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28 Days of Art: Portrait Week (Week 1)

I find it nutty to think back on how different my life is from this past February, when I undertook a challenge to produce 28 days of art, to now. Heck, I started this post... in March. I last updated it in early May. And as I write this, we're just settling into June.

Since then, I haven't been as diligent about creating visual art, but I've been diligently working as a UX Designer for my day job, squeaking out bits of posts here-and-there to craft the stories around the food I'm cooking on the weekends. I've challenged myself not only in the kitchen (resulting in healthy dietary changes like eating bagged salad kits instead of cooking for every meal) but photographing my process in the kitchen.

In my current season of life, I'm learning that process matters. It isn't exclusively about the end result. Stories are made in the middle, not in the end. Who cares about a princess just resting peacefully without knowing she had to overcome several antagonistic obstacles to get to that resting spot? When you get to enjoy that first-picked tomato of the season, the quality of the cheese doesn't matter, but you think back to buying the seeds or plants and tending to it, raising it up in a trellis, watering it, and protecting it from pests. We care about the in-between. It's why parents take photos of growing baby bumps, of moments aside from birthdays, why we celebrate bachelorettes and bridal showers and give ourselves "Fall Breaks" in the middle of course-laden semesters.

Anyways, sentimental moment over... for now. Portrait week was a weird time. I had begun to post these daily and did that before mentally planning or committing. I had a lot of questions and produced my 4-week plan off-cuff in various DMs before I had spoken about a whole plan I'd yet to sit down and actually plan. This was the first challenge for me: letting go of controlling everything, even when it was something I totally could control. It wasn't a spiritual issue with the Lord the plan for what I would paint. This was just a challenge for me, and even though it would've been totally in my purview to plan like a maniac, I didn't do that. I just let it happen.

Here's a recap of each of the portrait week photos, and some thoughts:

Day 1: A study in blue and red, and layers upon layers of layers. I really wish I could do the mosaic tile thing I was hoping to achieve on the right better, but I think I captured a liveliness in her skin tone which I struggled to recreate later.

Day 2: A rarity in which my only success was found in the nose. Layering was not as successful or developed as on Day 1, but that's okay. The hairline is harsh and solid, and the lips are frighteningly plastic-looking. She looks incredibly fair-skinned, and possibly even a little beady-eyed for how small and light I made her eyes, but you can see the patches of yellow versus pink under tones.

Day 3: colorizing my favorite man, my original muse. My layering was again a challenge, but looking at the stone subject, I think I nailed the composition and the hair here. Also, I was able to get smoother layers where I did get them in on his face. Being able to control the volume of pigment in that fleshy cheek zone was something I feared throughout this process. I think I got closer to real-life coloring as well, if not making him too yellow. But again! I got the nose done fairly well, and I'm proud of it. I used to have such a strong niche in eyes, but now I really love noses the most I think.

Days 4 and 5: getting better at layering, evidently noticing that my lips have become hard, sharp little things. That said, the coloring on skin tones is looking better and flowing more naturally. I think my shading also improved (not that I got the shading in the lips on Day 5 right, but hey, the rest of the shading on the cheeks and eyes right!).

Day 7: The layering resulted in a skin tone and bone structure that has some depth! The nose is great! The freckles are BEAUTIFUL! I love freckles. I think I'm going to paint them on all of the portraits I whip up in the future. I just love this one the most, and I don't think I could have done it at the start of the week.

All in all, I learned a lot about skin coloring, that while I've gotten noses to a great spot, I need to work on mouths and lips, and that I've missed some contours in how I remember the facial planes working out. Additionally, my eye-painting ability is easily not as good as my charcoal or pencil skills, but hey, I know it now! Maybe I'll do an eye study in the coming weeks (let's be honest, maybe months...).


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