What are some things that you can consider when you’re sitting in front of the sitter, feeling the pressure of the moment? Artist Stuart Loughridge offers his knowledge and experience as to what works and what doesn’t when approaching the portrait.
Starting with a basic setting for a portrait, a strong light from one side and looking directly at the artist offers a soft shadow on the other side of the face. He often looks to accent some structure of the face. When he sets the portrait he tries to memorize how much he can see of the ear so that after the sitter takes a break he can get them back into the pose.
With another light situation using a rim light the face is mostly in shadow. The light ends up being flat, so all of the information is in the shadows. The turn of the face is determined by the slight light on the nose.
A face that is cast mostly in even direct light in the front offers shadows for the sides of the face.
He models mostly in the half tones and shadows while keeping the lights flat.
Stuart suggests not to worry about setting a unique pose and just get to work. You can worry about unique poses later, but for the time being just get going. Though you may not want the sitter to look flat on, directly at you with no turn in the face or shoulder with the shadow and light being half and half down the face. It makes for a static portrait.
He offers some tips on where the sitter should look so that the drawing doesn’t look awkward at the end. A good rule of thumb is to have the sitter look toward the light if in doubt.
It’s hard to have the sitter keep a head tilt, but it adds casualness to the drawing.
Sometimes you’ll find situations that the sitter cannot hold still. You just work as quickly as you can and get what you can out of it.
Though it may be difficult in the moment to know how the sitter pose will look because of all of the information, through the practice of doing portrait drawings you’ll learn better how to handle the poses and get the sitter to feel relaxed.