I'm not telling you anything you don't already know when I
say that successful portraiture is successful when the portrait artist,
foremost, captures a likeness. Yes, I ardently believe that there has to be
something more to the story—a sense of the subject's spirit or personality, or
something interesting about the composition—but if you can't recognize the
person in the portrait painting...that's an issue!
||Portrait de Therese by Balthus, oil painting, 1939.
Portrait artists start with the building blocks of the face
and gain the skill to depict those features, and then add their own artistic
flavor. One anatomical feature of the face that has always intimidated me is
the nose. How to do it justice?! Here are a few tips I've learned on how to
depict the nose with a little more nose-how. I mean know-how! (Pure cheese,
Soft parts and a few strong lines. We all know that the nose
has no bone to it, just hardened cartilage and fatty tissue. But that doesn't
mean that there aren't strong lines to be found in this feature. The creases where
the nostril meets the cheek; perhaps the dip where the nostrils meet at the tip
of the nose; and the bridge of the nose can all be defined with stronger shadow
or firmer lines. The nostrils themselves and the tip of the nose are where
you'll typically go softer.
Think round. When drawing the underlying structure of the
nose, artists often use straight lines and angles, and that makes absolute
sense to me. But in subsequent stages of a portrait painting don't forget the ball
on the tip of the nose. Big or small, broad or narrow, this sphere shape needs
to be made distinct with highlights and shadow, and should not be left to the
straight lines and edges one starts with.
A cliff that casts a shadow.
|Portrait of a Man by Titian,
oil painting, 1510-12.
I know no one wants to think of
their nose as a cliff side, but the underside of the nose is usually cast in
shadow, just like a jutting cliff casts a shadow on itself. Put that shadow in.
It will immediately give a sense of mass to the nose.
Getting to the point where you can confidently paint a
person—eyes, ears, mouth, and especially nose!—means dedication and, sure, a
bit of trial and error. But we have a series of DVDs on portrait painting that
are here to help you avoid many missteps and get right to the heart of
skillfully painted portraits. These are practically full-length portraits in themselves! Learn alongside Burton Silverman with his Portrait of a Young Girl; with David Leffel as he guides us in all of his tried
and true methods of Painting the Portrait in Oil; and with Judith Carducci as she showcases her
skills in her DVD, Portrait Painting in Pastel, and teaches us what she knows. Enjoy!
P.S. The deadline for one of my favorite art competitions is fast approaching! Southwest Art's 2012 Artistic Excellence Competition is accepting entries until August 17th, and the competition is a great way for artists to gain visibility for their art...plus cash prizes and more! Sweetness!
And right now Artist Daily members get 10% off your entry fee. Sign up now and good luck!