For the most recent installment of The Primate Diaries I was asked to paint a portrait of author Carl Zimmer. The portrait is painted with Gauche and Acrylic paint on a 140 LB Arches hot press watercolor paper.
The first step in any portrait I do is to define the entire image in line with a complete drawing. This drawing will be painted over and none of it will become part of the finished artwork but it serves two purposes. During this stage I am exploring Mr. Zimmer’s face learning it with every line and mark that I put down I am also creating a rode map of structure, value and design, always mindful of the paint that will be layered on top.
The next step for me is strictly about blocking in shape and value. I am laying down blocks of paint in basic shapes that I see in the face using the sketch I am painting on as well as previous sketches and any reference photos I am using. With every shape I put down I am comparing it to all of the other values I have put down paying close attention to my darkest dark and lightest light knowing that all values are only relative to the other values placed on the paper.
I have now gone into those shapes and found more and more shapes inside the larger shapes putting all of the values together like a puzzle. At this point I lay in the largest blocks of color (the hair, coat and background) based on the value of those areas all of the values in the face could change. I am now comparing the face and determining if the values and colors laid in are the right ones for this painting in this case the background value changes three times before I was happy.
I now go in to the details that make this painting complete with a smaller brush and just a bit of color pencil. I am using pencil mostly on the shirt and coat creating a look that blurs the line between painting and drawing inspired by illustrators from the 1960s such as Robert Weaver and Austin Briggs