I’ve been doing one of those hashtag challenges that do the rounds of social media, in this case #100Heads or #100HeadsChallenge, where the aim is to do 100 portraits or character heads. I guess some people do it in a hundred days, but I am setting no such goals. Instead, mine are:
1 – To teach myself how to use a graphics tablet (a cheap HUION I got off Amazon last year but only set up properly, bug-free, with Windows 10 this year) after nearly two decades of having one. Other than basic colour I’ve never learned how to paint with one, and it’s about time.
2 – To teach myself Krita, a digital paint program that is open source, has a nice brush engine, and also animation (but that will come later)
3 – To have fun. I usually let projects like this overwhelm me. The last time I attempted this graphics tablet thing on this very website I aimed a bit too high with full body drawings of existing famous characters. This time I’m drilling down with portraits, all made up on the spot with no prep, and using the “symmetry” feature of Krita to lock poses down into simpler “passport photo” style. So far it’s working.
I’m at 15/100 portraits, and already I’ve learned a lot more than I knew when I started 20 days ago. And there’s so much more to come, I’m sure. Here’s what I have so far:
This guy is my current profile picture on social media. Consider it beginner’s luck, but this turned out so much better than I thought it would. On the technical side I’m starting with a rough line drawing, adding light & shade to that in greyscale, then adding colour & texture over that in a separate layer.
I’m also trying to get over my phobia of using colour well, so these portraits are deliberately a bit psychedelic and wanton in their use of colour. If you don’t stretch your boundaries you won’t find your (current) limits.
I naturally tend towards science fiction and fantasy, so most of these have some kind of weird twist to them.
“This is Kittra Neff. Felisius IV native. Would kill you for your clothes but rather gamble you out of them, on the casino station Deep Pocket. Enjoys back rubs. Hates fish.”
At this point I started giving each character a short bio or piece of written ‘colour’ since I am, as always, trying to get back to writing (take a drink if you’ve been playing along with this game of mine for 15 years now).
“Freeleaf Chancer has heard all your human jokes. No, those aren’t horns, or antlers, or tusks. No, You can’t touch them. Yes, he knows magic: Pick a card, any card, and you’ll excrete it from your orifice of your choice, double quick.”
“Jane Frond never knew she had The Vision, until a spacefarer came by her town. Now she uses her gift to pick footrubs for the Many Footed Lesser Kantillians who frequent her spa on the station. She’s still shite at picking lottery nos.”
By this one I was tired of ‘shading inside the lines’ which was my comfort zone, so I went for a bit more of a painterly style, really pushing the contrast. It looked better in greyscale, the blending mode (Multiply) on the colour layer turned out muddy. I can back and fix all of these, which is an advantage of digital, but I’m leaving them as is so I know my progression.
“FRSC0-441 didn’t sign up for this, but here he is, permanent home to whatever meatbag with 3 billion credits they pulled that brain out of. Still, it’s not so bad; power of attorney means he can order all the plugins he wants.”
Did some digging before this one to figure out the muddy colour layer issue, and chose a different blending mode after looking up some tutorials. This colour veers too far in the other direction!
“Sarla found the headdress in the cargo bay on deck 47. The necklace was a hand-me-down. The feathers, however, were sourced from a pet bingerat whose owner didn’t tip well. Bingerat goes great with noodles, her neighbour says.”
“McHagerty hears things. Small things. Big things. Insignificant things and lucrative things, to the right party with the right payment. You got shiny? McHagerty got things you want to hear. In one ear, and out one of his five others.”
I’m using Krita’s default brushes for all of these (by version 4 they’re quite varied) so I started experimenting with more textured brushes here.
“Zudi heard the beat on a deep space level, but most didn’t know that her nervous system had been ripped & replaced with nanonetics. She was supposed to divine minerals for the Kin Trust. Now crowds come to see the divine in her dance.”
Here I worked from dark to light, making a silhouette of the figure then fleshing it out with lighter tones, thereby eschewing lines entirely.
“Ekto Harbahabujan LOVED going to Earth in the old days. Buzz a town, scare some locals, tip a cow or three. Then some nosy species goes & spoils the fun. It was the Vectorans he thinks. Those guys have no sense of humour. Or cows.”
Went back to smooth brushes to really push them and make a plastic-like texture.
“The metal itched sometimes, but Kresha of Red Hollow knew that meant that magic was nearby. Sorry, quantum anomalies, you were supposed to call it now. But who cares, when there’s reality to be manipulated, & worms to turn to apples?”
“Not so bad in the mines, Saffer says. Get your pipes sorted, your inlet and outlet — don’t mix that effluent pipe up, Saffer says. Mining explosive liquid is good with pina colada mix too, Saffer says.”
This was mostly dark to light paint, but I brought back detail in the latter stages with some fine lines.
“The Lady Penelope was a fixer upper, but it’s all good now. Good study with a view. Nice bedrooms. A ballroom. A library. A second library. Whatever a chauffeur’s salon is. Bathroom’s a bit of a downward trek every time, though.”
Broke my symmetry rule here somewhat to learn to select and modify sections of the drawing as needed.
“Gruse gets the party started. Gruse gets all the best tunes. Killer beats. GRUUUUUUSE. No other. No better. Say it now, say it often. Gruse. Tonight, legends are made. Gruse’s eyes are up here, ladybub.”
And with this guy I have started ever to lightly to tiptoe into learning how to use light and shadow a bit more.
I will keep you updated as I go, but follow me on instagram for the latest ones.