Painting a Loved One::What Were You Thinking?

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  12 December 2005
Painting a Loved One::What Were You Thinking?

Here it is, too near Christmas, and I have YET to finish a digipainting of one of my siblings, one of 5 that I wish to complete before next Christmas. But, I knew better.

For years, I have not been able to successfully complete a project of a relative or loved one. I had done one for my ex, which she loved to death, but I noticed a flaw in it that I've found in ALL my works of such:

When doing a portrait of a relative/love one, the right side of the face (their left) is distorted (too me) quite horribly. It's as if it had slid down and slanted. I thought maybe it was just my technique, but I can paint/draw just fine with a stranger or model. So, I tried to do a comic-like illustration of one of my sisters. The effect was horrendous. It appeared nothing like them.

Is this just some strange effort of my mind to distort what I know, but why the right side? Am I brain damaged?

Do you avoid doing a piece in which your loved one is the center piece? How can I practice correcting the right side technique when it doesn't affect any other model? Can it be because I'm trying to make someone I know into someone I don't know?

In my mind, I am not being critical of how the piece is turning out. I've had comments that, yes, the right side of the portrait is indeed off balanced.

Any suggestions, reasons, therapy...?

  12 December 2005
lol your post is insane, I have notice the same in my portraits, but I only portrait relatives, so, I couldn't say if it would happend with extrangers too. Je je je I am going to portrait an extranger right now.
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  12 December 2005
Interesting. I have no idea how to you help you with this :(

I have painted two portraits so far, one of my friend Jess and one of my friend Emma. I haven't come across any problems yet.

Do you paint from life or do you use a reference photo?

Wish I could help :(
  12 December 2005
Originally Posted by enialadam: Do you paint from life or do you use a reference photo?

Currently, for the sibling piece, I can only go with references (family live 600 miles away). With models/strangers, I do both reference and a quick life-still scribble on paper of their pose to use the reference shots for the filling in of the scribble. But, because most of my work is for people out of my area, I have them give me ref shots or ideas of the pose wanted and a few shots of their face (to copy likeness, not lighting). Those are successful with little complaints (mainly, with pose), but with family/loved ones, I can not do the same thing.

I have an example drawing I had done 13 years ago of my cousin, but it was drawn from a ref photo that my aunt has (non-computer days). It clearly shows a... how can I say this.... "mongoloid", Jason Vorhees-like characteristic... one side is perfect, while the right side is abnormally crippled.

  12 December 2005
Not wanting to scare you, but it sounds weird

Could you, maybe, post an example for us ?
Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabris, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam.
  12 December 2005
I only have one, that of my cousin done 13 years ago in school. But, I'm too lazy to scan a... 36x24?... posterboard (and no ref to compare it to for you). That's the only thing I have that shows the akwardness. The recent sibling pieces, I "trashed". Four weeks of trying, and I basically said "screw it", and came here to post this topic.

Guess mom's getting the traditional phone call, "No present this year, mom... I have issues."

  12 December 2005
Ohhh you paint traditionally? Well I haven't had much experiance with traditional (I'm ashamed to say) I am hoping to attempt a traditional portrait of a friend of mine soon, with oils I hope I can come up with something as good as my traditional
  12 December 2005

I do traditional painting, but the sibling piece is being done in Photoshop. The cousin piece was done in pencil.

What I meant by "mom's getting the traditional phone call", is that she is going get another phone call from moi stating that I don't have crap to give her as with all other Holidays and special event days.

  12 December 2005
Do you look at your work in progress often in the mirror (or flip it horizontally in software)? If not, you need to start doing that. I attribute the problem to us having a bias for being left or right handed--that preference probably reroutes or rewires the way your brain process eye to hand coordination. When you see your image as a mirror reflection, you'll catch the symptoms of that bias. I flip my images dozens of times from start to finish--I can't live without the flip horizontal feature. When working traditionally, I always either have big mirror placed behind me, or have a good hand-held one near by.
  12 December 2005
That's a great thought, Robert. I will indeed try that when I attempt to do this again. With only 5 days till Christmas, pointless on stressing myself out on getting it done.

I tend to go left to right when traditionally doing pieces (I'm right handed). Digitally, I jump around (that's the great thing about digi), but usually only with parts of the piece. I really believe I need to do what I've known others here and other communities tend to do. I'll give that a try.


  12 December 2005
I have had similar problems... and I don't think you need therapy... I may... but that's for another forum.

I think that it has to do with a lack of objectivity in respect to the subject matter. If you say you draw and paint other people well without this strange distortion, it is probably just because you are drawing and painting shapes and lines. But when you're painting a loved one, you are going to be affected by emotion subconciously.

Try the old art fundamental of turning the reference image upside down. If you're painting live action... that'll be a little more challenging.
'It's a luscious mix of words and tricks
That let us bet when you know we should fold..'

-The Shins
  12 December 2005
I have had this too when painting my mother. It took ages for me to see quite how badly I had screwed up (looking in the mirror was a big help).

I have read something about painters of the past painting people from one side if they liked them and the other if they didn't.

This all goes to confirm my suspician that humans are deeply odd.
  12 December 2005
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