Using a Fresh Eye On Richard

March 9, 2016


Above: Before on the left and After on the right. Carpenter's pencil and Schmincke pan watercolor sketch of Dick at his computer desk, on Richeson Recycled watercolor paper (which has a grey tinge).

Sometimes as we work we get STUCK in our view of something.

Regardless of how many times we look at something we keep putting it down on paper the same way. It helps when this happens to take another look with a fresh eye, after the fact, and see what happened.

Yesterday I took a look at Monday's sketch and threw it into Photoshop to quickly make some changes to show you what I'm am thinking. Normally I just make a little list of my "issues." Here's what happened.

The other night I sat on the floor in Dick's study and looked up at him in his computer chair. He turned to look at me so I could draw his full face.

I worked quickly (20 minutes from start of sketch to last wash). I used a carpenter's pencil to sketch contours—but I used the edge so it could have been any sharp pointed pencil. 

Then I used Schmincke Pan watercolors and the Niji waterbrush to put in some color. I wanted to work as fast as possible because Dick was ready to go to bed. I reactivated some patches of color on the palette, something left over from something else. It was basically Helio Blue Reddish and Translucent Orange.

There were some immediate things that struck me when I finished, and they were even more obvious to me 2 days later. 

Once again, my wideology struck. I have a tendency to do my on-the-fly measurements as too wide—e.g., the forehead. This reminds me to pay more attention to that. I could have fixed that and the height of the forehead, when I laid in the watercolor If I had taken a bit more of a breath.

In Photoshop to make my alterations points I cut and narrowed the forehead piece and lowered it just a smidge. I wasn't trying to reblend and make corrections seamless, just give you a quick idea of what I see is going off. I needed to create a bit more white space on the shrunken forehead. 

I also took his jaw on OUR right and cut a piece of it and tilted it to take away that odd sag which appears in the original, and which he doesn't have. 

His sideburns are white and for reasons I don't understand (but will guess at in a moment) I became in love with the dark cast shadow below the sideburn on our right. 

The reason, well it was telling me something about the ear, but also I was spending time on that side putting in some contrast while I waited for the left side of the image to dry so I could put some more paint there. When it did dry the paper was toast, so I just put a bit more contrast on the temple in Photoshop. I also fixed the shadows on the jaw edge at that side.

What worked was the eyes, nose, mouth, and chin. If I do a narrow vertical without the side stuff, straight through the height of this piece it works.

The Photoshop adjustments were done from memory while Dick was off at work. 

So what do I need to do now? More drawings of Dick where I try to work out what to do about those eyebrows! But I also have to remind myself to really check my pencil sketch before I start putting the paint in. And it would help to be more deliberate in my washes because you can't rework a lot on this paper.

When I look back at something like this because thinking about areas that gave me difficulty and tendencies I have to watch, I also remind myself that I need to be more careful with my vertical measurements (that forehead for instance) and slow down there.

Looking at a sketch in this way gets me excited about having another go. I might even grow to love that recycled paper, from which I've had such a long time off.

I think you can learn a lot in 20 minutes, but I learn even more from those 20 minutes when I take a moment to review my approach and strategy with a fresh eye.


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