Sketching Faces – my New Challenge

Good morning everyone. After I’d finished the Inktober challenge this year, I realised how much I had benefited from the daily drawing exercise. So I was pleased to find a new Instagram challenge – sketching faces on #facetasticfriday. Actually, this is hosted by a great group I joined a while ago – Kick in the Creatives. And I think the reference photos are very good and sometimes different (like the one above!) As you can see, I couldn’t resist adding watercolour to the image, to bring it to life a bit. But, I drew most of my sketches just in biro, with no pencil sketch beforehand, just to add that bit of excitement when sketching faces!

Well, I’m only writing a short post today, because I’m just getting busier and busier! So, I’m off to the printers, getting some stuff ready for an exhibition, more of that later.

However, if you want to have a look at some of my adventures in portraiture, see this post here.

Painting Portraits in Acrylic and Watercolour

Painting portraits- this is a face from my imagination,  painted in subtle shades of green and yellow.
A Green Man

Good morning everyone. Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about painting portraits. As you can see, for this one I took the slightly unconventional idea of deliberately not using flesh coloured paint . And I used watercolour which is not as forgiving as acrylic. So I had to think carefully about where I placed the brush strokes. Actually, I wanted a chance to practise using tones to model the flesh, something I learnt on an online tutorial. And, because I didn’t use skin tones like pink , orange and brown, this allowed me to be a bit detached. Probably because I could just treat the task like a problem to be solved, instead of wanting to create a lifelike portrait. Anyway, I had a go, my watercolour skills are a bit basic, I know. On the other hand, I do feel like I learnt something from the exercise.

Painting portraits and modelling the flesh

Painting portraits and making a tribute to artist Mary Cassatt. A beautiful,  red haired woman.
My version of a portrait by Mary Cassatt

Although I haven’t quite finished this portrait, this was the exercise I did during a tutorial hosted by Care Visions. In fact, I found it very helpful and the tutor John Skelcher skillfully guided us through the process. First of all, we sketched and checked that the proportions of the face were reasonably correct. Next we painted the face and neck with a mid tone. And then I added darker paint for shadowy areas and lighter colours for highlights. Finally I understood what I was trying to do, instead of adding too many shades and colours!

Incidentally, there was one other challenge in this session – we had to use the ‘ Zorn’ palette. Just to explain, an artist called Anders Zorn (1860 – 1920) made this choice of colours famous when he created his superb portraits in oils. For your information, the restricted palette consists of red, yellow ochre and black, with white allowed too. You could try it out — it’s amazing how many colour mixes you can create with this combination.

Drawing Faces on Toned Paper

A drawing of a man in red-brown pencil and white pastel on light brown paper.
Portrait in sepia pencil

Well, just to finish off with, in this portrait exercise, I used sepia pencil for the darker tones. Then the fawn coloured paper itself for the mid tones and white pastel for the highlights. Honestly, it sounds very simple, I know, but it’s taken me years to understand it!

By the way, I made this study with the aid of a photo provided by the tutor. Whereas, the first image I showed you – the green man – I created from my imagination. Because I’ve been studying the proportions of the face recently, I think I’ve managed to improve at this. And I made the painting look a bit like a real person! (Even though the eyes are not quite right!) If you want to see my baby angel portraits, see here for my tribute to Raphael.

Painting Faces in Acrylic Paint

Painting faces. Two sweet cherubs, with small feathered wings, resting in rose pink and deep purple clouds,my study of Raphael's painting.
My Study of Raphael’s Cherubs

Good morning everyone. Well, I decided it was time to take the plunge and try painting faces! And I’m sure that lots of you will be familiar with this image taken from Raphael’s beautiful work. Because you do see it everywhere, on cards, tea towels, diaries and so on.

Raphael (1483- 1520) was an Italian painter and architect in the Renaissance period. In fact, he was very successful in his own lifetime. And he painted the little angels on this commissioned Madonna and child painting in 1512. As you can see, the clouds are not the same colour as in our Valentine’s Day version!

The Sistine Madonna by Raphael

Raphael's Sistine Madonna, a superb painting showing Mary and Jesus, two saints and the two adorable cherubs at the bottom of the picture.

As you can see, in this superb painting by Raphael, the scene shows us Mary, Jesus, two saints and the baby angels waiting and dreaming.

Anyway, I painted this study whilst following along with a free tutorial, hosted by Artclassesgroup. Actually, the tuition was very good and the tutor guided us through completing the angelic cherub on the left. You see, the session was only one hour long, so that, plus a bit of background was good going.Then I spent another hour and added the baby cherub on the right.

Half Finished Cherubs

The Three Stages of Painting Faces

Obviously, I was most interested in painting the faces, something I have tried to avoid in my painting practice. And that’s because it seems to me to be the most difficult subject of all. Fortunately, the tutor cleverly simplified it down and we were able to follow. To be honest, it had never occurred to me to treat the face like anything else I paint. So, firstly we mixed a reasonable flesh colour and covered the face in a mid tone. Then we darkened that colour mix and applied patches of colour for shadows. Lastly, (you’ve guessed it) we lightened the first mid tone and painted highlights, on the nose, forehead and so on.

Painting the Clouds

A close up of Raphael's cherubs - part of my painting faces project.
My study of Raphael’s cherubs

After all the careful brushstrokes of the faces, it was a real pleasure to let myself go and paint clouds! Not only were the colours so delicious, but also the subject really lent itself to expressive marks.And I enjoyed trying to create the fluffy texture of the wings too!

Painting faces- a close of my study of Raphael's baby angel.
A Cherub Resting on a Bed of Clouds

In all, I spent another hour to finish this and I would thoroughly recommend this exercise. Because there’s such a lot to be learnt from studying the work of great painters. And if you want to see how I painted my own version of a delightful abstract by Paul Klee see this post here.

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