Monday, March 15, 2010




Here's a study I did yesterday and this morning as part of an exercise. Any critiques welcome.


  1. Justin,
    The strong spectral highlight on the brow and the cheekbone along with the dark hair wisp that underlines her cheekbone really make her look skeletal - was that intentional?

  2. Nice work, Justin! I like it a lot.

    Since it's an exercise, and you've already photographed it in its present state, I'd encourage you to keep going —render the hair a bit more and play with the background, even at the risk of losing what you've got.
    When drawing children and attractive girls, it's hard to get expressive with your marks—the viewer expects a clean complexion. Clothing is one place you can experiment a bit with your media. Hair is great for that too. The background affords you opportunities to toy with values and patterns. Just an idea.

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  4. Thanks, guys.

    No, Dave, that wasn't intentional, It's in graphite, so I can still work it and scan it in again. I'll play with it a little more and see where I can take it. I'll soften the edges of the cheek and forehead highlights.

    Thanks, Chuck. I was taking this opportunity to do some designy things in contrast with the rendered areas. That is very intriguing to me. I'll seriously consider what you said. I'd like this to solve some design questions I have, so I don't mind taking it further. Do you recommend any artists who might be playing with similar design themes?

  5. Justin,

    I second what David and Chuck said above :) I think you're off to a really interesting start, and I too think playing with hierarchy/contrast is always interesting.

    First, I'd go take another look at some of the ways Coles Phillips did this with his "fade away" girls.
    Second, I did a quick digital paintover to show you what I was thinking. I hope that doesn't offend, but it's easier sometimes than trying to articulate.
    Using your positive and negative areas to create shapes that help describe you forms. And maybe putting something of less value in the background, and using it's shape to help give your foreground white shapes more description, without relying on line. Hopefully that makes some sort of sense ;)

    Go check Coles Phillips though!

  6. Actually, I really like the pencil study just the way it is. I like the fact that the unrendered hair creates an interesting contrast to the grayscale rendered face.

    I could see a flat gray shape in the background framing the hair area/face as a nice touch too.

    So there...

  7. Wow, Oliver. You answered Justin's question better than I ever could have. In fact, I'm embarrassed to admit I wasn't familiar with Phillips (am now). I thought this was an informative intro:,c.htm
    (Wow, he went to the same school as Jim Borgman.)

    Other artists who have successfully juxtaposed realistic faces with abstract backgrounds are probably pretty well-known to most of us:
    Maxfield Parrish
    Gustav Klimt
    I'm sure there are many others out there.

  8. Coles Phillips :facepalm: of course! Thanks. That's perfect. I like graphic design, but merely for the sake of its elements. When designing imagery, I generally start with shapes, even the finished drawing is simply flat shapes, then I render in large areas of value and carve the form with eraser and graphite/charcoal. Which, I'm sure, is fairly standard, working general to specific. I played with rendering the hair a bit, but it wasn't giving me what I wanted. I used line as a dividing element, and was pleased with it. But, Now that you mention the lack of line, doing the Coles Phillips thing, seems very interesting. I do agree with you, Daryll, about something in the background. I thought about it when I was making the piece, but opted not to. I will add more to the background, whether that is a flat tone, or a gradated field of value suggesting a light source (maybe some form). That would solve two problems, I think. 1) It would give the piece more substance and compliment the rendered area, which would also serve to create a really nice sense of space, I think. It would be dividing the space into rendered background, flat fore and middle-ground, and rendered middle-ground. That would be interesting.

  9. Like it a lot also Justin - I'm withe Daryll - I sort of like the looseness/tightness aspect of it & wouldn't necessarily make many changes or additions, but I love seeing people's 'incomplete' work. I really like the structural thing David mentioned at first...(who knows - it could be the basis for the next round of zombies that tend to populate the site)

  10. The image this came from was very intriguing. The woman seemed so mysterious. It was one of those looks that said volumes and contradicted itself again and again. It was a look of tension. I really wanted to capture it and use graphic shaping to frame the look and reinforce the feeling. I was pleased with the overall effect, but there are those pesky technical issues. Thanks, everyone, for your feedback. It is invaluable. I'll work it a bit more this week during my 1 hour morning study sessions and post it again. I looked up some Phillips imagery and had some jumping points manifest for me. When I was doing the vignette images for the Bestiary I looked at a lot of Erte images. His way of integrating his designs into self-contained units is very interesting.

  11. Chuck - thanks for the links to Phillips...I realized that I'd clipped a bunch of his stuff, mostly automotive, from some vintage magazines over the years, but had not seen a bunch of these...can't ever get too much Klimt and Parrish. What an era!

  12. Yeah. We were talking about that outside of arthur's. I think I missed my generation by about fifty years.