New Project – Gus

Well, I had fully intended on working on some portraits of a few of the grandchildren but I’ve yet to find the right reference photo so I decided to work on this portrait of my granddaughter’s dog, Gus.  He’s got a handsome face and I had this great reference photo of him with my granddaughter, so I cropped it and here’s the image I’ll be using and the first stage.  In the past I mentioned that I tend to work by the seat of my pants, deciding as I go along what colors to use.  Having developed a keen sense of what my pencils will do really helps to be able to work this way but I still do some pre-testing and I thought I’d try and explain my process in more detail as I go along.  Many artists advocate creating a specific plan including each and every color they will use ahead of time, perhaps even making charts etc.  While I truly believe having a plan and a vision is important especially for beginners, for me I simply need to jump right in and my experience allows me to do that.  This is not a lesson in learning to draw so I create a simple line drawing of my subject on my paper of choice either by tracing the outline, using a grid or whatever works for that particular piece.  In this case I’m using Canson Mi-Teintes in a pastel marigold sort of color.  I chose this color as it will provide some of the lightest highlights and warm undertone.  Gus’s coloring is very warm, but there are still some cooler spots so the first thing I do is to review the picture and decide what colors I think I will need.  I’ll lay them all out on my workspace where they’re readily available as I go and I will add colors as I work as well.  I usually have my paper on a clip board support with a blank piece of scrap paper on one side and the reference photo on the other.  The scrap paper is my testing ground for colors as I work.  If I think I want to use a certain color, I will try it out first on the scrap to see if it work for me.  I then proceed with doing a “color map” on the actual piece based loosely on my line drawing adding lightly some of the colors I think I will use either as undertones or shadows.  In this case, it being a portrait I like to start with the eyes and the reason for this being is that for me they dictate how the rest of the picture should develop.  I don’t ever finish one area completely at once before moving to another area because I like to let things develop a little so I will often go back to areas I’ve worked on and add or change things to suit.  By gradually building the colors and shadows and highlights I get a better sense of whether it’s working and gives me the control I need so I don’t go “Oh, crap I made that too dark – now what do I do!”  I have done that so it was a lesson learned.  The images here are the cropped reference photo and the first stage with some of the color mapping and the eyes started.  Gus Original Gus-1

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