Direct Brush Sketching with Another Rigger/Liner Brush

May 19, 2023

Last month I did another rigger/liner brush test—sketching Rick Niece again. While I missed the likeness I had a ton of fun with the line and shapes I could make with the Silver Ruby Satin Scriptliner 2.

This was, and looks like it will continue to be, my favorite, or one of my favorites going forward. It has the right amount of spring for me, which if you like soft brushes means you won’t enjoy this one as much. Just beware.

This brush carries a lot of paint without dispensing it all at once. That’s what my comment about how much I got down with one brush is all about. I’m talking about getting the guidelines down at that stage, and some initial shadows. I went back in with additional “brushloads” to build up the areas.

Look it might seem that brush manufacturers really only have one job—getting the brush to be responsive to your hand. But it’s a complicated thing, regardless of whether you’re making a real “hair” or synthetic brush. So let me just say clearly that after testing hundreds and hundreds of brushes of all kinds, so few brush manufacturers get this right on any particular brush. But this is a stellar brush. (And great with gouache too.)

Someday I’ll remember to record some of these liner experiments because they are a lot of fun, especially this one with all the fun textures. And while I didn’t quite get the likeness I would have loved to achieve, I am over the moon about what I did with the mustache.  

And I’m also really pleased with the way I got my mixes with that Schmincke Ocean Grey and a warm and a cool red balanced here. Squint a little and you’ll see why I’m so happy.

Something fun: see the note at the top right of the left page. I originally had a light stroke way, up at that level for the top of Rick’s head and I second-guessed myself. I heavily committed to something lower! I think it’s good to let your editing eye call you out when this happens. Your editing eye will always have SPECIFICS you can fix, and this prepares you to trust your gut next time but also to practice those specifics to improve.

It’s clear to me that had I gone with my original mark I would have still been a tad off, but I would have had a more true proportion of Rick’s face, and the other parts of the face would have fit better and BINGO, better likeness.

If you want to draw quickly without taking any measurements you’re going to miss things now and then, or even often. But I think it’s the fun of the practice that keeps me at it. And when I do miss “it,” there is still a lot to do with the face to make it read in an interesting way. I can learn from the first (eyeballing it), and I can enjoy and use the practice of the second (continuing to build up textures and dimension). Seems like a good mix to me.

So click on the spread and read my comments and look closer at the variety of line quality on the left page.

Coming Up

Here’s a detail from  the sketch which will also be fun for you to look at to see the dry and wet “side-body-of-the-brush” strokes I made to build up texture. (Everything in this portrait was made using the Liner brush, with the exception of lifting some color from certain areas—for that I used and old synthetic brush. The scrubbing I did around the head was with the side of the Liner brush. Don’t do that with your liner brushes: it wears them out very fast. I just can’t help myself. Use me as a cautionary tale and your brushes will last longer!)

Also, just a heads up: in June I will be talking and writing about painting eyes on my Patreon Blog. I’ll take a look at this portrait and explain what really needed to happen with these eyes. Besides the main demo I’ve got a lot of photo references from active subscribers’s pets eyes, and we are going to look at them. We’ll be exploring eyes. Subscribe at the Patreon link if you would like to be part of the discussion.

In the meantime, everyone sit really closely to a family member while they watch tv in a lighted room, and sketch their eyes, eyes, eyes.

    • Tina Koyama
    • May 19, 2023

    These eyes are pretty terrific! After our exchange of comments related to likeness (my obsession with, at the time), I started relaxing about it, stopped practicing so regularly, and now I enjoy portraits even more. I still have hits and misses, but I’m better at seeing what I did wrong when I miss. And even when I miss, I often “hit” something else that has nothing to do with likeness but that captures an essence of the person, which I think is even more important than likeness. Thanks for your encouragement!

    1. Reply

      Tina, sorry I missed your comment. I’m glad you like the eyes in this portrait. I do too, but there are things about them that my editing eye knows are not right and it’s those specifics I can use as a jumping off point for a discussion with my students. Then they of course can choose to do something else or not push the fine details (as I didn’t do here, and am totally fine with). I want them to be aware of what to look for and what they can finesse if they choose to do so.

      I’m really glad that you’re relaxing your obsession with likeness, though I do think that’s a good obsession from my point of view. What I’m most glad about is that you are enjoying portraits even more.

      Your attitude of hitting “something else that captures the essence of the person” is, I agree, more important. So I encourage you to keep aiming for that.

      I find that it is good to celebrate and own all the bits of a portrait (or any painting/sketch) that work out well or that we enjoyed. It helps us cement them in our brain so that we can do something similar in the future (if it is an approach or technique) and it helps us own the joy we feel when we are sketching and painting. There are always going to be days when we miss a likeness for a variety of reasons, but even on those days there is so much on the page we can enjoy and savor.

      In this portrait I really love seeing all those side-of-the-body-of-the-brush drag strokes and the texture they created through layering. And I love the pops of warm red that I got into this portrait even though I lost Rick’s likeness. To me it ends up looking like a cohesive portrait, like an actual person, dimensional, and I can live with that. Especially knowing I’m going to be sketching a lot more sketches of Rick in the future.

      And for me the added joy in all this is while I like the way I handled they eyes they are the perfect starting point to discuss with my students what could have been done better, how and why would we push something, how do you decide what to live with and when to stop. As a teacher those are all exciting discussions for me and I think they will help my students up their game, which is my goal.

      I smile every time I look at this painting. I’ve even thought of cutting it out of my journal and putting it on the wall. There is a joke here at home that when someone visits we need to give out a score card to see if someone can spot all the “Ricks” and Alun Armstrong portraits spread throughout the house. Actual, physical Easter Eggs.

      I hope you have a good day sketching!

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