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Old 10-24-2002, 11:52 AM   #1
Chris Saper Chris Saper is offline
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Relative sizing: measure twice, put once




I use an adaptation of the Daniel Greene method referenced by Steven in the prior thread (http://forum.portraitartist.com/show...?threadid=1543 ), which includes presumptions about regularly placed features. I mention that this is only relevant when painting a head straight on; when an extreme angle is involved, you need to use a simple "unit of measurement" approach.

I think of my approach as the halfway approach; rather than dividing space in thirds, I use halves...it's easier for me to find halfway point on the model, and easier to find them on my canvas.

In an adult head the eyes, that is the caruncles (or as Harley Brown says "The pink things!"), are vertically right in the middle of the skull (not the top of the hair). There is virtually no variability in this measurement in a normal adult head. Determine the height of the head you will paint, and place a mark halfway. Verify this persumption with the straight-armed, one-eyed method described by Michele here: http://forum.portraitartist.com/show...&threadid=1531

In most adults, the next halfway point between the caruncle and the chin falls vertically between the base of the nose's wing, and the top of the upper lip. Mark this halfway point, too. From here I proceed to judge how much above the halfway mark the nose begins, and how much below the half way mark the upper lip begins. I meausre, lightly mark, and measure again (or as many times as necessary to feel that the placement is accurate. Only then do I go on to the next measurement.

From this point I have begun to establish a series of accurately placed landmarks, and I then measure distance on the model, not presumed distances, and compare them to what I have already placed on the canvas, verifying and placing as I go.

I agree with Mr. Greene, it's easier to place the vertical measurements first, then deal with horizontal relationships.

Once you move beyond the intial eye placement, there is quite a bit of variation in human faces. No, not all eyes are one eye-width apart! You have to measure the individual in front of you to decide. There is a lot of variability in nose width, eyebrow width, mouth width, chin length, and mid-face length.
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Old 10-25-2002, 03:53 AM   #2
Virgil Elliott Virgil Elliott is offline
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Head Before Features

I agree with Greene in that the placement and size of the facial features must be correct,
but I find it works better for me to build a three-dimensional head and then add the features than to begin with measurements of the features and then build a head around them. If I go for the head form first, I can establish the angle at which the head is held, which bears on the mood and the personality of the subject as part of his/her body language. I can more easily visualize the correct placement, size and angle of the features after the general form of the head is developed through shadow and light, as well as the hair shape and forehead shape, all of which serve as reference to aid in the positioning of the smaller details. I forestall painting the eyes as long as I can, until the head appears fully three-dimensional.

I almost always do at least one charcoal and chalk study of the subject on grey paper, from direct observation, before I begin painting. This is something I can do in an hour or so, during which I become more familiar with the sitter's personality as well as his/her features. The study then serves as reference material in the painting of the portrait, along with a small color sketch I execute in oils at the first or second sitting, which takes me about 45 minutes. There are no details in the color sketch, just the colors observed directly. With the charcoal and chalk study and the color sketch as reference, I can carry the painting along pretty far before I require the sitter to pose again. I do some measuring when necessary, but my eye is pretty accurate without needing to work sight-size or having to rely too heavily on measuring. I can spot when something is off, and then I set about correcting it.

I most often pose the clothes on a mannequin, and arrange them to suit my aesthetic sense. I have several mannequins, which I modify however I deem necessary for each project.

The method I describe here was common practice before photography came on the scene. When the artist executes his own reference material, he knows his subject better when he begins the painting. The client almost always buys the charcoal sketch too, and this puts a few more dollars in the artist's pocket.

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Old 10-28-2002, 10:26 AM   #3
Michael Fournier Michael Fournier is offline
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Virgil,

This is very similar to how I work. I would love to see some of your color sketches. Whenever I give in to the temptation of painting the details too soon, such as when a subject has striking eyes that I can't wait to get to painting, I most often find I have painted beautiful eyes that are in the wrong place and have to scrape them off and start over.

I have seen artists who can start with a single feature and build around it and produce some great results. But I have tried this and I find It too difficult to get the position of that first brush stroke right so that I get the composition I wanted in the end. I suppose that if you are really good at visualizing the finished piece it is possible to bring one area to a finish before touching the rest, but I need to build up starting by placing basic shapes, "blocking in" then putting the details on as I go.

I find that simplifying the shapes into flat planes at first also helps maintain solidity and form.
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Old 10-28-2002, 02:13 PM   #4
Virgil Elliott Virgil Elliott is offline
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Post Images?

Michael,

When or if I ever become more adept at dealing with computers, I might figure out a way to post images here. Then, if I can take time out from pressing work, I might actually post something visual here from time to time. In the meantime, all I know how to do is type in my verbal comments. Computers are still mysterious devices to me.

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