Monday, January 19, 2009

Portraits: Children

I'm branching my portrait business out into customized portraits of children. I think that adults/parents are more inclined to buy a portrait of their kids, rather than of themselves, if only to document their child as they get older.

My first portrait of a child is in progress, and it is of the son of a fellow grad student from The University of Chicago. I'm quickly realizing how different it is to draw a child's face than an adult's. For one, the pencil lines need to be soft (created using hard pencils that are of a lighter color, more gray than black), otherwise they quickly look like wrinkles, which ages a child well beyond their few years. Prior to starting this portrait, I've studied how other artists have handled this, and the unsuccessful ones tend utilize thick dark lines around the eyes and mouth. The successful ones use more shading rather than distinct lines.

The dimensions of the child's face are also drastically different. Children's faces, typically, are rounder, and the placement of the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth are also different, encouraging me to be extra careful in sketching out the entire face first before starting in on the detail. The size of a children's eyes also tend to be bigger.

Then again, children portraits are easier to do in that kid's faces tend to be more symmetrical than adult's faces, making it easier to line up where the nose falls in comparison to the eyes and the corners of the lips.

Portraits are not done all the same way. Switching from doing an adult portrait to one of a child keeps me on my toes because it encourages me to think about the way I begin and approach a new portrait.

How does this connect to writing? I don't start portraits the same way every time, and I shouldn't start stories in the same way every time either. A story can spring from an image or from a character sketch, or from a story I hear on NPR. Every time we set out on a new artistic pursuit, think about different ways of approaching your new subject. Don't rely on what you know or think you know. Experiment.

Maybe I'm stretching the connection between the beginnings of a portrait and the beginnings of a story, but I think there's something there. Let me know if you agree.

Click here to see some of my customized portraits.

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