This latest piece had a long gestation. It began, as they usually do, with an idea.
That idea originally had something do with warpaint and the black patches that baseball players wear under their eyes – I had just finished reading “The Art of Fielding”, after all – a book with baseball as a central theme. The drawing was completed bit by bit over the course of a few weeks.
Along the way, things lightened and loosened up a bit.
An image popped up in my mind of a portrait in which the skin color would be composed of patches of distinct color. So that’s what I set out to do.
I like the blank yet piercing eyes and the way the lips turned out. The colors are lush and the texture is almost what I had in mind. There’s not any one, specific meaning to the piece. At the core, it’s just a pretty picture of a youthful guy. Hopefully, it hints at a little more than that, though.
The drawing itself took multiple sessions to complete. The neck and outline of the skull exist on one layer, the hair on another, and the background cross-hatching on a a third.
It’s almost a shame to add anything to the drawing – it feels very complete and satisfying on its own.
Yet, color adds a lot of visual interest: it tends to draw people’s attention and hold it longer than black-and-white line drawings, in my observation. SO the coloring began.
I wanted the color to straddle the line between realistic/deliberate and outlandish/arbitrary. Similarly, I want the ‘direction’ of the patches to only vaguely follow the contours of the face.
You can see that the colors started out very ‘punchy’ or bright. However, I found that to be visually overwhelming when completed. Everything just sort of dissolved into a quasi-abstract mish-mash of lines and colors. That wasn’t the intention of the piece: it was meant to function more like a traditional *recognizable* portrait.
To this end, the colors (which are all on one layer, at this point) were lightened and desaturated a little. You can see in the above work in progress snapshot that the line drawing was also lightened – by making those layers a little transparent. The background lines are especially see-though.
Ultimately, I wanted more punch for the lines. If you look back to the finished drawing at the top of this post, you can see the final adjustments that were made:
- The lines were brought back to full opacity and strength
- Select areas of the color were re-saturated with color, while others were left a little duller. The right side of the face and hair were the ones ‘dialed up’.
- A texture was added over the whole thing. This was accomplished by scanning some unused watercolor paper, placing it on a layer above everything else, and then setting the layer to “multiply” in Photoshop. Due to the color of the paper itself, this also results in a slight warming of the whole piece.
- Subtle shadows were added; mainly around the eyes, under the jaw, and to the background near the shoulders. This added depth and separation between the figure and ground, and some volume to the face.
I am very pleased with the results, but also see opportunities for improvement. I will try some different things on the next portrait in this series.