Saturday, February 9, 2013

Head study in acrylic (Text added)

Edit: I've added some text at the bottom, in response to a query made by a friend from Chennai.

Apologies for the missing image - to those who've been wondering what happened to the post :) Made some minor modifications. Plus added a close up. Thanks for looking!

19" x 13", acrylic on canvas paper. Life study

Added text (copy-pasted from elsewhere):

"@ GS - as usual, you provoke a deeper look into the work, which gives me food for thought. All I can say is that, working from life provides you with a huge amount of info to choose from. While that may be overwhelming in the beginning, with (informed and alert) practice, one slowly tends to learn what to keep/emphasize, and what to ignore/downgrade. The tendency of portraiture students like me is to first look for a likeness, which should be the least of one's worries. Likeness ought be incidental, not as a result of conscious effort - ideally.

If I can get the head structure right, where the bony sockets/protuberances are in proper relationship to each other... that will be reflected on the soft tissue part. Once the shapes (both the outline and inner, overlapping ones) have been drawn satisfactorily, so that the eyes/nose/mouth are in proper horizontal/vertical/angular relationship, one moves on to work out the basic value separations i.e. identifying the lit from the unlit areas. Once this is done, one has to work out the half-tone areas, which are lit... but not 'high-lit', if that makes sense. The shadows/unlit areas, which were painted in a medium value darkness, are then further defined with darker darks. The lightest areas in the shadow must be darker than the darkest area in the lit portion.

Now, the progression of unlit to lit portion (i.e. the shadow junction area) may vary according to the curvature of the surface - its gradual where the turn is gradual, but quickly becomes lit with the brightest value where the turn is sharper. That has to be worked out as well.

The illusion of solidness you've referred to only comes after all this foundation work has been laid. You may then make those subtle value (and thereby, hue) changes, indicating minor, but very powerful topographical undulations. The latter works effectively only then, although it looks as if those subtleties are all that makes the difference between a good and an average work (mind you, I'm not all that happy with this one, so I lay no claim to it being 'good'... I'm just speaking in general terms :) )

As regards knowing where to put what ('choosing those spots') I think this is a skill which continues to develop as one becomes more and more aware of anatomy - 'the eyes do not see, what the mind doesn't know', its said! I can't emphasize on this fact strongly enough. An ever-expanding knowledge of artistic anatomy has a deep effect on one's figure work, which no amount of photo-realistic surface treatment (alone) can compensate for - its lack becomes apparent to the discerning viewer, despite a great deal of skill at rendering minute surface features. The work, if not sound structurally and functionally from within, will often end up looking like a superbly painted plastic doll, a shell without life.

Before I end this rant, here's a link to one of Bouguereau's nudes... the subtlest topographical changes are mind-boggling, and are often only partly apparent unless one tries to copy it in pencil or (preferably) paint. But under all this is Bouguereau's exacting standards for anatomy... this man didn't leave a single stone unturned in that regard. And yet, its all so very understated!"


  1. I don't think I need to go to school ,I just have to hang in here and learn from you .....

    Well done ... The self thing is never easy is it !

    I think Mr Bouguereau's skill at drawing can be a toned to the fact he draw for years and years before even picking up a brush ..... It's a hard slog but it's one im happy to go with.......

    1. Haha... you surely jest :P I'd give an arm and a foot (well the left arm, since I'm a righty) to be in that school you go to, or any art school with a significant program. Since I can only afford to teach myself :D this is all I can do. When someone asks me something, I'm really bouncing ideas around in my own brain, rather than 'teaching'. However, your kind and inspiring support helps me to trudge along :)

      Your so right about Mr Bouguereau... one among the best of talents who flourished in the best of academic traditions. Yes, its a hard slog but as long as you're in love with it (your happiness shows in the effort you put in your work, and the amazing improvement over a short period) its never a burdensome load. Thank you for dropping by :)


Thank you for your thoughtful opinion :)