Pro se­crets: a beau­ti­ful por­trait within a grotesque con­struct

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Workshops -

1 A jux­ta­po­si­tion of el­e­ments

Who doesn’t love a big, gnarly, slob­ber­ing crea­ture? I know I do. I’ve drawn and painted many through­out my ca­reer. But what is more chal­leng­ing, and in the end I find more pleas­ing, is com­bin­ing the beau­ti­ful and the bizarre. And what, I ask you, is more beau­ti­ful than the vis­age of a woman? Ren­der­ing a beau­ti­ful woman’s face has been at the core of artis­tic en­deav­ours from their ear­li­est ex­pres­sions.

2 Find­ing your muse

To do this kind of work in a re­al­is­tic man­ner, you’re go­ing to need good ref­er­ence ma­te­rial. I would en­cour­age you to find your own sources, and not just use im­ages from the in­ter­net. If you’re a de­cent pho­tog­ra­pher, you can pho­to­graph your friends, or browse sites like Model May­hem ( www.mod­el­may­ to find mod­els in your area to set up shoots. If you, like me, aren’t a great pho­tog­ra­pher, use the in­ter­net as a re­source for col­lab­o­ra­tion. If you see a photo that’s per­fect for the im­age you want to cre­ate, con­tact the model or pho­tog­ra­pher and ask if you can use the im­age as ref­er­ence for your art­work. I’ve re­cently started con­tact­ing pho­tog­ra­phers and of­fer­ing a small fee for their per­mis­sion to use their photos as ref­er­ence. Re­mem­ber, pho­tog­ra­phers and mod­els are artists try­ing to make a liv­ing just like you. Treat them with re­spect. In this ex­am­ple, I worked with model Kyr­ian Poole, who hap­pens to be the daugh­ter of il­lus­tra­tor Mark Poole.

3 Ex­pand your tool­kit

What­ever media you de­cide to use, give se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion to go­ing out­side your com­fort zone and try­ing new tools and tech­niques. When I started I was just us­ing pen­cil on pa­per. I soon learned from Allen Wil­liams about the graphite pow­der pounce – a piece of cloth wrapped around pow­dered graphite and cot­ton balls. This sim­ple tool en­abled me to em­bark on a new and ex­cit­ing path of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. I dab the pounce on the pa­per, and graphite fil­ters out of the pounce and on to the page. Then I take a kneaded eraser and press it into a va­ri­ety of rocks and shells that I’ve gath­ered on trips. I then press the eraser into the graphite on the page. The re­sult when I lift the eraser up is a unique or­ganic pat­tern, which I use as the ba­sis for find­ing the mon­strous por­tions of the com­po­si­tion.

4 Have fun with the eyes

When ren­der­ing a woman’s face, I try not to al­ter the fea­tures very much. This is the part of the piece that is com­fort­ing for the viewer, be­fore branch­ing out into the chaos. It’s a safe place for their eye to re­turn to the fa­mil­iar. One thing you can play with are the eyes. Don’t change the eye shape, but have fun with the iris and pupil. Maybe there’s no iris at all and the eye is com­pletely white, or black. You can try a pupil that is grey, or even rep­til­ian. Experiment and see what has the great­est im­pact.

what­ever media you use, con­sider go­ing out­side your com­fort zone and try­ing new tools and tech­niques

5 Shape con­sid­er­a­tions

As with any de­sign, ba­sic shape is of the ut­most im­por­tance. If you just draw a face with ran­dom pro­tru­sions go­ing in ev­ery di­rec­tion, the im­age can be­come over­wrought and too chaotic. Start with a strong shape, and then work on get­ting the de­tails right.

6 Make use of hard and soft edges

When try­ing to cre­ate an eerie at­mos­phere in a draw­ing, edge work is more im­por­tant than ever. Edges are used to help con­vince the viewer of a three-di­men­sional ob­ject ren­dered in two di­men­sions. Hard edges are those in­di­cated by a dis­tinct and pur­pose­ful line to de­scribe a cast shadow or de­fine the edge of the form against the back­ground, while soft edges are gra­da­tions of tone used to de­fine the tran­si­tion from light to shadow. A suc­cess­ful draw­ing will cre­ate a bal­ance be­tween hard and soft edges that’s pleas­ing to the viewer. Too many of one or the other can leave a draw­ing feel­ing flat.

the ba­sic shape is of the ut­most im­por­tance. start with a strong shape, and then work on the de­tails

7 Tap into the power of Sym­bol­ism

Use of sym­bol­ism in the grotesque is im­mensely im­por­tant. in the late 1800s an en­tire artis­tic move­ment known as sym­bol­ism thrived in europe. it en­com­passed not only the vis­ual arts, but literature and mu­sic. in an ar­ti­cle that ap­peared in the French pub­li­ca­tion la vogue in 1886, gus­tave Kahn ar­tic­u­lated the sym­bol­ist ide­ol­ogy by writ­ing, “as to sub­ject mat­ter, we are tired of the quo­tid­ian, the near-at-hand and the com­pul­sory con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous; we wish to be able to place the de­vel­op­ment of the sym­bol in any pe­riod what­so­ever, and even in out­right dreams.” read up on sub­jects that are of in­ter­est to you, and in­cor­po­rate their sym­bol­ism into your work. it will give your work lay­ers of mean­ing above and be­yond that of the “pretty pic­ture.” Don’t worry whether peo­ple will “get it” or not. it is for your per­sonal growth and ex­pres­sion.

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