William H. Macy Portrait

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  05 May 2013
William H. Macy Portrait

This is a foundational course final project, I didn't keep images going as I progressed through establishing proportions, local values and lighting though here is the current state.



Misc:
Charcoal (willow and some compressed) 18"-24"

My instructor suggested I start to address detailing after I refine his clothing (mostly just a quick pass done on it so far). This has been my first time trying to realistically portray hair which has been quite a challenge.
 
  05 May 2013
Can you please also provide the reference photo you used? Whenever posting work based on the reference's likeness, you need to show the original so we can see if you veered off course.
 
  05 May 2013
Interesting. Did you intend a direct copy? Because there are some inconsistencies there, though not massive problems. The main three that leap out are as follows:

1) The outer line of his face (the right side as we look at it) is too smoothe - you're missing a lot of the little bumps, curves and details that resolve the lines on his face. This changes the overall head-shape and makes it look oddly skewed up and to the right, especially since his face is so much lighter than the backdrop and his hair. It should finish closer to his eye.

2) You missing some contrast. The shadows on his hair etc. are darker than on his face, when they shouldn't be with that hard light. See those lines on his brow? they should be longer, the dark side of his nostrils and in his eye sockets darker, and the line on his left (as we look) jowel is too close tot he edge fo his face. More midtones on the left cheek. Where are all those lines on his chin?

3) His eyes are too pale, and are not looking at the camera. I suppose it doesn't much matter where he's looking, but his eyes are not entirely aligned either, so he looks a little wall-eyed.


Good effort. Keep it up!
 
  05 May 2013
Also, after having a closer look it occurs to me that you need to work on your draftsmanship generally. This means that you should, when mapping out your initial sketch, look for shapes and distances more than anything else. Forgot that it's a face you're drawing and try to describe lines and shapes as best you can. So if you carry a line from his brow furrows through his naso-labial line you can see a kind of 'tipi' shape. try to copy that shape *exactly*, then measure roughly how far it should be from a break in the line of his cheek. Mark that point, and a few others, then work on getting that line and shape just right. The more you do this, the easier it will be to get everything in the face exactly in the right place.

A good way to check you have the shapes generally right is to close one eye and deliberately blur your vision. This simplifies the shapes so you don't get so distracted by details.

Another trick you can employ is to look at it through a mirror (or flip the canvas when you're doing digital works). This makes you see it with new eyes - it's too easy to get caught up and hyper-focused when you're working on something, so you miss some really obvious mistakes through familiarity.

Finally, re: what I said about eye orientation, it can be really tricky to get both eyes pointing on the same direction, but since that's a sign of a genetic defect, people will know if it's off as it's something we instinctively look for when choosing a partner or subconsciously assessing how healthy someone is. A good way to check is to cover half of the face and look hard at the eye. guess where it's looking and fix that point in your mind, then switch and see if the other eye is looking at the same point you just fixed. If not, then it needs fixing.

Hope that is helpful.
 
  05 May 2013
Thank you so much for your feedback.

I recently re-did the edge of his right side and my instructor also brought up that issue, I was trying to increase contrast to show the form more clearly because previously I had many hairs that made it somewhat hard to tell where the edge of the face was and where there was hair. This is going to be a tricky battle for me because I really struggle expressing a full range of values using charcoal.

Thanks for mentioning the contrast as well, that dark value just to the left of his nose is what I feel I need to add to his face more (where needed). I have been holding back a bit because to get that dark I have to use compressed charcoal instead of vine which is much less forgiving, though I suppose it's time I take the plunge and commit to the values hopefully for a much stronger composition.

Interesting post about the draftsmanship as well I often get stuck in thinking about a face instead of the form of the figure (good catch). Until I am stronger at that skill I like the idea of practicing without "realizing" what I am drawing. Maybe I will find some subject matter an do grid exercise on them but flip the piece so I am doing so upside down. For now I have about 2 weeks to submit this piece to my instructor, I will certainly heed your thoughtful words and push to improve it as much as possible.
 
  05 May 2013
Originally Posted by Andrewty07: Thank you so much for your feedback.

I recently re-did the edge of his right side and my instructor also brought up that issue, I was trying to increase contrast to show the form more clearly because previously I had many hairs that made it somewhat hard to tell where the edge of the face was and where there was hair. This is going to be a tricky battle for me because I really struggle expressing a full range of values using charcoal.

Thanks for mentioning the contrast as well, that dark value just to the left of his nose is what I feel I need to add to his face more (where needed). I have been holding back a bit because to get that dark I have to use compressed charcoal instead of vine which is much less forgiving, though I suppose it's time I take the plunge and commit to the values hopefully for a much stronger composition.

Interesting post about the draftsmanship as well I often get stuck in thinking about a face instead of the form of the figure (good catch). Until I am stronger at that skill I like the idea of practicing without "realizing" what I am drawing. Maybe I will find some subject matter an do grid exercise on them but flip the piece so I am doing so upside down. For now I have about 2 weeks to submit this piece to my instructor, I will certainly heed your thoughtful words and push to improve it as much as possible.


I would also add onto what the-small-print said about drawing shapes, and apply that to hair. Most beginning artists attempt to draw every strand, when what you should be looking for is shapes and values - where are the highlights, where are the shadows, where are the "clumps" of hair, and then fill in strands in between. You certainly chose a challenge of a photo to attempt here!
 
  05 May 2013
Indeed, I was a bit nervous about getting tasked with this photo because of the hair. My instructor has been overseeing me the whole semester though so I guess she knows best. This weekend I will be implementing the revisions as much as possible, submission is next week (yikes).
 
  05 May 2013
One of the most important lessons to learn in art, is how to simplify and distill what you see down to the most important essence of the basic shapes, forms, and values. Beginning artists should train in using only limited number of values, such as doing an image with only two values in one session (black and white only, and no hatching lines for gradations--just solid black and white flat value shapes), then use three values, then stop at five values (beyond that you lose the ability to manage your image's value range very quickly). Five values is generally enough to capture all the main values in the image, and the in-between gradations/values are like the in-between frames of animation keyframes--they aren't as important for capturing the entire essence of the image.

What Bill mentioned about hair is part of learning how to simplify. Think of hair on in hundreds of thousands of thin strands, but in larger masses of thicker strands clumped together, or big masses. If you look how sculptors deal with hair--that's how you need to see hair--as solid masses.

Details only matter after you've got the underlying structure and form and values down properly, or else all the labor your put into surface detail is just floating on top of a weak and shaky foundation that has lots of structural mistakes--sort of like putting expensive special visual effects into a movie with bad screenplay, bad directing, and bad actors, or a lot of flowery prose written to tell a story with a bad plot and lackluster dramatic/character development.
 
  05 May 2013
I whole heatedly agree in the simplification process, this particular portrait has had many levels of that included as she has guided us through it. We did use a grid system on a separate paper to help with our initial proportions though as soon as the first pass of local values was added the grid is gone. When I started at the hair I only had it as solid black with outlined area of in general where it was on the image, I pulled color with my eraser in broad strokes where I saw lighter areas of the image that stood out most.

Regarding working with limited values I am familiar with some exercises, my first portfolio development course at LCAD we did portraits with ink and brush so either complete black or white were our only possible means. This particular assignment I have to show a full range of 9 values expressed so I don't have control or say in that. My works have a tenancy to seem very grey overall which is my little challenge of many to overcome. I suppose part of it is confidence because compressed charcoal is more unforgiving yet it is the only way to yield that full value range.

Thank you so much for the insight Lunatique, I always eagerly read through your feedback on other artists work to see what I can pull from it as well. Hands on art is still very new to me and it has really made me appreciate when I get to digitally work with luxuries/handicaps like good ol' ctrl+z
 
  05 May 2013
Snapped a fresh pic of it after revisions.


Crunch time is here as I turn it in Thursday, I have a feeling this is my final pass because tomorrow I am moving so I need to be packed for that. I still feel like the piece has been a great test of my skill and platform for me to improve on. I know most of the forum posts are digital though I strongly recommend venturing into traditional mediums here and there. My biggest realization during this piece was pulling light out of the piece, by this I mean shading everything dark and getting lighter shades or showing the light by pulling off with my eraser. It hadn't clicked with me as a method though I certainly see it's value now.


Notes:
Refined right side of face to vary between a sharp contrast and blur to show edge while expressing the hair behind and near the front.

Redid both eyes, I felt they really need to be darkened and there were quite a few mistakes on the form compared to the image.

Detailing of light wrinkles, texture and removing lines from my charcoal by using erasing instead.
 
  05 May 2013
The general proportions are off, and that is the first thing that should be taken care of before going into detail, otherwise, you're just putting detail on top of an incorrect foundation. Really experienced portrait artists are able to do an accurate likeness/proportions without having to lay out all the placement of the features, the proportions, the facial contour, the hair shapes, etc, but for those who are not advanced veteran artists, it should be required that those important main shapes/proportions are sketched in lightly and made sure they are accurate, before starting to block in the values and adding details.
 
  05 May 2013
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