Por­trait skills

Mélanie Delon ex­plains how she uses light and avoids de­tail be­com­ing too dis­tract­ing, as she paints a fig­ure in­spired by the car­ni­vals of Venice

ImagineFX - - Contents -

Paint­ing a por­trait can be a dif­fi­cult task, es­pe­cially when you plan to add a lot of cloth­ing de­tails and jew­ellery. You can quickly be­come lost in your work! So be­fore start­ing any­thing, have a ba­sic rough idea of the fi­nal im­age. Here, I want to de­pict (with the help of the Imag­ineFX team) a kind of Vene­tian car­ni­valin­spired cos­tume – but with­out the mask, be­cause we want di­rect eye con­tact in this il­lus­tra­tion.

I draw a few quick pen­cil sketches and colour thumb­nails, with the idea of a mys­te­ri­ous colour­ful lady in mind, to find a strong com­po­si­tion. At this stage I know the light will be a key part in this paint­ing; this is al­ways the case in a por­trait piece. Light is how the char­ac­ter stands out – it brings vol­ume, life and in­ten­sity – so it must be care­fully worked. The light is chal­leng­ing here, mainly be­cause of the amount of de­tail.

In­deed, I don’t want the de­tail to be­come too dis­tract­ing, which can soon be the case when there’s a lot of it. So I start with ba­sic, clas­sic light­ing: a main light com­ing from the top and the rest in shadow.

How­ever, dur­ing paint­ing I de­cide to change some el­e­ments, in­clud­ing the light. The im­age was too dark and the com­po­si­tion too bor­ing. When I’m not sat­is­fied, I never hes­i­tate to go back and change the el­e­ments I don’t like. Some­times I even restart the en­tire il­lus­tra­tion. For me, that’s just a part of the paint­ing process – and it’s of­ten for the best!

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