Mother and Daughter

Photoshop (2017)

At some point after college I went through a period where I poured hours into sketches for strangers I’d never met on Reddit. While I never set out with any particular goal in mind, somewhere along the way I began to catch glimpses of the proverbial thousand hour mark. This piece was the culmination of those efforts and is one of the few that consistently reassures me of my own abilities.

Mother and Daughter was commissioned over Reddit by someone I never met. I received a set of low resolution photos to work from and put far too many hours into recreating one in particular. For the palette, I chose a set of colors ranging from a light pink through a rich maroon with a hint of white accenting the highlights.

My sketching style at the time began with what I called the “smear” layer, in which I used a big, light colored brush to messily block in the composition. This technique allowed me to make as many mistakes as I wanted, knowing it would be covered by later passes. I needed only to focus on whether my own eyes could see the proportions and lines, not whether I’d actually put them down. Given a line an inch thick, our eyes will still imagine the thin line that runs down its center.

After positioning the elements correctly and capturing the gestures of their outlines, I started in with a slightly darker brush of a more normal width. These more recognizable lines provided confirmation of the underlying impressions without refining them overmuch. The texture of surfaces emerges during this stage, with rougher hatching forming the soft backdrop to the eventual piece.

The third and final pass uses a very fine line with a dark line that reads clearly over all other layers. The smear layer is hidden and, when before finalizing the piece, parts of the second pass are also masked to avoid conflicting strokes. This last pass features the most detailed hatching, and harshest outlines, both carefully balanced between capturing form, base color, shading, and outline. On the shirt I’ve used outlines to indicate wrinkles while elsewhere on the shirt similar lines mark the falloff of cast shadows. Notice the subtle textured circles on the couch and the faint highlight along its top ridge. A great example of directional strokes is seen in the reflection on the far right side of the fish tank which both mimic the backdrop’s lines and reveal it’s lack of depth (the back of the tank is a flat image).

My sketching hasn’t fully captured any one quality in this image but is instead a blend designed to present as much information to a viewer as possible as smoothly as possible.