How I capture the ‘spirit’ in each Portrait
My most important aim is to achieve a great likeness. The cameo has to match the portrait photo. However, I actually work on a deeper more advanced level to make a cameo that the recipient will fall in love with.
My goal is to have the mother feel the love that she has for her child when she looks at my cameo portrait. For this I need to know the personality of the subject of my cameo. I ask questions during the design interview to learn the life story and most importantly their character.
I study the portrait photos very carefully. I do like to have more than one photo as different angels and looks can help me tease out the details of the profile.
I also work with plaster models that show the structure of a head. An ‘ecorche’ helps me visualise underlying bones and muscle groups. I also have plaster faces that show age progression. A baby’s proportions are very different to an adult. I have learned how age changes the face.
There are also profound differences between male and female faces. Knowledge of anatomy is a vital part of my learning and approach to crafting an accurate portrait sculpture. I have to take the time to check details as I carve. This is where the value is in my fee.
The Portrait Photograph
Less skilled cameo artists will only work from side profile photos. The classic cameo pose. This is the easiest portrait to carve.
My goal is to have the portrait photo that best shows the spirit and character of the person. Does the photo tell a story? An example is how a photo of a father holding his child shows the love between them. Send me as many photos as you want. I can help advise on the best choice for the portrait cameo.
I can work from any portrait photograph taken from any angle as I have learned how to correct for the way that a camera alters a face.
The Camera Lies !
Working from photos can be difficult. An inexperienced artist will accept the photo as perfect and attempt to copy it exactly.
There is barrel distortion caused by the camera lens and angular distortion. Most photos have both issues happening at the same time.
A camera with a 100mm focal length lens that is centered on the face and is not tilted up, down or pointed to the sides will show the face accurately.
There are two types of distortion, the one caused by the camera lens is known as barrel distortion. A lens smaller than a 100mm focal length will make the face rounder than normal. The nose and mouth will be larger than normal and the outside of the head is shrunk inwards. This describes most phones and compact cameras that often use 28 – 35 mm lenses.
A telephoto lens larger than 100mm will distort in the opposite way. I can correct for this distortion if I know the type of camera used for the photograph.
When a camera is not centered then you get angular distortion. You can see this best when you see an extreme example. A camera pointing up at a face will make the forehead larger and make the lower half of the face smaller. Pointing down at the face from above has the opposite effect. A camera pointing from the side will introduce perspective issues that change the face.
I have studied these issues in detail and I have learned how to correct for these potential distortions.