Capturing the essence of someone..

 A portrait of Stephen Hawking by Patience takes shape in the Cognitive Studio..

A portrait of Stephen Hawking by Patience takes shape in the Cognitive Studio..

 Patience - a self portrait!

Patience - a self portrait!

Capturing the essence

At Cognitive we believe every story is unique and that to tell that story properly, you need original imagery that is created to reflect the content and style of your narrative.

All of our work is bespoke and we use pictures, images, likenesses and metaphors to suit. We also often include portraits of recognisable characters or employees of the company we are producing the film for!

Whether they are public figures, or characters with an eerie likeness to a celebrity or even a colleague, these portraits help make our films feel relevant to their audience.

In this blog, Patience Nottingham, one of our brilliant illustrators takes us through the steps to creating an uncanny portrait..

Drawing evocative character portraits.

In a lot of our Cognitive films, we are required to draw a public figure within the animation, whether it be a celebrity or a company employee. This can be trickier than it seems, as we need to make that character recognizable, but also fit well into the content of the film and its message.

To properly convey a figure, you firstly need to explore their character and what makes them individual. How are they going to be portrayed? As wise? As funny? It’s useful to pinpoint this essence as a direction before you begin the portrait.

Start at the foundations: there are particular rules of how to draw a human face using the correct proportions and taking perspective into account. You can, however, bend the rules for character portraits to emphasise a character’s traits. Do they have bigger ears? Emphasise! But never take it to the realm of the offensive (unless that’s the intention of the portrait!)

Secondly, the style in which the portrait is drawn will affect how the character is received by its intended audience. We usually create our portraits using the traditional Cognitive whiteboard style but we may be required to use different styles by a client, so its good to explore different styles that match the essence that you are intending to convey.

 Here are some style explorations I made of animator Matt Truefitt when researching how to draw portraits of the staff here at Cognitive.

Here are some style explorations I made of animator Matt Truefitt when researching how to draw portraits of the staff here at Cognitive.

Referencing and researching a figure as much as possible is important to get to grips with their psyche and character.

To illustrate how I personally create portraits, I have created a quick walk through of a portrait (at the top of this page)  that I drew of esteemed physicist Professor Steven Hawking. Professor Hawking died with a huge legacy of scientific achievement behind him, therefore I wanted to respectfully convey his talent and most importantly, his compassion towards the universe that he cared so much about discovering. I wanted to express him with a wise and wry smile, something magical dancing in his eyes.

In the gif above you can see that I started by drawing out a rough sketch using a sketching tool in Photoshop. This is just to map out initial shapes. I then added detail in the next stage of inking. Inspired by the film Cognitive made for BBC Radio 4 of Hawking’s Reith Lecture, ‘Do Black Holes Have No Hair?’ I decided to ink this portrait with a looser, sketchy pencil brush to evoke a sense of liveliness and a hand-drawn quality.

Next, I added some colour: under the Inks layer I created a galaxy-inspired wash using a broad watercolour Photoshop brush on the Multiply setting using purple, blue and black shades. I then painted on stars with a tiny opaque brush in a sporadic manner. These were a bit too stark, so I lowered the opacity and added a soft blurry glow to the stars within the layer settings. The entire image ended up being a bit too dark so I adjusted the brightness/contrast, added a warmth and grain filter and then sharpened the image to create the final portrait.

If you would like us to Supercharge your Story with some unique and familiar portraits please do get in touch