Ellen Profiling a Harsh Melancholia

The most poignant portraits are of those individuals who have been dealt a difficult hand in the great card game of life. Ellen immediately struck me as someone who has not found much joy in her lurching journey from crisis to crisis in the constant hope that happiness lurks around the next corner, only to find yet another door closing shut offering only a quick glimpse of blue skies and flower carpeted fields of peace and tranquility. Her game is Solitaire.

Cur, that I am, I found her futile floundering intriguing - a quiet repose of sad acceptance and loneliness, Ellen proffered an excellent study.

Portrait drawing embraces much, much more than the simple rendering of form and light. Compare the finished drawing to the photograph of Ellen. You'll notice a few differences. I drew the eyes smaller than they really are and closed them a bit; melancholia has an unslept, withdrawn quality. The nose is rendered ruddier and redder. The cheeks given a harsh edged quality. There is a marked physiology to sadness, especially depression.

Depression can also appear as a cold and angry melancholia; the ancient Greeks described it best - black bile.

As artists our job is to interpret and opine -we are more than mere copyists.

Well, isn't that interesting, the width of Ellen's head from the far zygomatic to the back of the hair is exactly equal from the intersection of sternohyoideus muscle and biventer mandibulae muscle to the top of the frontalis muscle, or frontal bone. (Let me reiterate - you really should know your anatomy. The portrait is a demanding subject that requires precision, knowing all of the lumps and bumps, their names and functions greatly aids in meeting the demands of accurate portrait drawing.)

Quickly establish the arabesque. Slip in gunslinger mode, squint down your eyes and take your best shot.

Let's look more closely at the photograph of Ellen to ascertain the major proportions and to discover the unique qualities to Ellen's head.

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Now is the time to check your proportions. I trust that you have taken your best stab at the gestural arabesque before checking your height to width proportions. That is how you train your eye.

My proportions are a bit off, but they're close enough for now.

I sense grumbling in the ranks. So my arabesque was not dead on. This isn't video, it's life. The gestural arabesque is only meant to break the tyranny of the blank page, remember? Let 's move on.

Once again, even in this 7/8's pose, the square is found encompassing the chin to brow and cheek to articular process, condyle (the back end of the jaw where the ear lobe meets).

This is a critical relationship. Double check your drawing to ensure that these proportions are present. If they're not, correct them by adjusting the width of the face (cheek to ear).

Ellen's brow ridge is just a little above the halfway point from the top of her hair to the mental process. The base of the nose is pretty much halfway between the brow ridge and the mental process. Note the center line of the face. In this 7/8's pose we are nearing profile, but not quite. I have encompassed the relationship of the denture and pyramidal nasi by arcing the center line outwards from the pyramidal nasi to the mental process.

As mentioned ad nauseum there is a structured order to everything. It is our role as artists to discover and embrace this order.

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Canvas Painting For Beginners

Canvas Painting For Beginners

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