Thursday, October 10, 2013

Old Master Challenge

I am interested as a challenge to see how different artists might approach the task of reproducing well an old master portrait. In this case I would do it digitally. If we took as an example this portrait by Gustave Courbet, how might you do it? I will take it up as I would any other portrait drawing commission. It is a good image full of lots of drama. I will post my first stage block-in or rough-draft tomorrow.

These points from a well known philosopher may apply well to deconstructing a portrait as well.
  • Divide every question into manageable parts.
  • Begin with the simplest issues and ascend to the more complex.
  • Review frequently enough (step back) to retain the whole argument (impression) at once.

Gustave Courbet

Step 1 - Block in the biggest shapes.

Five values
Set five values and work with them until you can go no further without adding another color. Don't add more colors too soon. You would be surprised how well you can define an image before requiring more than five basic values.

Roughly but accurately suggest placement of major geometry.
Break it down.
d Begin to use all 5 values and break it down into the major shapes like stained glass fragments.
Step back and assess, then refine. Is everything locking into place like it should?
Take a break and look at it.
Now I get to take a break and look to see that the head is tilted a bit too far to the right. The bridge of the nose should be straight up and down. This is the time to correct that, and not later. Don't wait until the point at which you are laying down detail to find out something has the wrong attitude or emotion. Right now, we are looking at it like we are across the room at an opera. We can't see the details. We only see the big emotions and layout of the action.

Note: My aspect ratio on my drawing is a bit shorter up and down. I can just get a little bit less of the collar in this study. Also, I drew the value scale on another layer to keep it separated.


  1. Nice start, Brian! I like your thought process. I might have to try this one too. I think I have a 16 x 20 canvas laying around. I would be doing it in oils, though. Thanks for posting. :)

  2. Excellent! I do hope to see that. ;)