Painting a Prince

This week I worked on a digital portrait.  To test my portrait skills, I wanted to try to paint someone who is very well known and has an older, idiosyncratic face.   I really love working with people who look a bit “lived in”.  I know it’s not the standard definition of beauty, but it’s what interests me.  I looked through photos of a number of famous people and, in the end, surprised myself by choosing Prince Charles.  He’s not someone I know much about except that he’s the British heir to the throne and got remarried to someone he had loved for a long time.

So my first job was to map out the very basics of my subject’s head and shoulders…

Next, rather than making a sketch, I made a map of the main edges and contours I could see.  It’s less an attempt to bring an immediate likeness and more a matter of measuring, and then drawing in boundaries for different areas of colour and different values.   It ends up looking really quite messy as I find I have to redraw a lot of the lines as I get my map closer to the reality of my subject’s face.  None of this map will be seen in the final painting.  It’s almost like trying to draw a “paint by numbers” drawing so I have a feel of where to put the main features.

Here is my map. I had to redraw this a few times as I kept feeling that the map was too wide when I based it on my measurements and then I’d narrowed it and find my measurements had been correct.  (I don’t use a ruler to measure all of this just direct proportions by eye or with my s-pen on the photo print out.)

After this I added to my map with some palette choices.  I did this very roughly – scrubbing in various bits of colour, partly to see what goes where, but also to work out if the colours can be brought together in some kind of harmonious fashion.  It took me a while to decide what colour his clothes would be to give the feeling I want for my picture.  The idea is, that if you squint at the picture roughed out like this, you’ll get an impression of the overall colour balance.  This stage took quite a while, playing around with the colour until it made some sense to me.

Once I was happy with my plan I got on and blocked in all of the colours I’d made very roughly.  I also drew in some very basic eyes and features in the right places.  Getting the eyes in exactly the right place is really important to the likeness of a subject, so I didn’t want to loose these carefully measured placements when I added all my basic colour.  (Thinking back on this, since I was working digitally I didn’t have to worry about this issue since I was painting on a different layer to my map.  I just got caught working how I normally would in traditional media.)

During the next few stages it was really just a process of gradually refining each part of the face and adding detail.  In this next screenshot you can see that I gave some structure to the Prince’s hair, but I also refined bits of his face as I worked.

I kept making small changes like this right through to the end of the painting…

My last actual painting job was to tidy up my rendering of his shirt and tie…

At this stage the painting work was done.  My next task was to bring this into photoshop and finetune my levels, crop the portrait properly and add a border.  Here is my finished picture…

I do hope you can recognise Prince Charles from my attempt at digital portraiture.  It was an odd feeling to paint a Prince.  I have never met anyone from the Royal Family.  I’m just an ordinary person.  It was slightly unsettling then to paint someone like this, since painting a face has an intimacy to it which can’t be avoided.  Still, Prince Charles does have a very interesting face, so I quite enjoyed it!

16 thoughts on “Painting a Prince

  1. Obviously, I love your artwork and the way you write. But one of the things I really enjoy about your posts is what I learn about from reading them. I’m doodle – but I can’t “really” draw or paint or anything like that. So to read this, to not just see your process but to learn something like “painting a face has an intimacy to it which can’t be avoided” is so fascinating to me! I’d never really thought about it like that but it makes so much sense. And I’ll think of it the next time I look at a painting or drawing of someone’s face.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I knew right away who this was, and I’m not even a Brit! Excellent rendering, it makes him look quite welcoming and approachable–which I suspect he may not be in real life. Anyhow, I identified with your measurement techniques, especially with deciding something you had measured was out of proportion, “fixing” it, then discovering the measurement had been right in the first place. That happens to me consistently when drawing from photographs!

    Liked by 1 person

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