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Character portrayal

By Charlie Bowater
Web: Open Site
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Date Added: 30th March 2015
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The Face

The section that I will always work on first, however, is the face. This is the point when I need to think about my buzz word; "gaunt”. This is a chance to bring out her features, giving her a gaunt appearance. Normally, if I was painting a young lady I'd give her a relatively smooth face; this character, on the other hand, obviously needs to look gaunt. To do this, I'm giving her some pretty harsh shadows as part of her facial structure, especially around her cheekbones. I'm also adding in highlights along the top of her cheek and giving her fairly dark eyes and shadows underneath too, to emphasize her eye sockets (Fig.04).


As I refine the details of the painting you'll notice subtle changes to her face (Fig.05). Throughout this process I'm adding more highlights and shadows, adding to her gaunt appearance. I also add in some pinkish tones on her lips and a little on her cheeks. This adds a bit of warmth to her face. Although I want her to look gaunt, I don't want her to look like a total corpse! So I'm warming up the tones just a touch.



Don't forget to flip your image! Flipping is a great way to gain a new perspective on a painting (Fig.06). It really helps you notice mistakes. They usually stick out like a sore thumb once flipped! Try and do this every hour or so; that way you won't reach the end of a painting and realize it looks terrible flipped the other way (Image > Image Rotation > Flip Canvas Horizontal).



I said earlier that I don't think you need to give a character a large number of accessories to give them an identity. That isn't to say that I don't think they should have any. It can be a great way of adding interest, like a little spark to grab your attention (Fig.07).


You can see I've added in a pin to her cape. These elements can be read into differently by different individuals, which is good because I like people to be able to make their own judgments about things (Fig.08).


It could be a family crest on her pin, a symbol of a society or something else. Whatever you want it to be! I add in a little red ribbon/sash too; it adds in a little splash of color (Fig.09).



Hands can be the bane of an artist's existence, especially when learning. I know I struggled with them quite a lot. Naturally, practice helps. So don't cover them up or hide them away, paint them! When I first sketched out the rough idea, one hand was holding up a section of the dress and the other was holding some sort of staff (although it didn't take me too long to change my mind about that) (Fig.10 – 12).




It felt a bit cheesy, so I'm opting for no staff at all, and a fairly relaxed gesture for both hands. For each hand I start with a very rough dabbing of paint, just to try and pin down the pose of the hand. Then I gradually build up the structure of the hand and add in some highlights around the knuckles and thumb, and also some pinkish tones on the tips of her fingers. I'm also keeping in mind my buzz word, "gaunt”, giving her fairly boney fingers (Fig.13 – 16).





Try and think about the structure of the bones when painting, I personally find that it helps. Look at your own hands and if you're struggling there are plenty of references available.

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