Saturday, May 16, 2009
It’s important to understand a little bit about anatomy to be able to properly render human and animal features in our artwork. Traditional portrait painters have understood this, and those of us who work in the digital realm need to as well. So there are certain things we need to keep in mind when painting eyes, whether they belong to a dog, cat, man, woman or child.
The first thing to remember is that the eye is spherical – sort of like a cue ball with a colorful, circular lens mechanism slightly bubbling out from the sphere's surface, which can be seen through the eye opening of the face. And we need to be sure to use light and shadow to show this rounded form. The whites of the eyes (the sclera) should generally be shaded away from the light source and bright on the side toward the light source. The shape and direction of the catchlights in the eyes should also address the eye’s curvature.
Another aspect of the eye is its translucency. Light travels through the outer cornea of the eye, hits the colorful iris and is then reflected back out through the cornea opposite the entry point– a lot like light traveling through a colorful marble. Especially in eyes that are lit from the side you’ll notice this bright burst of color opposite the catchlight. Portrait artists can enhance this effect as a way to introduce some color and better render the eye’s translucent nature.
Another characteristic of the eye that we need to pay attention to is it’s glass-like reflective surface. Catchlights are the most important way to represent this quality. It’s important to remember that a catchlight is a reflection of a light source. If it’s an indoor portrait, the catchlight may take on the shape of a window or a nearby lamp. The catchlights in an outdoor portrait may be a reflection of the sun or open sky – or a nearby wall. There may also be moist areas around the rims of eyes that produce small but bright reflections.
I love painting eyes.