Posted in Personal, Tips and Tricks

Anthony Rizzo Portrait: Day 1

Anthony Rizzo: A Portrait from Start to Finish

So, let’s talk Anthony Rizzo.  Today I want to start something new.  I want to give you a full, step-by-step look at everything it takes for me to go from a blank sheet of paper to a full color portrait.  In a few blog entries – not sure exactly how many, since I don’t know how long this will take – I’ll be documenting my progress on my newest full-color portrait.  It’s my first time doing something like this, so please, I invite your feedback!  I would love to hear what you think and if there’s anything you felt was missing.

For my first “how to” experiment, I’m going to be working with this photo of the Chicago Cubs first baseman, Anthony Rizzo.

Anthony Rizzo
May 31, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) hits a 2-run homer in the fourth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. The Cubs won 8-0. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

I chose this photo in particular because not only am I a huge Cubs fan (no surprise here, right?), but Rizzo has been requested quite a few times – and this picture was my favorite.  Not only can you see his face, but the contrast is ideal for me, and you can read the name on the back of his jersey.  At the rate the Cubs are going this year, this will be the first of quite a few Anthony Rizzo pieces, I’m sure.  So today, I’d love to show you last night’s accomplishments and explain my process.

Anthony Rizzo: Full Color Portrait –

Supplies Used:

Step 1 – the outline:

All of my art pieces start with the outline.  Depending on the time of day, size of the piece and the weather, I do my outlines in one of two ways:  either I retreat into my dark bathroom and use my projector, or I will tilt my glass-top desk to get the sunlight to shine through. For this piece, because the sun had gone down, I used my projector.  For my outlines, I tape my piece of paper to my wall, project the image onto the paper, and I will make markings – not full blown tracing lines, but specific markings.  These are important for me when making a portrait, because I want to NAIL IT.  So I’ll mark off where the eyes go, how wide they should be, the space between them, and make general markings for where other things are in relation to that.  By the end, the paper looks like a giant game of “connect the dots.” From this point, the next thing I do is take a pencil and very lightly connect the dots to make a full outline.  In most cases, I will use a graphite pencil, but for this piece, since I don’t want the gray to show through the skin tones, I will use a very light brown color.  Making sure not to press too hard, I’ll lightly create my guidelines.  It ends up looking like this.  (Note: I’ve enhanced the contrast a little bit so you can SEE the lines – but in reality, they were a light brown):


Step 2 – Start with the Eyes:

Once the outline is completed and I’m ready to start doing real WORK, I almost always begin with the face.  Specifically, I start with the eyes.  I start with the face & eyes because that’s the most important part to a portrait.  I can screw up a few wrinkles in a shirt or the length of the bat, and things will still look fine.  But if I screw up the face – well then it’s not a portrait anymore.  So I like to do the face first because it’s important – if I screw up here, I haven’t wasted too much time and effort and I can scrap it and start over.  The actual face in this piece is quite small.  And while that may seem like it will make it easier, it actually presents more of a challenge.  There is WAY less room for error, so I have to really NAIL it. If the edge of the nose bridge is even 1 millimeter off, it can totally ruin the whole thing!

I started with the eyes of this piece, which thankfully, were really simple.  There was only one of them, and there was almost no detail.  So from there, I worked my way outward – eyes, then the black out on the cheek, then the shading of the nose, the detail of the ear, the hairline, and finally moving on to the mouth and the skin.  Layer by layer, I build up the color until I get the tones I’m looking for.  Right now, it may look a little bit “muddy” and the shades look very segmented, but this is before I blend.  Once the blending happens (later on down the road) you’ll see a much smoother, polished flow of color.


Step 3 – The Surrounding Colors:

When I have a larger face to work on, usually this step will wait until the next day.  But since I had the time, and the face in this piece was so small, I decided to do this step when I did the face.  To make sure I have the tones in the face chosen properly, I will add the colors that surround the skin.  The blue of his sleeves and the helmet, most importantly – but also some of the gray tones in the jersey.  In this case, the gray seems to have a little bit of a blue undertone, so I surround the facial colors with the proper coloring of the jersey and sleeves.  If the face seems too yellow, too pink, or just…off, this is usually where I will do my adjusting.  So far, it seems pretty accurate.  Adding the blue didn’t suddenly make him look sickly, so we’re on a roll.  I added some moderate detail to the sleeve – the wrinkles and a little bit of shading – and I added a little bit of extra shading on the neck area, but the bulk of the real detail work will come later on.

By this time, it got to be about 10 PM, and it was time for me to wrap it up for the night.  Otherwise I’d end up working until 4am, and that’s dangerous stuff! 😉 So as of right now, here is where we stand with the portrait:



Come back tomorrow (or Sunday, not sure which one yet) for my second “phase” of the sketch.  Let me know what you think so far!  Is there anything you’d like to know that I didn’t cover?


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