the game. I think there is a lot of value in this, and this
is something that I definitely take my time in
before I do a nice, long, finished portrait drawing.
is the vignette, which is basically the way you can frame your portrait on the paper.
A lot of the times I let the pose guide my decision, what the pose has given me, the
emotion, the expression, the general thrust in the movement, the gesture. I let that make
a decision, and then the second thing I look at is the light and shadow pattern. You know,
like we did in the last thumbnails, how much light do we see? Mostly light? Mostly shadow?
What to do with the halftone and things like that. The local color or the local value.
In terms of shape, there are only a handful of shapes we can use. We can do triangular
framing, circular, or even boxy or rectangular, framing or vignettes. I like triangular a
lot. I like angles a lot. That’s just a personal thing I like to do.
Let’s say, for example, if you were place a portrait, let’s say center but lower,
vertical center but horizontally lower, you can do a triangular vignette, meaning close
or frame your portrait in like a triangle kind of thing. It’s a very common way to
work, especially if they have a shadow that carries down like this if you’re wearing
a shirt. That’s a nice, really dramatic way to frame. Of course, because it has angles,
I’m a big fan of that. Another way we could work is circular, you know. Using curves instead.
I think a curve would work great. Let’s see the hair, kind of this idea. Just do a
nice curve, literally draw a circle. That’s more of a graphic take, more a designer’s take.
It’s definitely valid. You can even take this idea.
Let it come off-center like that. Boxes and rectangular vignettes or frames can be dramatic
as well, especially if you use angles, which I like to do. So, for example, let’s try
center. Let’s say we have a nice dramatic centered light and have a lot of—let’s say he’s wearing
a dark shadow, dark shirt maybe. The thing I could do is do something like this. Give
me a nice strong vertical in my vignette. It’s a really nice dramatic take. Of course,
we can also do a horizontal even though let’s say the orientation is horizontal.
Maybe you can gradate that way to a nice little screen behind him, a screen or a patch of tone.
That's another way to work.
This would be great for—right away I’m looking at this for a profile shot, so let’s
do just a quick example. This is profile shot. What if it was like this?
Right away that would be an excellent vignette choice, in my opinion, just based on this little thumbnail.
Basically, remember how we spent a lot of time figuring out what the hell were we going
to do with the background in terms of value? Now we’re really deciding what to do with
it in terms of shape and design. A lot of it will be based on the pose. A lot of it
will be based on the emotion and the story one tells and the shape of the model’s head,
the light and shadow. If the model had nice, let’s say curvy, round, head shape, or at
least I want to exaggerate that, I could definitely use a more straight or rectangular vignette
if the model had a nice maybe triangular shape or a nice circular would work.
All of these can work in terms of vignette. Let me look at another example of a triangular.
Let’s say we place the model slightly up. I have a lot of nice shadow. What if we want
to exaggerate this kind of look? This could be a right side triangle. Just give us a nice
tone here, and put some nice brush work and things down here. That’s two ways to use
a triangle. Like I said, a lot of this will be determined by the pose, by the nature,
by the shape of the light and shadow. That’s what’s more important to me. The final decision
helps me determine what shape I should use. Let me go through just a couple ways to use
angle. I do enjoy angles quite a bit. She may have seen that other one. It’s just
so dramatic. It’s a quick, easy way to get drama, to use an angle.
Another use of angle.
A lot of times I’ll look for these angles in the pose and the
light and shadow pattern and see if I can put them in a vignette somehow. As you can
see, these are totally different moods. These one has a nice, dramatic, a lot of movement.
This one is, this feels like he’s projecting something, so I like that. This one feels
like we’re looking at him. This one feels it’s got some power to it. It’s got a
lot of force in whoever this person is. This one feels very stable, very powerful as well.
This one has a lot of drama, and a lot of storytelling, the inverted triangle. These
feel very calm. To me they feel calm. The circular shape has a calming kind of effect,
so it’s a nice contrast to the triangle. I think generally what I look for is what
I want to say about the model, whether I want to make them feel imposing, feel large or
powerful, or what the shapes give me. In this case, the shapes gave me a triangular shape.
A lot of angles already in the model and the light and shadow pattern. A nice, quieter
circular vignette would help me to give me a nice counterbalance to the drawing. In this
case, these are probably more about the actual drama itself, more about the drama itself.
Basically, meaning make it less about the person and more about a picture, more about
an idea that I want to sell, a story that I want to tell about the picture itself.
framing of the vignette, and we’ll go through a few examples here. Alright, so just like
we did earlier, I want to take a moment to look and gather my first impressions, my gut
instincts. That’s going to tell me a lot about how I’m going to design the picture
when I’m moving forward. Here I have a male, and right away I notice that beautiful thrust,
that gesture, that movement to the upper right. He’s also looking up where beneath him we
can see the underplanes. I’m noticing this kind of thing. It’s kind of moving in this
direction. This really powerful sweep. I know right away I’m thinking angle. I’m always
kind of leaning towards angle. I like the verticality, meaning he’s very long.
So, what I’m going to do is thinking rectangular vignette. That’s my first guess. A long
rectangle kind of moving at an angle because he has a long face, long neck. He looks like
a fairly lean guy, a young lean guy. I want to tell that story, young, lean, kind of muscular
guy, kind of looking up. He has a lot of emotion looking up. You know, maybe he’s not sure
where his life is going. Maybe he’s dreaming about where his life is going. Maybe I’m
thinking about placing him down. Those are just some of my gut reads. Let’s try it.
Let’s try a few. Alright, I like that idea of him dreaming. That’s kind of the first
gut impression I have. I want to place him lower in terms of horizontal placement. Vertically
a little bit to the left because I want to leave room because the pose is thrusting from
bottom left to upper right. That’s the feeling I’m getting. I want to leave some room up here.
So just real quick, my little thumbnail. I like the placement already in the lower left
quadrant. A little bit down, a little bit above. Definitely have to try a few examples.
A little thumbnail. It’s no big deal. Now is the time to try things. I definitely want
to make these decisions right now. There is light and shadow. My gut instinct tells me
that I like the form. I may do a similar read where this, the lower portion becomes part
of the read. I’m thinking light halftone over his entire face, simplifying the form.
Make it more about the design. This will be more about design and less about form.
Now, in terms of the vignette, I definitely like that. It’s basically a long rectangle.
I think that helps to elongate his face. I like the feeling, the long rectangular face.
I like the feeling that it’s given me. I’m going to play that up. I want this to be fairly
dark. I’m just going to try it dark and see how it looks. I may have gone too dark.
I’m like where it’s going. It’s a super dramatic vignette, at least to me. Here I
could play with technique. I’m already seeing some things I could do. It finally turns a
path. Let’s just try to make this, let’s see what I got. Yeah, I mean it’s okay.
It’s super dramatic. The only reason why I’m hesitating is because there is so much
in the design I may lose some of the features. There is some nice stuff happening in the
features too. Do you know what I mean? If the design is too sexy, too interesting, I’m
going to lose a lot of the pop that I can get in the face and features. I’m not 100%
sold on it. I think this shows that this pose gave me the idea for this vignette. Let me
just try a couple small ones real quick just to see if—I’m going to do these fairly
small. What if I did this where I kind of made them lower left, making the vignette
kind of go the opposite direction. See how that looks.
Again, same thing. Maybe this time I’ll make the lights in the face, not the lower body.
Yeah, that’s okay. That’s okay. This is definitely stronger. I just wanted
to try that. I’m going to try one more, but this time not—let’s make it more about
him, less about the design. More about him, meaning the actual model of itself.
To do that, I’m just going to tone down the vignette. This is strengthening the contrast. I definitely
like the dark shadow. I like the angle that I’m getting there. I like the placement.
I may want to try a different placement. Just one more real quick. And then for the shadow
I’m going to do this for the vignette. Let’s just try halftone.
That’s okay. It’s okay.
I’m leaning towards this, still. They do a gradation of hair. Now I’m liking this.
What I wanted to do was the gradation, so go from fairly dark hair and gradate out.
So I’ve still got that triangular idea or, excuse me, the diagonal idea using a rectangle.
So yeah, in this case, my gut instinct led me to this decision to make that rectangular
vignette at an angle, so let’s look at another example.
Okay, here I have a female model, and I’m going to make some decisions about the vignette
I should use. Here we have a three-quarter, mostly light right away, a local value is
fairly bright. I’m squinting at it. I see just a big old light shape. What that tells
me is that this image is going to be about light. That’s the gut instinct I have. She
has fairly light hair. She has a bright expression, fairly bright. There is like a brightness,
a glow to her skin, almost a warmth of her skin, the warmth of her hair. I’m feeling
kind of warm and fuzzy with this one, kind of a glowy. I can see an airbrushy kind of
technique happening there. That’s one way to approach it. It feels like heavenly light.
That word comes to mind. It’s a term that Rembrandt liked to use, light from above.
So, this light is definitely from above, upper right. You can tell by the highlight there.
That’s just something I’m going to try. Right away I know because I want that funnel
of light to pop. This picture is going to be about a funnel of light. That’s my first
gut instinct. There is very minimal of shadow. Because of the warmth and brightness of her
face and just the overall value structure, I’m thinking that’s when my drawing is
going to be about that, that little bit of light right on her eyebrow and her cheek there.
Just the overall glowy brightness of it. That tells me I’m going to have to surround her
by dark. That’s really the moral of what I’m trying to get at. I’m going to have
to surround her darkness. My gut re—that’s my first thing I’m going to try. She has
fairly curved round features, a lot of curves. I’m seeing curves. I want to try a rectangle
similar to this, but I’m going to make it vertical. Let’s see how that works.
The only way to know is that if you try. This is my first gut call. Now, in terms of placement,
I’m going to place it fairly center but slightly low because I want that glow and
slightly to the left. I want the entire picture to be about that shadow. We’re going to
push the shadow off the canvas a little bit. A lot of curves happening there. Because of
the curves, definitely thinking of a rectangle. But I can totally change my mind and do a
completely different direction. Again, I’m letting my first instinct guide my decision
making. My first gut instinct was warmth, lights glowing, heavenly light, the Rembrandt
from above. Religious light. Right away I know my vignette, so I’m just going to try
straightening. That strong vertical feels like a spotlight. I’m going to leave this
white. Let’s just try. Let’s just try.
Now, in terms of the value structure, I definitely want this to be the darkest. Now, I want this
to be the darkest. Now, I’m going to be very careful with how dark I make the shadow
if I were to proceed with this one.
Right now I’d like the design, but I’m not sure
whether to make it halftone, vignette, or a full dark vignette, but there is only one
way to know. It’s if you try. So, hmm. First, I’m just going to just lighten her face.
I want the whole image to be about this section. This kind of glowy section thingy. This glowly glow.
What I’m going to is first try the dark version. It feels almost too dark.
It feels too dark. So again, design is taking away. This will create a lot of contrast.
Right away my eye goes here and not to here. I think my thinking is right, but the value
is wrong, so I’m going to do another one. Only one way to know, it’s if we try.
Do a real quick one off to the side here. In terms of placement, I like the placement
just dead center but slightly to the right.
It’s going to be shadow. That I’m 100% sure of.
I think what’s going to happen is I’m going to do something like this,
similar to the other. Something like that perhaps. What I want to do is give her a little
bit of tone and gradate up. It’s just my gut call. Instead of making it dark, making
it fairly light, just as light as the mid-tone. I’m going to make this image all about the
glowy warmth there. I have to knock down the lower half. There is a lot of nice light happening
in the lower half. Darken this slightly. Do the shadow. As I gradate up, it helps to create
that vertical line that I wanted, the rectangular shape that I wanted. I’m thinking of getting
closer. I probably would have to do a few more before I make my final decision, but
I definitely like this framing more than this one. So, maybe stronger on the sides. Let’s
just do one quick one, one quick one before I move on to the next example. I like that
triangle. I like that shadow. I think what I might do is just it slightly larger here.
That’s it, really. Yep. That’s, okay, good. That was the call I wanted to make.
It’s just put some tone right here at her neck and shoulders, and leave the top. I could
smudge a little bit of tone. What’ll I’ll probably do is smudge a little bit of tone
like this using a brush or even my finger, some charcoal powder, and then I would take
my eraser. I’d just go whack and hit the eraser to brighten that area. That would create
the glowy funnel effect. That’s pretty cool. I like that. In terms of the halftone. Make
it more about this area.
Okay, good. I’m glad I did this third one. This is exactly what I wanted. I liked the
shape, but this top area was too dark. I tried a gradation, but again, I felt the top area
was too dark. I like what’s happening here. I kind of came to this conclusion and this
kind of vertical, and yet only at the bottom gradating upwards was the best choice. Of
course, I can probably change my mind again, but at least now I have a game plan for the
shape that I want to use. Okay, so now I’m going to do one more example just to see maybe
we can use a circular vignette or maybe a
round design versus more of these angular designs.
form lighting. Nice three-quarter. I definitely like the angles.
Her shoulder has this angle, and I definitely want to play with that.
There is some softness to her face, softness to the design. Maybe I could play
with that. Make it more about curves. Make the design more about curves and make the
technique inside the face about straight. That’s just the first gut instinct. Let’s
give it a shot. Let’s give it a shot. We have to try these things. I think in terms
of placement, I’m going to place her slightly up and to the left because the shadow is here.
I want the focal point to be closer to the center of the canvas. Seeing that curve there.
She has this kind of playful kind of look to her so that would be something I’d like
to play up in my design if possible. I may not be able to.
Right away I’m seeing this really strong curve. I’m seeing a nice, strong curve here.
What I could do is just follow this curve this way. There is a curve in her hair that
I liked, and a counterbalance curve that I see if I follow the direction of the shadow.
Of course, I totally designed it. It’s very dramatic, but I like to start with a lot of
drama and then tone it down. First, I know right away that this would be light and shadow.
What I’m going to do is actually make this fairly dark just so I can see the design of it.
I like that how that looks. It’s very stylized. It’s very illustrative. That’s
okay. That’s okay. This edge doesn’t have to be hard at all. We can totally make that
soft. They can even gradate out, but a general shape will be curved.
So, because I’m using a lot of curves here what I’m going to do, this is a little bit
more thinking ahead a little bit. I’m going to use straight marks whenever I can in the
face. That could be in terms of the rendering. That could be in terms of the design of the
shadow. Use more straights. I think this is a good thing to try, a little thumbnail.
We can try it at this stage. It looks okay. It’s a little too stylized for my taste.
I like the way this curve is working out. Maybe I’ll do a few more. I’m going to
work this out. I like some things. I don’t like some things. Let’s try. I want to try
a different placement. She’s upper left corner. No, I can’t put it in a lower right
because that will move the focal point high off a little bit too—it’ll be here. We
don’t want that. I think I’m going to leave her vertically to the left. I’m going
to lower the image just a touch.
I’m liking this curve because it feels like a thought bubble. It almost looks like a comic
panel. She has her eyes kind of doing this thing. She’s looking up. She’s definitely
thinking about something. She’s kind of playful. She is kind of in thought, maybe
mischievous. She has like a mischievous kind of look, mischievous smile. These are some
of the emotional reads I’m getting. I think that having this curve can work. Reevaluate
the canvas a little bit. I know this will be dark. What I’m going to do is just try
some halftone this time. I like that.
What I’m doing is making a curve here and a slight curve up here, but using a gradation.
I definitely like where this is going. In this case I wanted to try curves, and I saw
that this photo gave me opportunity to do that. I’m liking the contrast actually.
This leaving the face fairly bright, including the mid-tone at the core shadow. I can render.
Yeah, I’m liking where this is going. I can render here, meaning put some halftone,
mid-tone at the core shadow and do some rendering there. Then I can use that same tone as a
gradation to make my vignette a nice circular vignette. It adds to that kind of, oh, I’m
thinking about something, kind of feeling like a thought bubble. Almost feels like a
cloud almost. That’s kind of the impression I’m getting.
In terms of technique I would definitely play against the curves, a lot of curves in the
design. In terms of technique, if I was to do like a pencil, charcoal, I’d use a lot
of straights and hatching, a really dynamic contrast. I just want to try and see if a
triangle will work. Most likely it will. It’s a very common style of vignette. Let’s say
I’m going to place it here. Let’s say this image is less about the design and more
about the portrait itself, the form, the rendering. The likeness. I want to focus on those things.
In these two examples, it’s more about the design of the overall picture, making a cool,
compelling, eye-catching picture. I just want to spend my time rendering. I don’t care
about the background. I’m going to go ahead and get that going there. We can start by
just by dropping some tone. That works. It works okay. I don’t hate it. It works. It’s
very simple and clean. I think it’s very clean. It’s a very valid decision. I’m
glad it did it because now I realize that although this is a very good decision, I think
it’s a great composition. I think it can work very, very well. The thing about this
is lots of people do this. The triangle including myself. I love this design. It’s a great
design, powerful design. It’s simple. There is going to be less labor. I like that for
sure. But, most people won’t do this. That curve and include that little story of the
thought bubble idea.
So, right away I know; I’m going to do this. This may not be as successful as that. This
may take 10 times the thought, the effort, the energy to get it to work. If I pull it
off, man it will be satisfying because you rarely see this design. This design you see
a lot because it works. This design is unique to me, in the moment, the moment I made that
gut call, that gut instinct, that gut reaction. I think this is the way to go. Hopefully,
you got an idea of the framing, the vignette process. It’s exactly like everything else.
We want to the time to look first and gather our thoughts and ask good questions. As much
time as it takes, here I did a few quick thumbnails, but you know, you could do 30 instead of three.
Do as many as it takes as long as you work small and work fairly quickly. Don’t worry
about the details. You can work out a lot of these problems quickly before you get to
your paper and execute. Like I said before, the more psyched you’ll get, at least for
me, the more planning I do, the more practice I get, the more pumped I get to actually execute
the drawing. I’ll be ready. I’ll be sharp. My mind will be sharp. I’ll be very clear,
and I think that’s helped me a lot. The more clear, the more crystal clear of an idea
I have before I touch down to the paper, the faster and more efficient the process goes.
And you just get a more punchier drawing if you work these problems out. It almost makes
me fearless in a way once I touch down. I’ve done so much rehearsal.
I had a lot of confidence going in.
you to draw. Here is how the assignment is going to go. First, I want you to take a minute to just observe the
model. Observe what you see. As you make your observations I want you to actually write down
at least four observational points.
They could be ideas about shape. They could be ideas that you have about the story, maybe a narrative you
want to inject. Maybe some emotion or expression you see in the model. Whatever comes to mind, write it
down. Write down at least four items in your observation list.
Then once you have your observations I want you to do a thumbnail.
Take a few moments to do a tiny little thumbnail sketch, no more than one or two to three inches.
Here is where you’re actually going to plan your composition and placement. You want to figure out
whether you want to center the head, maybe make it off-center, a little bit higher, a little bit lower.
That’s all up to you. I also want you to separate the light from the shadow. Kind of indicate where lights
and darks will be, so that’ll help you with your composition as well. Let’s get started.
going to get to watch me go through the exact same assignment, go through the exact same
reference so you can see how I did it. I would encourage you to just watch it one time through
and then maybe review this section and compare to your drawing as well.
Okay, so for this example I’m going to start with the observations. I’m noticing right
away the very cool expression he’s got. I notice the gesture happening. I’m noting
the shape. First, let me just jot down some notes of what I see here. Question is the
first word that comes to mind. Question, long face, long rectangle. Expression. Expression,
expressive. I want to make a note of the angle. These are just some of the ideas that I want
to communicate. So, what I want to do is do a quick little thumbnail of what I have.
I'm just kind of drawing my canvas there. I kind of want to center it a little bit. Cause of
the tilt it’s going to be naturally off-center so I’m going to make a note of that. Maybe
even move the whole thing slightly off-center. We don’t want it too centered. I want to
take advantage of asymmetric composition. I think angles is going to be a big part of
this drawing. I’m going to combine expressive marks with angular marks, if that makes sense.
Let’s see, so just make a quick note of the angle of the face, expression, his feature.
Just a quick little block-in. Now, as far as the—note the shadow that I see. It’s
going to be a big part of this that I see. Okay, this part will be my shadow so I’m
just going ahead and filling that in. That’s pretty much my thumbnail. I’ll probably
do these kind of marks when I go to render. I won’t do that here, but I’m just making
a note to self because I see a little bit of gradation happening in terms of the light
and shadow. It’s just a quick note. That’s my thumbnail.
Okay, in this example, we’re going to start with the observations. We have a female looking
to her left. She look kind of confused. That’s the first word. Like, similar to the other
one, like huh? Kind of confused, almost frustrated. The hands, the arms kind of give that away.
I do notice her staring upwards. The open mouth, the slope of the nose, the straight
gesture in her face, the curve of the jaw. So, in terms of shape I’m definitely going
to use more of a triangular kind of pie shape, for sure. I see the arc or slope in her nose.
Looking away. Up and away. These are just some of the ideas I want to get across in
my drawing. In terms of the thumbnail...
I would probably—there is a slight tilt in the shoulder
there. I’m going to place her almost at center. In terms of the shoulders, they’ll
be at the lower thirds. Let’s try this placement slightly to the left and see how that goes.
It looks like it’s okay. You may have come up with a different compositional choice,
and I think that’s fine. There are multiple compositions that can work, of course. There
is really no one answer to that. Drawing my little shadow shape. I’m going to fill in
the light and dark pattern just so I know if it does help composition or not. This light
and dark pattern really helps with the placement. Yeah, I think I’d probably move it over
a little bit more. Let’s see. Maybe a little bit more and down, just so you can really
tell that story of looking away. That’s my final compositional choice. Because this
is a thumbnail, I can just redraw the frame. I don’t have to redraw my little sketch.
Okay, in this example we’ve got a model looking to the left, another male. I like
his face is in shadow. What’s the first thing? Shadow. He’s looking away from us,
not even paying attention. He’s kind of in his own world. If you can tell by his neck
and shoulders that he’s a lean, muscular model, the chiseled jaw, see if I can put
that idea down. Chiseled, muscular, and also curved. Curved head. Those are some good notes
to go with, so let’s start the thumbnail here. Got to figure out where I’m going to put it.
There are a couple ways I can go, and I’ll probably have to end up moving
this—or not. I think in terms of vertical or horizontal placement, I would like to put
him in the upper two-thirds. As far as the horizontal placement, I could probably put
him closer in the left two-thirds quadrant because there is so much light here.
Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking.
So, I put him in the right then all the light—yeah, that’s not good. Better compositional choice
would be central to lower two-thirds or vertical, and then for horizontal in the left two-thirds
because there is so much light. Basically, we’re going to put the light down the center
of the canvas. Mostly the head will be on the left section of the canvas. That’s my
thinking. That’s a lot of nice light here, and I can probably put some tone back here
if I were to render this in tone. Just do a quick block-in. Make a note of the muscular face.
This looks like another fun one to draw. Hope you guys enjoyed working with this one.
Yeah, I think this is great. Once I put in the shadow shape this will at least help to
sell the composition, the compositional choice, anyway. I think that was a good choice. His
hair is fairly dark, so I’m going to block that in with a shadow. Yeah, this was a good
choice. That was a good call for the placement. I’m going to touch on the gradation happening.
I want to sort of a note to self that this area, basically the forehead, that highlight
on the forehead will be the main focal point. It’s close to his eye, too, so that works out.
Alright, I feel pretty good about that placement. Okay, so we have another male and a lot of
expression here. This one also has that huh? What happened? What, why? That’s a good
one? What? Why? WHY? Who, me? He’s asking a lot of questions with that face. It’s
very expressive. I like this brow area, so that’s going to be a big part of this drawing.
This guy is also chiseled, so a lot of straights, very muscular, lean face. I’m definitely
100% sure it’s going to be a rectangle, boxy. Lot of straights. Probably put some
curves in the gesture but boxy treatment as far as the drawing and the construction. That
angle, gesture. That’s kind of the feeling I want to get in this drawing, the narrative
I want to tell. Someone off screen has got his attention somehow. Clearly I think the
best choice would be the left quadrant for sure, in terms of horizontal placement. Vertical,
probably upper in this zone. That’s what I’m thinking. I’d like to get some of
that body in there. That way all the stuff will be in the left thirds. Then we have all
this negative space, but he’s looking that way. Here he can do some treatment with the
charcoal or doing this in paint, things like that. It’ll be a lot of fun to do.
I’m curious how you handle the expressions. Very cool. Really nice acting. It always make
the drawing more fun and interesting. There is a value shape. Let’s see if I made the tight call.
Yeah, once I corrected that shoulder, I knew I made the right call in terms of placement.
Yeah, that feels pretty good. I’ve got my little thumbnail. I’ve got my game plan here.
Okay, we have a female looking to the left, or her right. She looks like she’s up to
something. She’s about to smile or laugh, so I’m going to put that there. Laugh and
caught attention. Caught looking. She’s like, I’ve got you. I’m going to write that down.
And a lot of curves, so I’m going to note curves. I’m feeling almost a quiet
and calmness about her. I don’t know why. In terms of shape, I’m definitely going
to go oval. Very feminine, a lot of curves. So now for the placement, I want to try, I
almost want it to be centered. I don’t know why I’m feeling centered. Let’s see. I
think vertically should be centered. Horizontally, let’s try centered. Just a quick little
sketch. Give me an idea of where she’s going to go on the paper. It’s my number one concern
right now. Thinking about some of the compositional tips and rules like the rule of thirds, asymmetry.
I kind of like that being centered. Let’s just try real quick moving it off center.
Nope, don’t like that. Let’s try real quick moving it off-center that way. That
works okay. Yeah, so that might be. Actually, that might be a good solution. Slightly off-center
to the right. Yeah, that’s try that. I’m liking that. It’s centered, slightly off-center
to the right. I’m liking that.
Okay, that’s the end of this first lesson. Hope you guys enjoyed it. I hope you’re
able to learn a little bit about observation and how to better see your subject and then
how to better begin your composition with good placement. In the next lesson we’re
going to start actually drawing, and we’re going to get into the lay-in, so we’re actually
going to begin to draw the portrait and actually start to use some of the ideas we learned
in this lesson. Okay, see you next time.
Free to try
1. Lesson Overview58sNow playing...
Watch the whole lesson with a subscription
2. Introduction to Observation (Models: Lillas, Julia)17m 58s
3. Determining the Lighting (Model: Jean)16m 20s
4. Introduction to Placement (Model: Kevin)12m 21s
5. Value Composition8m 31s
6. Determining Placement, continued (Model: Bridget)14m 21s
7. Creating Value Thumbnails14m 56s
8. Value Thumbnails, continued: Halftone and Gradations (Model: Bridget)19m 32s
9. Framing: Choosing a Vignette11m 14s
10. Framing Examples (Models: Kevin, Lilias)18m 3s
11. Framing Examples, continued (Model: Lillias)11m 36s
12. Observation and Placement Assignment27m 40s
13. Chris's Approach to the Assignment16m 54s