A year ago I completed a character portrait of Petty Officer Cole Ormont, a surgeon in the Galactic Republic Navy. I was never particularly happy with the way the face turned out, thought I was more than pleased with the rest. Over the last 11 months, I've probably finished more pieces than I have in the last 11 years. Well, that might be a slight exaggeration, but I've definitely done more art than any other point in my life.
The follow-up to last year's Star Wars game is coming up at the end of the month, and I decided that Cole, now a Captain, needed a new portrait. Besides wanting to address my dissatisfaction with the way I'd drawn his mouth and shaded his face, Cole was older, thinner, more tired, plus he'd started wearing those fancy diagnostic spectacles mid-way through the previous game. His hair is a little shorter, though not noticeably so, and lines are forming around his eyes and mouth.
Here's a side-by-side comparison.
I should have put more time in to his curls, but let's ignore that for now. The most important change I made was using thinner lines for the body of the work. Before adding in the "hard shading", the lines were too thick, and it obscured the finer details. I also dialled back the shadows to reveal more of the face's shape. The shadows are now also a touch darker than the lines, adding some increased depth and definition. Some shadows have also been reshaped to better fit with the image I was trying to create.
Most importantly, however, is the change to the mouth. With previous-Cole, and other attempts at male characters, I have pulled the lip colour from photo references, which has made the mouth far too prominent and feminine. Over the last year, as I worked on new male characters, I looked into this, and how other artists represented mouths in their drawings to overcome this "lipstick effect". Portraying Cole's mouth as a slightly pinker shadow has made around 1000% difference, and he looks a lot more "natural".
Whether or not I go back and refine his hair, and make the shadow below his lower lip larger, remains to be seen, but ultimately I'm much happier with the Cole's new look.