"The Artist's Guide to the Anatomy of the Human Head" artist Sylwia Bomba demonstrates how to bring a character's emotions to life with small details...
In this short tutorial I will show you few steps of my personal painting process. I want to share my workflow with you and explain how I make some of my decisions when I paint. Painting portraits is easy when we know what atmosphere we want to show and we clearly understand our inner emotions. Remember to always take as much from all tutorials as you take from your inner world and emotions.
Step 1: Main shapes
At the beginning we need to understand what we want to communicate and then analyze how we're going to do it. First of all, I sketch the main shapes with subtle brushes. I want to focus on her expression, so this is the first thing I draw after the main shapes. Through the implied lines of her cloak I want to draw the viewer's eye toward to the little dragonfly. Then, I make a clean up of my brush strokes.
Step 2: Basic colors
Now, after the clean up I am ready to paint first basic colors. I use dark tones for the background to emphasize the drama of the scene. As you can see, I've used just three similar, warm skin tones. Her face is illuminated with colder light to create some contrast and draw the viewer's attention. Her left hand is a bit bigger on purpose; due to the perspective it's closer to the viewer.
Step 3: More details
I start to add more details on her face and define better the dragonfly. My main purpose is to show her soul through her expression, so I add a bit of light on her eyes to suggest tears. The redness around her eyes suggests she might have been crying a short while before. Sometimes small differences and blemishes can be appealing - so I add a little gap in her teeth.
Step 4: Defining
I continue defining the details on her face and her hair. I sketch in her cloak again and try to understand the best way to represent her innocent image. A small, almost invisible tear on her little chin will help to emphasize her emotions. A few dark tones around her eyes will make her look a bit tired and maybe unwashed. Since kids don't have many wrinkles, I tried to make her forehead muscle tenser than would be in reality.
Step 5: Final Touches
All the steps are about finding a harmony between adding and removing details. I always try to apply the method of "less means more." I blurred her left hand in shadow to give an impression of depth and added more contrast and light on her face. The shadow on her forehead creates some mystery and also implies a greater environment. I didn't want to show everything but just make small suggestions. Her face has more details and brush strokes just because it should be a focal point of our portrait.
See more of Sylwia's amazing paintings at her website
Read Sylwia's advice on stylization in The Artist's Guide to the Anatomy of the Human Head
Sylwia also has some great advice on sketching in Beginner's Guide to Sketching