The Trouble with Hats and Beards

Here’s Nick, who posed for open studio at SAS. A great subject to paint, I especially like the strong black and white contrasts. So what makes this challenging?

Hats. The trouble with hats is;

* We have a preconceived idea that a hat sits “on top” of a head, but it really sits over the head, with the head sinking into it. It’s important to remember that there’s a head inside that hat.

* We think of a hat as being secondary to the face, but in most cases it takes up a lot of space and may be equal to or larger than the face.

* Here, I’m looking up at the head which causes the hat to receive in space. The angle is unexpected, my mind tells me no, but my eye says yes, (listen to your eye).

Beards. The trouble with breads is;

* They don’t have a solid structure, kind of like a cloud, they are puffy and soft.

* It can be challenging to give them dimension, but they do have a light side and shadow side. Look at the light falling on the face for clues as to how the light is hitting the beard.

I use standard proportion when first mapping out a face. Like the center of the eye socket is usually the half way point between the top of the head and the chin.

This subject has both the top of the head and the chin obscured, so the logical thing to do is use what I can see. The height of the hat compared with the face, compared with the beard.

It turns out that the hat and beard take up about the same space vertically while the face takes up about 3/4 of this measure. This gives me a great place to start.

I never rush my base drawing. Taking my time on this step pays off big in the painting phase. I like to use vine charcoal which is easily erased and won’t leave the trace lines that pencil will.

Here I’ve blocked in the darkest darks first. The next most important area is the background, many times I see a student paint the background last, the is the opposite of what I do. The background will influence everything else. An extreme example of this is someone in a white shirt next to an orange wall. The color in the orange wall will bounce all over the white shirt. A subtle background like this one will also infuse into the subject.

I’m working from dark to light, from easy colors to judge to hard ones. You’ll notice I’m leaving the flesh tone until last. Flesh is such a muted tone which can change with each person and even situation, saving it for last will make it easier.

The final pass is adding texture to the hair, beard and face.