Archive for category Subject: Portraiture

Today’s Artist DVD series

Drawing Realistic Faces Workshop || Carrie Stuart Parks & Rick Parks
Painting in Acrylic Workshop || Lee Hammond
Drawing for the Beginner Workshop || Mark Willenbrink

I’m going to put all these together in one review as the approach is identical in all of them. It’s an idea that I’m surprised no one has come up with before, because it’s elegant in its simplicity.

What you get is a slim volume and a DVD. The words and printed illustrations complement the moving images and give you the chance to practice exercises and techniques without having to constantly pause the film, or maybe to work away from the TV.

The only thing you might want to be aware of is that, although they’re all-region, the discs are in NTSC format. Most players will accommodate this, but it’s worth checking your manual before you expend.

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The Art of Portrait Drawing || Joy Thomas

This book contains what I believe to be an innovation. Rather than follow the conventional path of showing a photograph of the sitter at the beginning of each demonstration, these are set in a studio context so that you can see both the pose and the drawing at the same time. The downside to this is that you’re sometimes left wishing for more detail in both but, on balance, I think the trade-off is worth it.

Joy Thomas also chooses to concentrate on the artistic interpretation of her subjects rather than major on the anatomical details. A lot of books on portraiture have taken the latter route of late and, while it’s perfectly valid – if you don’t get the basic structure right, nothing else will follow – it has sometimes been the more subjective approach that tells the viewer what you, the artist, feel about your sitter.

In the introductory sections, Joy also provides a sound introduction to the basics of portrait drawing as well as the demonstrations, which feature a good variety of subjects and media.

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Heads & Faces with character and expression || Giovanni Civardi

As has become the style with Giovanni Civardi’s recent books, there is very little actual teaching here, but rather a process of leading by example. If it’s true that the eyes are a window to the soul, then the face is the primary key to capturing the character of your sitter and, with Giovanni’s sensitive pencil drawings, you have plenty of inspiring material to work with.

I really can’t think of anything more to say about this. It’s not a drawing manual or a course, just a neatly presented collection of works that really will help you to understand how to portray the human face.

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Portraits (Drawing Masterclass) || Carole Massey

Carole Massey packs a huge amount of material and ideas into a comparatively short 96 pages and this is one of the best books on portrait drawing that I’ve seen.

The problem that any book on portraiture has to overcome is that it’s full of pictures of people that you’ve never met, in contrast to the subjects you’re going to find in front of you. Carole counters this with a good variety of examples, male and female, young and old and with different skin tones, facial shapes and hair types. To borrow the old News of the World slogan, all human life (pretty much) is here.

The book is also full of demonstrations, examples, tips and exercises. One of the nice features is that every page feels different. All books are designed to a basic page layout, but this one is so flexible that the whole thing feels like a voyage of discovery and I think you’ll be finding new delights long after you first opened the cover.

“Masterclass” is a movable feast, but this is a book which lives up to a difficult billing. Essential reading.

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Painting Portraits & Figures in Watercolor || Mary Whyte

One of the features of Watson Guptill publications is that they have quite a lot more text than those from other publishers. As such, these are books to sit down and read rather than to skim through and dip into. If you like the more visual approach, then you might find that this bogs you down. However, if you’re looking for something that approaches a subject more thoughtfully and in more depth, then they’re right up your street.

This isn’t a series of lessons or demonstrations, but rather a progressive look at the whys and wherefores of portrait painting as well as, of course, the how. The opening section of the Getting Started chapter, for instance, is “Why paint people?”, a reasonable question in the circumstances. The answer (spoiler alert!) is basically that all people are different. Yes, we knew that, but this gives a flavour of the author’s approach, the rudiments of which I outlined above.

The style of painting is pleasantly loose and the illustrations are generally informal – the sort of thing you might paint for yourself or a friend rather than specific sittings.

If you like portrait work and want to look at it in more depth, I don’t think you’d be disappointed by this book. It’s well and comprehensively illustrated and goes into a bit more detail than some of the alternatives.

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Classic Portrait Painting in Oils || Chris Saper

Although figure painting has been much better served of late, there have historically been few books that look at formal portraiture as opposed to the more popular style of a relaxed likeness. This is perhaps understandable as the classic style is seen as a specialised field requiring particular skills and maybe even equipment.

However, if you want to have a go, this book will help you considerably along the way. The introduction to materials and methods is comprehensive without being overwhelming and includes lighting, positioning the subject within the frame and how to evaluate skin colours. Chris also has useful advice on working from photographs, including what to aim for when you take them. In fact, the book has a neat trick up its sleeve in this respect, as each of the demonstration portraits is done twice, once from life and once from a photograph, and it’s interesting to see how this influences the result.

This is an American book and you should expect American facial types. I don’t mean that it’s outlandish, but there are some quite subtle differences that we don’t see this side of the Atlantic. This shouldn’t put you off, however, as the principles remain the same and, if you’ve followed what Chris is talking about, you’ll be painting your subject, not his.

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Draw Portraits || Renate Klein

Books on portraiture aren’t exactly thick on the ground and any new one is always welcome.

Capturing a likeness is one of the most difficult challenges for the artist. Quite apart from the technical matters of getting the image down, the shapes and proportions of the various elements of the body have to be just right, not only individually, but also in combination. Not only does the result have to look like a person, it also has to look like the person it’s meant to be. Everyone’s going to be your critic.

In only 64 pages, all you’re really going to get is an introduction but, as that’s what this book sets out to be, I’d have to say that Renate nails it pretty well perfectly. She’ll tell you enough about anatomy to set you going but not so much that it starts to feel like a medical textbook. She also deals with proportion and with the shapes of eyes, ears, noses and hair. Finally, there are exercises in pencil, charcoal and coloured chalk that illustrated male and female faces as well as babies and children.

There’s a lot here and the book should keep you occupied for a long time and leave you confidently proficient.

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Sketching People – faces & figures || Giovanni Civardi

Giovanni Civardi has been something of a fixture in the field of drawing people for some time and his books offer excellent instruction and a wealth of illustration. However, I’ve always felt that there was a certain heaviness to them and that they looked maybe a little dated. And now, suddenly, he seems to have developed a quite delightful lightness of touch and slight loosening that gives his figures life and movement. It’s really quite something of a revelation.

The main body of this relatively short book is taken up with pages of a wide variety of figures: young and old, static and moving, in a variety of costumes and poses. The instruction (though, in truth there are relatively few words) is confined to the introductory sections where Giovanni deals with a few basic drawing principles.

This is a book that’s probably best approached with at least a moderate ability to draw and the ability to interpret without being told what you’re looking at. As long as you have that, there’s a wealth of ideas here and you’ll find that the method of teaching by example works remarkably well.

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Realistic Watercolor Portraits || Suzanna Winton

This is a well thought-out attempt to provide a straightforward guide to painting portraits using examples of representative facial, colour and hair types. Nine step-by-step demonstrations cover most of the combinations you’re likely to find and are of real, rather than imaginary people.

The author makes a good job of her stated intent and the approach is admirably straightforward and easy to follow. I do have a slight issue with her representation of bodies (the faces are fine) as these seem rather bulky and non-articulated. Clothes also look as though they have been carved rather than cut, too. This is perhaps a bit of a quibble as the rest of the book is so admirably handled and I would recommend it for its good points alone, but it’s something to be aware of nonetheless.

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How to Paint Living Portraits || Roberta Carter Clark

There’s a relatively small, but very steady demand for books on painting portraits and this 1990 guide, reissued in the North Light Classics series, is definitely worth a look.

The first thing to say is that it’s an American publication, so the work included is pretty saccharine and won’t always be to European tastes. Nevertheless, the author is a master of her subject and there’s no arguing with the quality of the results or the depth of the explanations.

The book is well structured and progresses from exercises that work on the proportions of the head to handling the eyes, nose, mouth etc. This is necessarily quite slow work, but fundamental, and the attention to detail here pays dividends later. Further chapters deal with the body, clothing and lighting in a similarly thorough way before we move on to colours and two quite separate sections on working in oil and in watercolour.

This is a book that doesn’t compromise on the quality of its instruction for a more attractive outlook and is all the better for that. If you don’t have access to a real live teacher, this is very much the next best thing.

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