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Accessorizing an Aristocrat: Details That Bring Life to Digital Portraits
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Introduction

My name is Laura Gómez and I’m from Guadalajara, Mexico. I graduated with a Visual Arts Bachelor Degree at the University of Guadalajara where I learned traditional arts and techniques. I later switched to digital arts on my own. I have taken many online courses about it, some of them here in CGMA, which I’m very satisfied with. You can check some of my other works here in the Character Design for Animation and Creature Design for Film and Games students interviews.

As a traditional media painter, I always tried to achieve the same quality in digital media, but I was unable to reach it. My digital paintings and portraits were never as good as my traditional paintings. That’s why I decided to take this course to improve my digital painting skills and to become a better artist.

Getting Started

I always wanted to try a portrait in Rococo style and this was the perfect opportunity to do it, so my references were essentially paintings from that period. I really like the soft, pastel colors and the overall feminine feel of this style. I also got inspired by very beautiful fashion photos I found on the internet, which I decided to mix with the historical painting to get something with a more contemporary look.

My portrait was quite simple, very focused in the eyes of the character. From the beginning, I had a very clear idea of how I wanted the portrait, so it had no major changes in the composition, which is a classical three-quarter view of the character’s face. My goal was to create a really detailed portrait of a nobleman with very androgynous looks; not strongly masculine or feminine. So far I have had a lot of fun with it because some of my friends think he is a boy while others believe he is a lady. Mission accomplished.

Colors and Facial Proportions (Week 3-4)

I envisioned the picture in blues, mostly pastel blue, which was a very popular palette of the Rocco style I chose. I decided to use a complementary light yellow instead of the gray used in my reference paintings. I also planned to use a lot of gold in the details, which I used for the character’s hair. I matched the facial features of my character according to the theme of the painting. As an aristocrat, I gave him very pale, fair skin, with light blue eyes that matched the general color scheme. I focused a lot on the eyes, and the lips, which was the most difficult part for me to resolve.

After Melanie’s feedback, I adjusted the light and added a secondary light for extra contrast and more volume to the portrait. I also made some changes and adjusted the size of the ears, lips, and the shape of the eyes.

Silhouette and Hairstyle

Hair was one of the biggest changes in my portrait. The first shape of the hair was just fine, but later I realized that I wanted something more glamorous for him, so I added more curls and loose hairs, which in my opinion added a lot of personality to the character. They make him look vainer and in some way, carefree. Changing the shape of the hair was one of the important points to really achieve the image that I had envisioned for my portrait.

Storytelling

The costume and jewelry were some of my favourite parts to work on. I added a lot of small, frivolous details in the costume: gold embroidery, laces, and pearls. I wanted to give him an elaborate costume which was typical of the wealthy and aristocrats of the time, but in order to keep it elegant, I tried to not overdo the ornaments. It took me a long time to finish all these details, but it was a process that I really enjoyed.

For the costume, I used some photos from the clothing of the 17th century as reference for the embroidery and the rest of the details. For the earrings and chains I mixed my fashion reference pictures with historical jewels, and I chose pearls for the earrings because apparently, they were very popular at that time. Before painting the embroideries I did some tests before choosing the final design.

Dramatic Light and Detailing Everything

Hair was one of the biggest changes in my portrait. The first shape of the hair was just fine, but later I realized that I wanted something more glamorous for him, so I added more curls and loose hairs, which in my opinion added a lot of personality to the character. They make him look vainer and in some way, carefree. Changing the shape of the hair was one of the important points to really achieve the image that I had envisioned for my portrait.

Final Thoughts

My previous experience as a traditional painting helped me the most in this course. I don’t mind spending a long time working on a single painting, but this process helped me to realize that it’s perfectly valid to do the same in a digital canvas, where I tend to rush the entire process. This course helped me to find the right way to work without the feeling that I have to finish as quickly as possible.

The color picking method that Melanie showed to us, the importance of dramatic lighting, and learning the correct way to paint skin and make it look alive, was, in my opinion, the most important improvements for my digital art. After this course, I can see a huge difference in the quality of my pieces, and I’m really, really happy with the results.

Melanie´s feedback was always on point and very clear, I applied all the suggestions that she made to my portrait and it turned out great. In my opinion, this has been one of the best courses I have taken here at CMGA and I encourage everyone to not hesitate to enroll in it!

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