Thursday, January 8, 2015

Dan Thompson - Portrait Drawing Demo

By Lynn Snyder
Level II student

Recently, levels II and III students at Studio Incamminati watched a six-hour portrait demo of our model, Colin, given by Dan Thompson. Here is a recount of the demonstration based the notes and pictures I took while watching Dan draw.

Dan started the life-size drawing (Figure 1) by pushing the head a little bit higher on the paper so a relationship is established between the head, neck and shoulders.  He established a line of action between the models shoulder and head using long, straight lines. One of the most important anchor features is the ear, which establishes and angular extension important for judging proportion. The drawing is built with relationships rather than developing one feature completely over another. Simple shapes are what become the features, rather than a definitive line. 

Figure 1

Next, Dan concentrated on two values (Figure 2), light (the light of the paper) and dark (false value) by placing the pencil marks closer together. "Proximity vs. Pressure" is a term Dan used to get quiet, solid resolution to each tone making the drawing less noisy (this way the pencil strokes are closer together). A blending stump is used to unify tones going from the linear to the shape phase.

Figure 2

To organize the masses of values in the human head, Dan simplified the drawing into five values (Figure 3). The first being the darkest dark (your tone anchor) to give value range.   The second value is the lightest dark to connect to the darkest one. The third tone is the middle light then the highlight and lastly the darkest light. Layering the pencil strokes is essential to developing tone. 

Figure 3

At this time, shadows were reinforced with a stump. Smaller shapes were developed as in the eye area (Figure 4). Middle lights were calibrated to the lightest light and darkest dark.  One of the last features Dan put in were the eyes (Figure 5).

Figure 4
Figure 5

Dan switched to a 4H pencil in the light areas (specifically the nose) and used this to burnish like a stump, getting more specific with smaller shapes. The structure is the map of the face and you get that with tone. The down planes were darkened and with each form and he traveled across the face to find the opposing form and darken it as well. Dan continued to add dark areas to increase the value range. An 8B was to used to add the shirt and hair (Figure 6). The last pose was spent refining the shapes to ensure that one tone flows into another. 

Figure 6

I was amazed to see how simple straight lines went from large abstract shapes to complex structural features in a short period of time. If you'd like more information on Dan's drawing techniques, please visit his website for purchasing his DVDs on anatomy of the head and gesture drawing of the figure. 

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