One of the things I frequently do when I’m working on a piece is look for shapes. I recently posted an article on this very subject and when it comes to portraits especially, I find it very helpful. Small children and babies in particular seem to have more skin than hair and it is not generally broken up by makeup or glasses etc. So if I’m doing say an 8.5 x 11 closeup portrait like my grandson, it can be very tricky moving across my work to ensure that all the shapes are in the right place and believe me, even if one small shadow or curve is not where it should be, the end result will be a child that does not really look like that child. The next two images of Marcus illustrate some of the areas that I have lightly mapped in with either a warm or cool base color depending on whether the area is in shadow or not. As I develop an area and I’m pleased with the placement I will continue to map out the neighbouring area and build on what I know is now in line with my reference photo (which I have not posted for privacy).
I will usually start a portrait by almost completing the eyes only because it seems to make the piece come to life for me so I can put more feeling into it. While the colors are off from one image to another, you can still see the progression from the first image to the last one. Most of this was based on following the shapes, values and a combination of both warm and cool colors that are uniquely Marcus’ skintone. Believe it or not, he is one rosy-faced little boy most of the time. A number of really great color selections for caucasian baby skin are found in the Prismacolor line and are very often fairly cool in temperature. Colors like Pink Rose, Powder Blue and Greyed Lavender make for pretty accurate tones for their skin. Both selections of warm and cool grays are also excellent from either the Prisma or FC line. Another excellent choice for some of the shadows is Derwent Colorsoft Pale Lavender. Faber Castell does not yet have many cool pastel shades but I’m hoping!
Getting back to the subject of shapes, you’ll notice that I have also started on the hair even though I’m nowhere near done on the face yet. Again, I do this to help me see the relationship between the values I’m laying in overall and to ensure that I’m developing enough contrast. So I started by blocking in a few of the darker, negative shapes within the hair as well as some of the areas where only the warmer scalp shows through. I also started playing around with some colors for his t-shirt and thought a warm ochre would look good in contrast to his rosy cheeks, red hair and the green background, but I may change it up yet to a darker value.