Friday, December 10, 2010

Self Portrait Step by Step

Recently, I created a self-portrait for promotional purposes. I've had a few people ask me how this piece was executed, so here is a step-by-step guide.
Step 1. Sketch Phase. As with every piece of art I create, I always start off in my sketch book, regardless if it is a piece that will be finished digitally or traditionally. For this phase in the process I was not too concerned with the typography in my beard or the way I was going to handle my hair. I was more concerned with getting my likeness down as well as things like proportions.

Step 2. Typography Sketching. After I finished the initial sketches I worked on ideas for the typography. The initial concept was to have my full name juxtaposed into my hair, but I thought the way "Jack" and "Gregory" were drawn lacked a cohesive look. As a result, I dropped the text in my hair and just stuck with the text in my beard.

Step 3. Final Rough Sketch. This is the final rough sketch. It gives me a loose idea of where everything is going to go, which leads to....
Step 4. Final Drawing. Now the drawing and the composition for the most part are finalized. At this point I feel fairly comfortable with the placement of everything and feel confident enough to get to the actual painting process.
Step 5. Preparing the Surface. For this painting, I used 2-ply cold press illustration board. The first step in my painting process is sealing the board with an even wash of light gray acrylic paint. Once the paint is dry, I go on to the next step.Step 6. Transferring the drawing onto the board. The title of this step pretty much says it all. I apply the final drawing onto the surface of the board and then spray fix it lightly with Workable Fixatif.
Step 7. Acrylic value study. After the drawing has been transferred and spray fixed, I use washes of black acrylic paint to create a loose value study. I'm not going for detail at this point. Just trying to get a sense of how the lighting and things like that will be handled. After the acrylic value study is finished, I lightly spray fix the surface again.Step 8. Oil Wash. For this step, I mixed Crimson and Navy Blue oil paints with GAMSOL mineral spirits to get a nice purple tone. I then applied the oil wash evenly over my painted surface. This part is pretty tricky. You want to use just the right amount of mineral spirits in the hopes that the oil paint surface dries into the board pretty quickly. If you use too much or too little mineral spirits, you may get results you're not looking for. The quicker the oil wash surface dries, the easier the next step will be.Step 9. Erasing. To the surprise of many, you can erase away oil paints with a kneaded eraser, which is how this step is done. Basically, I erase away paint from the areas that I want highlighted. This is why the cold press illustration board is so important. You get a texture left behind that you wouldn't get if you used hot press illustration board. Also, this is why the initial acrylic wash value study is important. It can be used as a guide to help during this phase of creating your values. I actually have video here of me working on this phase of the painting:

Step 10. Final details. After the oil wash /erase step, I lightly spray fix the board and add the final details. For this step I use black and white Prismacolor colored pencils along with white acrylic and gouache paint. I usually start off first with the colored pencils. There is a great texture that comes about as a result of using the colored pencils on the cold press illustration board. For extra highlights, I will go back over some of the areas with white acrylic paint washes and for areas that I really want to pop, I use the white gouache paint. I also liked using the gouache paint for the highlights in the hair and beard. When all the whites were applied, I used the black colored pencil for little details, like some of the stray hairs on my head, or the hair in my eyebrows or eyelashes. I also darkened the area between my lips with a black colored pencil.

So that, in a sense, is how it's all done.


  1. I really like the way you handled the hair. It reminds me of some of Sterling Hundley's work. Great piece.

  2. Beautyness- Thanks for showing us the process!