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Bēhance

  • PROCESS

    Many artists can draw a decent likeness of a well-known face, but the challenge is to capture not just the likeness but the character of the person. Capturing this truth, or essence, is, for me, the most important factor in considering a portrait successful or not. By observing the unique qualities of the individual, I am able (hopefully) to render a realistic depiction beyond mere likeness. One of my favorite ways to do this is through exaggerated form; the slightest push of an expression or posture, in just the right place, can tell the viewer quite a bit.

    A traditional painter at heart, I love working with oil, acrylic and watercolor. However, due to the fast-paced world of publishing, I have taught myself how to paint digitally using a Wacom, 21” Cintiq. This amazing piece of technology allows me to work naturally, intuitively drawing and painting directly on the LCD display. My technique when painting digitally is very similar to the way I paint with oils or acrylics. I tend to work from dark to light, focusing mainly on values and color harmony. I never use any form of photo manipulation. The work that I create digitally is hand drawn and painted. Working digitally has its advantages for both myself and art directors: no fuss or time spent on scanning and color correcting, ability to make changes quickly and easily, and the time it takes me to create a painting digitally versus traditionally is cut in half. The best part is that the final result looks like a traditional painting. The results are so similar that people often confuse my traditional and digital paintings, unable to tell which is which.

    Before beginning a piece I generally create several thumbnail sketches. Doing thumbnails is a simple and quick way for me to find interesting compositions and explore character shape and proportion. I use my thumbnail sketches like short-hand notes; typically, I don’t share them with art directors, unless they ask, as they can be confusing to anyone but myself. After developing the thumbnails, I quickly move on to the sketch.

    By this stage, having the idea and composition set, I begin to take pictures for reference. Using friends and myself as models, I can control the lighting, folding in clothing, poses, hand gestures and expressions. (I have used my own face many times for creating expression for my subjects; it pays to have a rubber face!) After gathering all the references I will need, I do a final sketch. I love to draw and I because I believe that drawing is the foundation for my art, I take special care to get it just right. If the drawing is right, the painting will be right. A strong drawing and composition must come first. Often times, I prefer sketching on a toned background rather than a white background. This helps me lay down my line work and quickly establish light and darks, giving my sketch depth and a life of its own in a very short amount of time.

    Once the sketch is approved, I prepare it for painting. I typically cover my entire sketch with a thin layer of raw umber, using the sketch in the same way an under-painting is utilized in traditional painting.
    My paintings tend to have a lot of detail, but don’t let that fool you. The details are only the final touches. The most important thing is the drawing, and once I have that to my satisfaction I focus on capturing light and establishing strong values. I create a limited palette and use only those colors for the duration of the painting.

    Because of my experience with painting in oil and acrylic, painting digitally comes naturally; mixing color digitally is done basically the same way it is done traditionally, only easier and quicker. It can be a temptation for digital painters to get carried away and create near-photo, realistic results, but, for me, this approach is against all that I love about painting. I enjoy finding a thumbprint on a painting or seeing loose hairs from a paintbrush entombed forever in the art. I purposely leave brush marks visible, knowing that as long as the lighting and values are correct, the painting will still have a very realistic look and quality alongside its traditional feel.