Last Thursday I performed a portrait demonstration at the
Wickford Art Association (WAA). Despite a rainy night,
there was a good turnout to watch and listen as I described the challenges of painting a sketch of a wonderful model.
Portrait demonstrations -- like most painting demos-- always have an element of the unpredictable about them. Will the lighting be adequate? Is there
provision for a background to the subject? Will everyone be able to see what I am doing? Will what I am doing be worth seeing? Finally, will the subject
(the model) show up?
Fortunately, the model was punctual and did her job well. Other inadequacies have more to do with lack of preparation on the painter's part than the facilities at WAA. A photo of the model is shown below and beside it the resultant sketch from the demo. Since I was explaining each step I proceeded, I was not able to achieve very much "finish" in the 90 minutes available. Portraiture, like all painting, requires a degree of concentration proportionate to the subtlety (in light and shadow) of the subject.
I have included in this post two other portraits sketched at portrait sessions lasting about two and a half hours. Note that these are a little more finished-looking since I had more quality time (duration and concentration) with the subject. In all these sketches, demo included, I spent a good portion of the available time in describing structure as suggested by facial anatomy as well as value distribution. Only after a satisfactory resolution of facial structure ( including background) were the features addressed. The "fun" part -- seeking out color, temperature nuances, and edge treatment -- was saved till last.
Can the sketches be brought to a greater degree of finish later? Possibly, but often at the sacrifice of likeness -- unless one has a photo as a guide to stay on track.