Check your neck

I’m pleased with my progress this Thursday. I didn’t loose her left eye this time and her mouth seems to appropriately wrap around her jaw. (That is a strange sentence.) I failed at capturing the neck. I got lazy at that part of the sketch and lost the musculature. I cheated and covered my failure with a made-up robe.

Warm up sketch from Thursday night. Notice the wonky neck.

Warm up sketch from Thursday night. Notice the wonky neck.

The sternocleidomastoids are the muscles which run from the base of your skull, from behind your ear, down to your sternum. These muscles bulge when you twist your head hard to one side. They come down from the skull at an angle and sort of run along side the Adam’s Apple before anchoring down to your sternum and clavicle. In direct light they create interesting curves and diagonals. From the front they form a sort of arrow pointing down from the chin. They are complex and subtle. They are hard to capture. When are drawn incorrectly, the look wrong.

As a change of pace this time, after sketching, I painted in greyscale to build up light and dark value and then “glazed” with color. In ProCreate I used the “gouache” brush which lends itself to transparent color with a little texture. The best way, I’ve found, to get those strange grey colors that appear on lighter toned skin, is to let them happen naturally with transparency - pale peachy oranges on top of black and white. This was, of course, discovered 600-odd years ago by our friends in Italy. It’s still a delightful magic trick.

Now that the days are longer, the drawing session begins with lots of natural light. As the session wears on the sun sets and the natural light yields to the artificial lights in the studio. We typically have a spot light or two to get that romantic, directional, lighting and then there are these ugly yellow incandescent track lights on the ceiling. They cast warm shadows but leave skin looking weirdly orange. But, lights are expensive.

The color picker in Procreate - all the colors. Too many colors.

The color picker in Procreate - all the colors. Too many colors.

This makes it hard to capture the colors in the room; they change throughout the session. I should probably try blobbing out some color on a separate layer while I’m sketching - to try to capture the palette I like before the light changes too much. ProCreate and most digital painting tools have a “Color Picker“ which provides quick access to an overwhelming amount of color - I wonder if a better approach might be peeling out a limited palette and “mixing” colors on a layer (with transparency, blending tools, or whatever) and then extracting a color palette from those mixtures. I wonder would that fit my color sense better? Whenever I try to pluck the right color out of millions I feel like I always miss. When I work with traditional media I build color up through observation, trial, and error.

This was our third session in a row with this model. She sits stone-still which is a little uncanny. She is friendly and takes an interest in our work. Her angular features are fun to draw. I’m excited though for our next model.

Michael Barrett

Tacoma, WA 98402