Savannah Tate Cuff

Rendering the Eye

Savannah Tate Cuff
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Duration:   36  mins

After blocking in her portrait drawing of a live model, artist Savannah Tate Cuff begins the rendering phase with the left eye (the model’s right eye). Rendering, also called modeling, is adding shading to a linear block-in to bring the portrait to life. Savannah begins sketching in the margins to illustrate the planes of the eye, encompassing the upper eyelid, eyelashes, corner of the eye, white of the eye, lower eyelid, lashes, upper plane of the lower lid, iris, and pupil. The eye is on a downward-facing plane, Savannah notes, so nothing will be too bright. She uses an HB pencil for darker areas and a 2H when modeling subtle gradations.

With a 2H pencil and Mahl stick, Savannah models the area above the eyelid, adding white chalk highlights on the brow and eye. She darkens the inside of the eye socket, demonstrating how she visualizes the area as a curved cylinder. Switching to HB to model the eyelashes, Savannah treats them as groups or small clumps, not individual lashes. As she continues, Savannah shares tips for key details. First, the color of the iris affects the value you render. Next, always think of your relationship to the light source and how the light affects the area you’re modeling. Third, observe where the pupil is sharper and where it’s softer.

Turning to the model’s left eye, Savannah notes how the light makes this eye lighter. Again, she begins with the upper eyelid and shadow shape at the corner of the eye. Adding dark values to the pupil, she checks its placement relative to the other eye, then adds darker areas to the iris. Keeping shadow areas flat and gradient activity in the light helps model the eye accurately.

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