And so, back to children and baby portraiture... this is always quite an intimidating area for me - people LOVE their chldren - no matter what, you've got to make their children look like THEIR children. Everything matters from, whether you've met the child before, to the quality of photograph, if you're working from a photo, to the paper you use, the medium you employ etc.
Photographs - I prefer to work from a photo that I take, but I'm not adverse to the parent/person having a particularly good photo that they'd prefer me to work from. Working from life is fantastic, but with children, it's incredibly unlikely you'll get the same expression, movement etc. more than once, that's what makes them so interesting.
Paper - unlike the animal work or other more experimental work I do, babies/childrens' portraits work best on a smoother, off white, heavy paper. Too much texture loses the focus, being the child. The disadvantage here of course, is that less erasing, longer times on detail and a greater accuracy need to be employed earlier on in the work.
There's a great book by Harold Speed -The Practice and Science of Drawing... I highly recommend this book for the drawing of portraits (especially children).
Pencils and grids - I use lighter pencils, and start very softly with this type of portrait. I often use a transparency with 4 grid system on it for mapping out the features, in a very light, soft pencil. I have tried the 'transfer' technique, but find the grid technique better for this sort of portrait.
Start with the eyes - Mapping out the distances between major features, starting with the eyes, works for me. My theory is, if I get the eyes right, the rest will follow. Often times, I will work from the mouth upwards, but generally for portraits, it's the eyes that determine whether the piece is working or not. With my animals, I vary it - with deers, dogs etc., I'll start with the eyes, but found one or two (the chimpanzee for example), starting with the mouth worked well.
Mirror, Mirror - ALWAYS look at your work as you go, upside down and even in a mirror. If you've made a slight odd shape or direction of the pupil, you'll surely pick it up at this stage.
Be ever critical - always use a slightly critical eye with portraiture... you're being paid for accuracy and personality in your work... it's that uncanny valley thing - if it's supposed to be someone, and it's not a caricaturisation of the person/child, make it beautifully accurate.
I've had discussions with people along the lines of "... if I wanted a snapshot, I would have taken a photo..." well, that's all well and good, but what drawing a portrait adds, is the benefit of imagination and creativity - I add a story in my pieces wherever possible.
Anyway, it's early days yet - the drawing itself will take approx. 10 - 20 hours.
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Tanya is a traditional and digital artist, living in Brisbane and inspired by all that is 'Art'.