Backgrounds are useful in enhancing your vision of how you want to represent your subjects. Backgrounds can soften the presentation or make it more energetic or dramatic.
However, whatever you do, make sure that the background works with the subject and not against it. Also, do not forget that the subject is the reason you started the drawing in the first place. So, do not get thought up in your background to the point where it starts outshining your subject and diverts the attention of the viewer from your subject.
Here are a few tips on how to proceed with backgrounds so that they become a plus for the finished product:
Take a clue from the values of your subject when choosing the value scheme for your background treatment. If your subject is very light on one side, it is always a good idea to make the background in that area darker. This will introduce the necessary contrast.
It also solves the problem of white against white. For example, if your subject has white hair, it is always difficult to make it adequately show against the white background of your white paper. Introducing a darker background around the hair is the perfect solution. This, of course, also works in reverse. If your subject is dark, you may want to contrast this with a light background.
* Lost and Found
The background treatment can also be used to produce so-called "lost and found edges". These are bridges that initially show but then get lost in the surroundings to finally reappear somewhere down the line.
The disappearing act of the edge is accomplished by rendering the edge and the surroundings with the same value. For example, the edge of a sleeve could have partially lost in the background by giving the background the same value as that part of the sleeve. Lost and found effects are always interesting and involve the viewer in the process of completing the drawing.
It is usually a good idea to keep the shading below the eye level of the subject you are drawing. Shading above the eye level tends to weigh down the subject and does not add to the crispness of the portrait.
* Extensive Background
Sometimes your client may insist on a detailed pictorial background.
First, make sure you increase the fee, because you will often spend more time on your background drawing than on the subject itself.
Second, always be aware that the subject must remain the focal point of the finished product. So, develop the facility for judging what enhances the subject and what detracts from it. The background is invariably secondary to the subject.
Ideally, a pictorial background should talk about your subject and give the viewer more information about your subject. A background is also very useful to create or enhance a mood. If your subject is described in a certain mood, you may want to enhance that mood by adding the appropriate background.
These tips should give you a good start in painting backgrounds with confidence.