Doing portraiture is hard – I realize that now. After laying down the base colors a feeling of doubt creeps up on me. What if I get the lights wrong? What if the shadows are wrong? What if my portrait’s tonal value looks like it was viewed through foggy lens?

By the time I put in the midtones, the only thing that keeps me going would be, “if I add this and this, would it make a difference?” The only time I feel good is when I’ve started to place a little bit of definition. That’s when I stop and step back. I work and do something else and come back to it. Does it look like the people in the picture or should I scrap this and start over?

Before I do the hair and background, the faces have to be perfect. If not, I repeat everything. That is, after 2 – 3 hours of mental self flagellation.

Sometimes I feel like those portrait artist you see in the malls. There’s nothing bad about what they do. In fact they’re amazing. What I noticed is that these portrait artists don’t get to develope their own style. They end up doing the same thing – making photographs look like photographic paintings. While a lot of people expect that, I don’t want that.

I still don’t know how I can make it any different. I hope that after a few weeks I can see where I am headed. At the meantime, I will work on perfecting these two techniques – likeness and tonal value.


About the Author

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