Gurney Journey | category: Portraits | (page 5 of 34)


Gurney Journey

This daily weblog by Dinotopia creator James Gurney is for illustrators, plein-air painters, sketchers, comic artists, animators, art students, and writers. You'll find practical studio tips, insights into the making of the Dinotopia books, and first-hand reports from art schools and museums.

Morphing Celebrities

In this video, a computer invents faces that look like celebrities. They're 100% artificial, created by extracting information from a huge database of real celebrity images. (Link to video)

The faces slowly morph from one individual to another, shifting from male to female, melting gradually from one ethnicity to another. The only thing that stays constant is the position of the eyes.

I get the feeling that I'm in the presence of an alien artistic mind with a bizarre liquid creativity. This non-human mind doesn't observe the boundaries between groups of people and sees every face as part of a shifting continuum.

Some faces almost look plausible, even though they're synthetic.

But there are in-between stages that look monstrous, bizarre, and sometimes beautiful. Textures become liquid or crusty like lava. The transitional images appear to be creative interpolations, rather than linear in-betweens.

The images are produced by an artificial-intelligence algorithm called a generative adversarial network (GAN).

One algorithm is optimized to generate images while another is fine-tuned to distinguish a plausibly real face from a fake one. The computer is trained using this "creator vs. critic" dynamic, starting with low resolution images, and adding detail and resolution in stages.

This kind of algorithm can also be applied to objects. If you start this video at 4:00, it shows computer-invented forms that morph into each other, but still stay within certain categories.  (YouTube)

For example, the synthetic images above are generated within the categories of horse, sofa, bus, church/outdoor, and bicycle.
Read the scientific paper
Publication: Progressive Growing of GANs for Improved Quality, Stability, and Variation 
Authors: Tero KarrasTimo AilaSamuli Laine, Jaakko Lehtinen (NVIDIA and Aalto University)
Previously on GJ
Text-to-image synthesis

Reconstructing a Face from a Single Image

A free online tool lets you create a 3D reconstruction of a face from a single image.

Reconstructing a Face from a Single Image
Van Dyck's Portrait of Cornelis Van Der Geest in 3D
You can input a single photo or a painting. After it processes and outputs, you can drag the 3D model around with your mouse and see it in a variety of angles.

Reconstructing a Face from a Single Image
3D Alfred E. Neuman, thanks MAD Magazine
It's fun to try it out on a familiar face that's usually seen only from one angle, like Mad Magazine's Alfred E. Neuman.

The tool was created by computer vision scientists at the University of Nottingham using machine-learning software called a Convolutional Neural Network (CNN). 
"Our CNN works with just a single 2D facial image, does not require accurate alignment nor establishes dense correspondence between images, works for arbitrary facial poses and expressions, and can be used to reconstruct the whole 3D facial geometry (including the non-visible parts of the face) bypassing the construction (during training) and fitting (during testing) of a 3D Morphable Model."
(Scientific paper) Large Pose 3D Face Reconstruction from a Single Image via Direct Volumetric CNN Regression

Thanks, Geoff Charlewood

Fantin-Latour's Charcoal Self Portraits

Fantin-Latour's Charcoal Self Portraits

The young Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) experimented with charcoal in a series of painterly and atmospheric self portraits.

Fantin-Latour's Charcoal Self Portraits

He applied directional hatching of short, parallel strokes on top of broadly applied tones to convey a painterly impression of light.

Some of his drawings also combine pencil, chalk, and whitening to the charcoal.

Fantin-Latour's Charcoal Self Portraits

He was one of the fusainistes (charcoal draftsmen), who, in addition to using oil, explored the possibilities of charcoal.

Fantin-Latour's Charcoal Self Portraits

Charcoal was central to the practice of all the artists in the École des Beaux-Arts, but it became especially popular after the development of an improved fixative.
Read more about fusainistes in Noir: The Romance of Black in 19th-Century French Drawings and Prints
Visit my Pinterest page

Relative color temperature on skin tones

Mathieu asks:
I have been struggling over the last months trying to understand how to handle the green parts (cool notes) of the flesh in a portrait.

In the Fundamentals of Painting by Mogilevtsev I could not understand the following text: "The light consists of three parts: the highlight and halftone are cold, and the light space between them is warm." I thought only the shadows are warm and all the parts of the light will always be cold. So what does he calls "the light space" between them? 

Relative color temperature on skin tones
Gurney—On page 22, Mr. Mogilevtsev implies that the "light space" is the area between the highlight and the halftone (the halftone is the area just before the light side turns to shadow). What he calls the "light space" might also be called the "lights" or just "the light side." 

Within that light side there can be subtle variations in color temperature. 

He is indeed painting the halftones cool, specifically greenish. The halftones are an important area to observe closely for their value, for the abruptness or softness of the edge as it turns to shadow, and for their relative color temperature. 

He makes the point that relative warm and cool tones can give life to a portrait and I would agree with that. His states that the rules he's talking about refer to painting a portrait indoors. Traditionally an indoor portrait would be lit by a relatively cool north-facing skylight. In that case, the lights are generally cool compared to the shadow, because of the coolness of that blue skylight relative to the bounced light of a wood floor or warm-colored rugs, etc.

Relative color temperature on skin tones
Charles Hawthorne
However, I would be skeptical of any fixed rules about cool/warm relationships, such as saying "outdoors in sunlight the light is always warm and the shadows are always cool." If there is very warm light reflected back into the shadows, or a secondary light that is very warm, the shadows can be warmer than the light side. 

Or the color of light in the shadow can vary according to the direction the planes are facing, such as a person standing at the beach, with blue sky above, warm sand below to one side, and blue water below in another direction. It all depends.

On the portrait of the woman, I don't understand the logic behind the green parts of the flesh colors. Where to put those greens? Are they at the edges of the planes right before they turn? 

Gurney—Yes, he seems to be placing the greens at the turning of the form. This is something that old masters often did. It may or may not look convincing, depending on how it is handled. Sometimes this cool effect in halftones is the result of the way you glaze color over a grisaille or "dead color" underpainting.

Let's step back for a minute to remember that the appearance of any flesh tone color, whether in light or shadow, is a combination of: 
1) the color of the surface (local color)
2) the color of the light 
3) plus additional factors as subsurface scattering. 

So, warm local color plus warm light equals a very warm color note. 

I try to consider first the local color as it varies across the form. The color across the mask of the face can vary a lot, as any makeup or prosthetic specialist will attest. It's often redder in the cheeks and nose, darker around the eyes, lighter and yellower on the forehead, and bluer or greener in the neck or chin, plus there are effects caused by makeup and sunburn. 

The reflectivity of the skin varies too, and that factor can influence your color and value choices.

Then I consider the sum total of the colors of light shining on each plane. It might help to place a white plaster head near the model in the same light in order to study those influences.

The color you mix for any given plane will be a combination of all those factors. 

Relative color temperature on skin tones

Mathieu continues: When speaking about "cool" or "cold" colors in the light areas why do I always feel that the yellowish and reddish color of these parts is warm? On the above portrait by Rubens the light areas doesn't seem "cold" to me.

Gurney—You're right that most skin tones are on the "warm" or orange side of the spectrum, but we're speaking of a relative thing here.

Sometimes it can be hard to judge relative light color when looking at a living model. That's why painting from a white plaster cast can be helpful for understanding both form and light. By removing the effect of local color, you can see what's going on with the relative temperature of the light.

Bottom line: be skeptical of fixed rules, be guided by your observation, and always compare, compare.
Previous Post: Color Zones of the Face

Book Review: Portrait Drawing by Mau-Kun Yim

I recently had a chance to read a copy of Lessons in Masterful Portrait Drawing: A Classical Approach to Drawing the Head by Chinese-born artist Mau-Kun Yim.

The book consists mainly of Mr. Yim's charcoal portrait drawings from life.  

The book includes many step-by-step sequences that show his process. He starts with a foundation of straight lines to establish the structure of the head and the placement of the features.

Then he adds masses of tone in a sculptural but painterly way. He describes drawing as "painting without color," and he compares making a drawing to building a house. Edges and highlights are reserved for last.

The title of the book, "Lessons in Masterful Portrait Drawing: A Classical Approach to Drawing the Head" is a bit of a misnomer, because it's not really presented as specific lessons to follow so much as ideas and drawings to be inspired by. 

The book is helpful for the drawings themselves, which are well reproduced. A gallery section of full-page examples takes up the last 50 pages of the 144 page hardcover book. I found the book is also helpful for understanding his philosophy, which he has developed through his study of many traditions of drawing: not only Chinese, but also European, American, and Soviet. 

He quotes the teaching of Soviet master Konstantin Maksimov on the principle of wholeness: "Start with large blocks, straight lines, and masses of light and shadow, before gradually moving on to the features, details, and expression in a drawing. If you can get the relationship between the building blocks right, then a harmonious whole will emerge."

He is a believer in keeping a sketchbook. "Sketch often and sketch slowly," he recommends. "Is faster better in sketching?" he asks. "Not always! I've seen many private studios in the West, Hong Kong and Taiwan where the time allowed for nude sketches is so short that the paintings come out looking like wild scrawls."

There are several videos showing his method on YouTube, such as this one, sponsored by Nitram Charcoal. There are other videos on his own YouTube channel, where he also shares his masterful oil portraits. (Link to YouTube)

His website is Mau-Kun Yim

I made a friend in Bryant Park

I painted this guy in New York City on Saturday evening. He was talking into his earbud mic for a long time, holding pretty still. He didn't notice me sketching him.

Bryant Park, 4 x 4 inches, gouache
When I was done, I showed him the picture so that he could put it on his Facebook. He was a super nice guy, and was pleased to be my impromptu model. (Link to video)

Cracking the Code of Face Recognition

Cracking the Code of Face Recognition

Scientists at Caltech have come to a better understanding of how the brain recognize faces. They already knew from brain imaging studies that certain brain regions are especially active during a face recognition task.

But what those regions do and how they interact with each other has remained a mystery. One recent theory had suggested that individual cells were associated with specific faces. But that idea may not explain how the faces were coded in the first place.

The outcome of this study, which used monkeys as subjects, suggests that as few as 200 localized neural areas specialize in specific aspects or vectors of the face, such as the spacing between the eyes or the height of the forehead.

Using thousands of computer-generated faces that could be constructed from such vectors, scientists showed monkeys a set of individual human faces. Then, using solely the electrical signals transmitted from the monkeys' brains, their colleagues were able to generate a predicted face based only on that abstract information. The scientists were surprised how close the predicted face matched the actual face.

The findings still need to be replicated, but they promise to help in the development of artificial facial recognition technology. They also have relevance for portrait artists. According to the New York Times, "the brain's face cells respond to the dimensions and features of a face in an elegantly simple, though abstract, way." Perhaps that would explain why caricatures so elegantly define an individual.

New York Times
Scientific American 
Full text of scientific paper

Cesar Santos and his Sketchbook

 Cuban-American portrait painter Cesar Santos uses his sketchbooks for mixed media, including oil.

He started this portrait in pencil, sealed the surface with fixative, and then used semi-transparent layers of oil over it. 

He also makes master copies from statues in museums, changing them a bit to add natural hair and realistic eyes with irises. 

Santos introduces this sketchbook on a video sketchbook tour (Link to YouTube). 

Trained in Florence, Santos has traveled the world to "see masterpieces through the eyes of his sketchbook." On his re-energized YouTube channel, he promises future videos that take us deeper into this and other sketchbooks. 

Stewart White Demo

Stewart White did a watercolor demo yesterday at the Plein Air Painting Conference and Expo in San Diego.

Stewart White Demo

I did this live portrait as he painted. I was working in rather dim light with the book in my lap, so I used fairly dense mixtures of color and strong contrasts. 

Stewart White Demo

Stewart, who hails from Baltimore, is renowned as both an architectural illustrator and an outdoor painter.  He'll be leading a workshop to Granada, Spain this October, which promises inspiring instruction, delicious food, and unforgettable camaraderie.

Morphing Celebrities Reconstructing a Face from a Single ImageFantin-Latour's Charcoal Self PortraitsStory Time from SpaceRelative color temperature on skin tonesBook Review: Portrait Drawing by Mau-Kun YimI made a friend in Bryant ParkCracking the Code of Face RecognitionCesar Santos and his SketchbookStewart White Demo

Report "Gurney Journey"

Are you sure you want to report this post for ?