Sunday, November 18, 2007

Portrait Challenge Using Shapes

See my slide show separately. For some reason, I couldn't get the html thing to work this way for a slide show.
This is my work for a challenge that was issued on the blog "Creativity Journey" last week. I sent mine in Friday and the final result is a part of the slide show there. You can look in my sidebar and click on Creativity Journey to go to Myrna's blog. She has some really interesting work there, and good ideas.
1. The first slide is from a tin type of my great-grandfather, James DeGraffenreid Miles. One of these days, I want to do a portrait of him in a Civil War uniform. I have a couple of pictures in a suit of those times, but haven't found anything of his uniform. So, I thought this would be a good picture to really examine.
The challenge was to use a program on the computer to posterize a picture, then use those shapes to do a painting. Myrna used a special paper and pens, and worked fairly large.
I don't have Photoshop and my basic Paint program didn't help, except that I was able to paint out the scratched background on the tin type. I thought that I have the ability to identify shapes and work with them, without a computer program. And I could try out a different type of paper that I already have, and try different kinds of pens or paint.
After looking at Myrna's examples, I thought that I was through, but, when I went back, she had added a background. So, I felt that I had to add a background after I had finished the figure. This did turn out to be an interesting challenge, and, as I thought, it did force me to examine parts of the face a lot more.
Strangely, despite the bright colors, when I get off from the painting, it does look rather realistic.
2. For the second slide, I put the photo that I printed out, without a background, on my light table, and put a piece of block printing paper over it. Then I simply traced the outline and started to break the face up into shapes.
3. The third slide shows more of how I broke the picture into shapes using a pencil. Some of the shapes were on the photo, but some were possibly formed by the age spots on the original photograph.
4. I tried different kinds of pens, but they either didn't run and blend on this paper, or they bled into a mess rather than an interesting line. So, I opted for watercolors. The paper seemed to be too small to use acrylics. I realized that I would have to make some changes because of the difference in materials, and the way that the watercolors handled on the paper.
I was not happy with the final results, at first, but, when I looked at it from a distance, it does resemble a person. I do have two other copies, that are different, that I can try to work on more.
These are the notes I made about this challenge:
1. I spent days trying to figure out how to posterize on my computer. Finally found that the only way I can do that is to have Photoshop, which I don't have. Tried Paint, and that one only is a basic program that also won't posterize. I knew that I had seen that somewhere before, but it must have been when I first got my computer.
2. I found a picture that I have been wanting to do as a portrait. It's from a tin type of my great-grandfather and want to paint him in a Civil War uniform.
3. I saved that picture as a bmtp, then could use basic Paint on it to paint out the background as white. I thought that I could just draw in the shapes with the drawing tool, but my hand is not steady enough to make that little pencil go where I want it to go. I did manage a rough outline around the figure. I was able, then, to print the picture of the figure.
4. I decided to see what I could do using block printing paper, rather than drawing or watercolor paper. I used that over the print on a light table, to trace the picture and shapes.
My light table is improvised. I have a soda fountain table with a glass top in my kitchen. I put a foot stool under it, a small lamp on top of the stool and used a couple of books when I needed to raise the lamp.
While I did several drawings, I elected to use the version in which I broke the face up into planes and geometric shapes. I gave this assignment to my students, when I was teaching. They worked in basic geometric shapes, before doing portraits and clay sculptures of the head.
5. I experimented with several types of pens, but I didn't think that they did anything special. I need to use materials on hand rather than buying a lot of new things, at this point.
6. I decided to just use watercolors. It doesn't work as well on block printing paper. Soaks in too fast and also goes through. Something like gesso on it might give a different effect. At least it didn't bleed as I worked.
7. I forced myself to use a color wheel and tried to stick to those colors rather than just what I felt like putting down. Analagous colors, then complimentary colors, were my choice. I did think of lights and darks, areas that came forward and those that recede as I worked.
Now, I realize that it might have been better to select a picture that had more color in it! This was a tin type, on a black piece of metal, with a little color added, and white painted outlines. There is a blue cast to it, and it has a lot of scratches and marks where a frame had been long ago.
8. After I had finished the person, I decided to add a background. I experimented with using Press and Seal kitchen wrap as a mask. I pressed it down, then used a stencil knife to cut out the shape. Then I painted a loose background and dropped in a little salt. (I usually use margarita salt for that technique, but I just had table salt on hand. Plain salt doesn't show up as well.)
9. I learned that, if I use the Press and Seal as a mask, I need to be sure to be really careful with the stencil knife so as to not go through the paper and all!
Also, the thin paper needs to have more paper underneath it as the paint will go through if you use a lot of water, and it can also run under the masking tape used to hold the paper in place. I did get a little stain on my white drafting table. But, it will come off eventually.
10. Now, I'm going to try the other two I drew, using different color harmonies. The block printing paper doesn't work well for things that you want to run, though, so I will have to try that on something else.

In my blog yesterday, I mentioned that I hoped that those who needed rain so badly will get it, and that it is getting dry here, again. So much so that we are under a burn ban. The big Aggie bonfire before the Thanksgiving football game with the Longhorns was put on hold because of the burn ban in the county where it is to be held. The county authorities are scheduled to meet again tomorrow to reconsider. There was only a slight chance of rain.
Well, of all things, the clouds rolled in about dark, there was a lot of lightning, and we had rain all night and into this morning. So much so that I read that one road out in the country had 4 feet of water over it by last night. I hope that some of those who are so desperate for rain will get the rain they need. I don't know if we are caught up now. I'll have to find out on the news tonight.
Hope that you enjoy my pictures and slide show, and reading about how this painting came about.
Let me know if you see something of particular interest to you. Thanks for reading and sharing.

1 comment:

V....Vaughan said...

WOW! You could give lessons in all this, now!
Great portraits and info about the tecchie stuff :)