Jeremy Sams Art Blog

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Painting A Self Portrait

 Self Portrait
11x14 acrylic on canvas

Painting a self portrait doesn't mean you're egotistical. Trust me, there's nothing more humbling than staring at your flaws in the mirror and trying to be honest enough to capture long as it's capturing them and not caricaturizing them. Believe me, that's a struggle in itself!
The main purpose, for me at least, in painting a self portrait is to learn.
  •  Learning to paint correct values in certain lights.
  •  Learning proportions and relationships of facial features.
  •  Learning to simplify the scene according to shapes and not get distracted by the details.
  •  Learning to compare adjacent values ( lighter or darker) and color temperature (warmer or cooler)
  •  Learning to draw negative space more accurately
This painting was started by massing in a mid-tone flesh color in a large area that would later be shaped to form the face. After the mid-tone was applied, I then began mapping out the features of my face. It's good to start with an anchor point (a physical feature to work off of in determining distance between the facial features). I used the corner of my eye for this point. 
After you have determined your anchor point, began measuring what you see in the mirror the distance between each feature. Sometimes, depending on the model, you can divide the face into 3rds...from the hair line to the top of the eye brow...eye brow to the bottom of the nose...bottom of the nose to the bottom of the chin. Or, sometimes, it works out that the corner of the eye is half way between the top of the head and bottom of the chin. However, these are just guides and aren't always exact.

I always use a series of plumb lines and horizontal lines to see how the features line up to each other. This will help in placement.
My next step would be to establish my darkest darks as an anchor value to key in the rest of the painting. If your darkest dark is too light, the overall painting will be too light. It's also a good idea to start with your sharpest edge as give you an edge to compare all other edges to. For example, on the right side of my face is my sharpest edge. I can now look at the edge of anything else, whether nose, lips, etc... to see if those edges are as sharp as my first edge or are they softer.

The last thing to be painted are the highlights...just be sure not to make them bright white...otherwise your face will look oily or plastic.

The hard part of self portraits is trying not to move your head while you paint or clean your brushes. It's also a challenge to measure distances between the features while looking in a mirror...your reflection of your hand or brush will hide the feature you're trying to measure...pretty irritating...but it can be overcome if you simply paint a life size portrait, and just measure on your face rather than the mirror's image.
Some problem areas are:
  • making the skin too light
  • making the whites too white
  • not using cool or warm shadows accurately
  • making the lips too red
  • making the nostrils too dark
  • making the edges too hard
All in all, it's great practice and you'll learn so much in the process. The main point to learn is to compare, compare, compare.

Did I capture a likeness? I think it resembles me...but there are some areas I can already see that need don't judge me too harshly. The major problem with this painting is the subject matter :)

By the way, I'm not mad...just concentrating.

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