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Composing an image is like solving a puzzle; if you can imagine your elements as a group of colored shapes, you can make all the pieces fit. In this course, Mary Jane Begin shows you how to see shape before detail and develop a portrait step-by-step, using reference images, a color composite, and foundational shapes. The course will review color balance, color blocking, use of diagonal shapes for dynamic compositions, tension between edges, focal points, space, and hierarchy of shape.
Mary Jane uses the following materials in this course:
Now this is our basic color and shape foundation. I'm going to take this a bit further and work in dry media. And show you what would happen if we add some details. I'm also just going to block the shades of color and pop them a little bit more. But before I do that, for me this piece is including the edges of the image here the tape. And that color is. Adding to the shapes that are here, so I want to make it a little bit cleaner, so I can see my composition more easily. So, when you're working, whether it's on a surface like this or any other surface, you should always try to keep a white space around your piece.
If it's black, it tends to sap an image of color. If it's a neutral color, it might infuse itself into the piece, so white is really the best choice to surround the edges of your picture. For me, I can already start to see the shapes of the composition more clearly. And I'm not distracted by extraneous colors, so now we see the shapes with a pretty clear articulation and I'm just going to go in and start to build up these colors.
So I'm just going to work for a little while. I'm pushing the now, the color gradation.
From dark to light but also from purple to blue to blue, to blue green, just to create a variation in the shape of color. I've also added some of this sky color into the shadow of this shirt, because it's reflecting what's around it, the white shirt. Just like the skin will be, it's reflecting the sky in the shadow color, it's called reflected color. So by contrast to what has already been established here whcih is the blue of the sky, the royla red of the shirt and teh white color The skin now looks really green.
And so I have to counterbalance that to make it more pink. And even though it's till an underpinning color for what will land on top, I'll show you that in a minute. This has to be warmer. Otherwise it looks like his skin tone is green. So what I'm doing is coating with pastel, a pink, fleshy tone. That is neutralizing the green because pink and green. This pink is sort of orangy, opposite the green, a compliment are neutralizing each other out for a more neutral tone.
But I don't want it to be neutral green, I want it to be neutral pink. Because the skin tone is generally a pinkish color. With just a hint of sort of greenishness and particularly in the shadows. Si I have to make sure that I'm balancing all these shapes of color. I'm also reflecting some of the red from the shirt. I have to reflect that into his skin as well. So I have to start to build this color. Again, it's in context of everything else. Looks too green, now I have to push it to be pink.
So, I'll do that here, it starts to look more like the overall tone of his flesh, but I still have to find the lights and shadows, and I also know as it turns away. His skin is just slightly more, purple in the shadow, so I have to pull that into the shadow but I've to be careful, his skin is so light, if I push the value of the color too dark, it'll look strange. Flash is the hardest thing. Particularly for that reason because it reflects so much color like a white shirt.
It's not just the color of the skin itself. It's the color that it's reflecting all around it. So it's one of the more complex elements of picture. And I'm pushing purple more in the shadow side of the face. And I'm going to keep the look, the right side of the face a little bit warmer and then what I'll do because this is a face,so it's fine tune. I have to go back in and I'm going to use first the eraser to erase out some of the light. And that will help me, find, the form of the face again.
The eraser effectively, its like a brush because the tool is fairly fine and what this is allowing me to do is pull back. To the lightest areas that were there originally, and it finds some of the pink that I put on there. It doesn't come off, and that leaves a sort of nice flesh tone that I can go back and enhance later. I'm pulling up a little bit of white on the left side of the face because I know that the reflective light from the sky will land on the face.
And so I want to just make sure that the value is right when I add bits of neutralized blue, flushed with a little bit of blue in it. There will also be a little light on the left side of the nostril here. One thing that helps to define the skin is start to see. The color of the lips and the color of the nose is being a little bit redder.
So if I articulate that, it'll help define the form of the face. A little bit in the ear. And the face is pretty light, so it's time to go in and. May be pop some highlights so that you start to see the light on the face, a little more clarity. I'm just grazing a pencil on the top of this green, to make that greenness sort of go away a little bit.
Just, to let it show, but not so brightly. And the opposite side of the face should have a little more purple in it, because it's reflecting the sky. But I have to be careful again that it doesn't get too dark, simply because it's skin tone. So now I go back into. That area with pencils to articulate that. What's nice about reflective light is when you use it on a three dimensional form it makes it look more dimensional because it tells you it's another side.
Where the light is hitting, the shadow tone, and a secondary light source that's never bright as the first light. You always want a primary light source to make an object look dimensional. And a secondary light source that's not as bright. And preferably the opposite color, in this case it's cool on the secondary light source, and warm on the primary light source. I'm just going to go in and darken areas of deep shadow under the nose. And the mouth to help see the forms a little more clearly. I'm adding a purple both to darken the color that's there, is the darker tone, it's a darker purple pencil, but also because I have a lot of green plus brown on top of it and now I want to add to the.
Energy of the color by adding a third color that will neutralize but also add punch to the color, which is purple. And I'm not going heavily, I'm just grazing the surface with my pencil to deepen the value but also to enliven the And color in the deepest shadow. If you go too heavy, it'll just look like a purple mark. Go light enough, blends with the other colors and lets them show through, too. With flesh tones, I tend to start with the lighter tones and build to the darkest tones, because sometimes if you go too heavy.
The face doesn't look believable. The value system on the face, the darkest dark is not that dark. Even in the creases of the mouth, it's not super dark, and people often go to far and wonder why it doesn't look quite right. So value systems for faces go from light slowly to dark in increments. The purple's still reacting to the green underneath. And that's why there's a kind of nice vibration of color in the shadow. So the, the important part of this in focusing on the eyes is to try to get the pupil to pop and also the little bit of lash line that makes you know, these eyes really stand out.
I could use black, but that would not work with this system, so I'm going to try to use a dark brown. To pop that and I'll just darken the pupil, show you what that looks like, and then if I darken above it, and it has to be a color that relates to what's already there. It starts to look like his eyes. And I might use this color some place else. But for now it's really just a pointer just to say well, well how dark should it be and the same thing on the other side. And when I do the hair, I'll use some of the same colors. But it's also, see I can even start with white to start to pull up the highlights of those curls.
And I'm going to pay attention to the color that I had underneath. And really, I'm using the pencil. Try to articulate the direction of the curl, the texture of the hair. This is where when you play with a variety of media, you can either use a brush to create that stroke, or, or a tool, if you're working in Photoshop, a tool that has a finer gauge to make a kind of nice texture for the hair. So the hair is still a beautiful shape, but it also. Is a nice contrast to the smooth face. So, I think I have this at a pretty good level, about three quarters finished to show you the basic shapes that make up the composition.
I've gone in and fine tuned the colors, so I really understand my system. The warm that leads to the face, the large shape of blue that frames the face and the value of the hair. I've gotten some details in, there's a little more to do. But what I want you to understand is that using shapes of colors as the first and most fundamental source for desinging a piece. Helps to keep the focus on the entire design, not just details within the image. If you understand how the shapes of color play off one another, it's easier to control where the viewer's looking and how they might perceive your intended message.
So, don't hesitate to throw your eyes out of focus when you go and look at work. See if the shapes add up to more than just the sum of their parts.
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