Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Portrait Process: Leonard Cohen

I was running errands Sunday when I got a song stuck in my head.  Actually- just one line in particular from Leonard Cohen's "Anthem."
"There is a crack in everything-
That's how the light gets in"

This is one of my favorite songs from the author and musician next to Hallelujah and Everybody Knows.   I hadn't considered drawing a portrait of Cohen in the past but when the lyrics got stuck in my head, the gears turned just right to give me the perfect image of him in profile with a beam of light radiating out a crack in the darkness.  I couldn't get the image out of my head so I started working on him Sunday night...


I began sketching Cohen's profile from a picture off the net.  If I'm doing a larger piece with multiple reference photos, I'll usually print them but tonight was just a small 5 x 7 portrait.  I start out loose, just trying to get the general layout and spacial settings, them start hashing out the details..


After the sketch is done, I throw down my outlines in ink and call it a night after I get a scan (I had already been working on a much larger piece all day for an upcoming group exhibit.)


This morning I got back to the portrait as I erased away the sketch and got a clean outline for coloring.  This is the process I go through on each and every illustration.  When you erase the lead however, it dulls the outlines, so I go back over them when I'm done coloring.  So essentially all my drawings get an initial sketch and the outline done twice, the second outline usually adding much more detail. Now to get to coloring...


In many mediums, you go dark to light.  With markers, I've found it depends on the situation and I often go back and forth.  Most of the time I'll get my background done and then start adding my highlights to see where my light source will be.  You can't really add a light area over top of a dark one with my medium.  I lay some grays down first to get some depth on the "crack" and let the light in with three different hues of yellow.


 Next, I begin work on the clothes and skin-tones.  I generally use anywhere from 2-5 colors for a skin tone.  The hat and suit took four different blues and then a few grays to shade...


I work the drop shadow from the hat and then darken the background with another wash of black before adding some stars to match the suit (with a blue metallic pen.)  Last, I add some more depth to the shadow from the hat...


I went back over my outline to get things a big crisper (as I mentioned above.) Now I get my final scan...


3 comments:

  1. those are two of my favourite lines by Mr. Cohen too!
    i love the strong lines in this portrait and the colours in the palette. the 'light' has a beneficent warmth and the 'crack' is perfect.
    the only part that i don't quite get s the absence of any iris in the eye- that or maybe a hint of curve at a corner of his mouth might have been a chance to suggest the peace that might be found on the other side of the profound insight in those two lines...

    great work anyway, and i'm glad to see such a brilliant artist so finely celebrated.
    for what it's worth,
    d

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