In my last series of blogs, I provided insight into my process for creating detailed realistic art using water-soluble pastel crayons and colored pencil on board. You may have noticed that the first two images were very rough, and that my initial line drawing did not have many details. This is for a very important reason – I strongly believe that meticulously measured line drawings of a person can inhibit the artist’s interpretation of the subject, and lead to uninteresting portraits.
This is one reason that I like to use water-soluble pastel washes under the colored pencil – it forces me to apply color loosely, and leave the careful rendering to the final stages of the painting. In every portrait that I create, my goal is to render the subject as they see themselves (or as the client sees them), and also to inject some of my own interpretation into the piece. I’ve noticed that some of my favorite portrait painters follow a similar practice, starting with loosely painted blocks of color to define the contours, light, and shadows, and moving the paint around to refine the portrait until it is not only a realistic rendering of the subject, but also one that seems to tell a story.