Guest Artist Ignat Ignatov

Back in February 2015, I was fortunate to be able to attend my first Portrait Workshop by acclaimed artist, Ignat Ignatov. The San Fernando Valley Arts & Cultural Center graciously hosted this wonderful event.

With the success of Pastimes for a Lifetime’s April 2016 Guest Artist program with Regina Lyubovnaya, I reached out to Ignat, asking if he would consider providing a workshop at the studio. Lucky for us, he agreed. He chose to focus his demo + workshop on portrait painting basics. He offered to bring a model, but I immediately thought of my long time art student, Abby G. She recently graduated high school and is going off to an art college. What a perfect opportunity to be our featured portrait model! Lucky for us, she agreed.

He began by sharing his thought processes. “I think of painting as sculpture, carving from big features to the small details like the eyelash.” He showed how the head can be thought of as either a box or an egg with respect to how the light source works across a portrait. This helps simplify studying a portrait before painting.

Ignat Ignatov Teaches Portrait Painting BasicsIgnat Ignatov's Box + Egg Demo

The “Staircase” explained how light creates parallel planes of tones across a portrait, like a staircase.

Ignat Ignatov explains parallel planes on a face

Types of shadows were discussed next. At the art academy Ignat had attended, students were required to render spheres and cylinders to understand basics of light source and shadow. I was relieved to have the terms clarified:
Core Shadow: where the shadow begins
Cast Shadow: where the shadow ends
Half Tone: all the tones and their transitions, found in the light portion of the subject.
Highlight: the light source as it appears on the subject.
Reflective light: the light from adjacent surfaces reflecting back on the subject.

Ignat Ignatov and Types of ShadowsIgnat Ignatov explains Types of Shadows

With his instructional posters, Ignat further explained how the types of shadows appear across the face and body and argued convincingly that tone is senior to color.

Ignat Ignatov Planes on PortraitsIgnat Ignatov Planes on PortraitsIgnat Ignatov explains Painting Blocks of ShadowsIgnat Ignatov explains Painting Blocks of ShadowsIgnat Ignatov on Tone Senior to ColorIgnat Ignatov Tone Senior to Color

We enjoyed hearing about his experience in an art class where the art instructor had the model wear a woman’s stocking over her head so students could focus on seeing blocks of tones rather than the details. He brought home the point that tones define the structure of the face by reminding us that if we see someone from a distance, we will recognize him or her not by their details, but by the structure of their face as defined by their facial tones.

With that, Ignat began the demo. He walked us through his drawing process. He first sketches a rough layout on paper. When ready, he sketches with a brush directly on the canvas. Burnt Umber was chosen today.

Ignat Ignatov's Drawing ProcessIgnat Ignatov Sketches with a Brush

Tones were blocked in and shapes corrected.

Ignat Ignatov blocks in the tones

Finally, color was layered and blended for a stunning finish.

Ignat Ignatov begins color layeringIgnat Ignatov finished the portrait

Ignat would have continued refining the details, but wanted to give guests ample time to work on their own paintings. After a short break, guests set up and perched at easels or tables and got down to business. Ignat gave everyone his personal attention and assistance. The consensus was that Ignat’s decades of experience made portrait painting look deceptively simple. We all experienced how very difficult it really is to observe and paint the tones and planes of the face. Thankfully, Ignat agreed to return for more portrait painting workshops in the near future.To learn more about Ignat Ignatov, visit his website and Facebook page.

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Were you inspired? Please share your inspiration in the comment section below. Thank you!

For more on Pastimes for a Lifetime and founder/instructor Linda Wehrli, visit the website or Facebook page.
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