Thursday, November 20, 2008

A portrait painting demo

A friend of mine, Ben Leibson, wrote a book and asked me to do some illustrations for it, including a portrait of himself. He knew that I was just starting to experiment with doing art on the computer and thought it might be an interesting challenge for me to use the digital medium for this project. I had recently purchased a Mac G 4 and was doing a lot of experimenting with digital art.
For his portrait I began by taking a few photos and decided on using the one below as a basis for his portrait.

Ben Photo

The portrait was painted directly over this photograph using the Painter Classic program and I saved the image at two stages for demonstration purposes. This is a fairly easy process for me as I have years of experience painting with traditional painting mediums. But, even if you have never painted with oils, acrylics or watercolors, the method shown here is a good way for beginners to practice and develop their skills.
If I had used the more conventional method of painting a portrait by starting out with a drawing, I would have begun by first filling in all of the areas with a flat color, the rest of the process would have been pretty much the same as shown below.


Using Painter Classic, I begin by painting in a flat, neutral background, then roughly paint in his hair.


I then paint in a highlight area in the background and work on the hair a little more. Next I pretty much work over the whole painting, the shirt, his hand and parts of the face.


I clean up a few details such as the edge of the glasses, add a few highlights on the face and define the mouth more and I'm finished.


Here is the cover of Ben's book. The scene is the Lake Michigan beach near Bridgman where Ben had a summer Home. That's his wife Jeanne strolling on the beach. In the oval inset is a Paris scene, one of Ben's favorite places.


At first Ben thought that the illustrations would be in color and I finished a couple of paintings before we found out that the interior art for the book would only be in black and white. The above painting is based on a photo that Ben had taken while traveling in France. I painted directly over the photo using the Painter Classic program as I did on the above portrait.


To create a stronger image for the black and white illustrations I decided to employ flat gray tones with line work, rather than the painterly approach used on the color version. This art was done in Photoshop Elements, most of the line work was drawn using the mouse. A Wacom tablet and pen probably would have been a lot easier.
In my next post you will see more of the illustrations.

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