Doing a portrait of someone I care about is such a pleasure, because it feels as if we’re having a relaxing conversation as I squint and scrutinise their features.
I prefer to use a highly pixelated photograph for reference and tend to focus on the eyes first (apparently it was Wil Shakespeare who said that the eyes are the windows of the soul), then the mouth and lastly the nose. Being able to communicate what lies behind the is something few artists do.
It’s always possible to tell a true (or Duchenne) smile from a polite, fake smile – the eyes are always the giveaway.
This is a pared back pencil portrait of my remarkable eldest step-daughter, Hannah, who constantly surprises me as she rises to every challenge that life throws at her, never losing her quirky humour – she lights up a room when she enters. All of which is impossible to convey with a few pencil lines and to say in one breath.
It’s extremely tricky to capture the truest likeness of the subject in a portrait. There’s always a teeny something that isn’t quite right. But I relish the challenge.
The fun cartoon-like drawing below shows her very quirky side and that green is her favourite colour.
I’m sure she won’t mind me posting a recent photo of her which for me, is just so wonderfully Hannah and makes me smile.
Life is still life. It’s still tough, complicated, and more than a little messy, with lessons to be learned, mistakes to be made, triumphs and disappointments to be had, and not every day is meant to be a party. ~ Alyson Noel ~
Due to the current Lockdown because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, I am into week eight of self-isolation with my husband and son, so having these images scanned is not a priority. It seems, however, that I am cannot take a decent photograph. The paper looks grey.
These are merely some drawing exercises. Sepia ink was used for the image above and with the two below, ink, oil pastels and watercolour were used. The last one was a quick first try-out on scrap paper, but in some ways I like it the best.
Before embarking on a portrait, making a preliminary study sketch can help to familiarise yourself with the subject – once you begin putting down marks on the paper a relationship starts to form. Taking that first step will help to reveal what is important as you closely investigate the details of their features. As the study is usually carried out in a free and spontaneous manner, it is common to prefer the sketch to the finished portrait.
I plan to make a few more studies in watercolour as well as in ink before starting the final portrait of my step-daughter’s youngest son. When drawing his sweet little face I got totally carried away, so have learned not to overwork it….something I do a lot.
Since (unbelievably) that clown Donald Trump is US President Elect, our world has been turned into a circus…and it’s not funny. So I thought I’d give you at least one reason to smile by sharing this little cutie with you. This was all done using watercolour crayons.
So six months of chugging away for my Zazzle store has felt mind-numbingly tedious. Not that the actual designing is boring, more the (necessary) cross-media broadcasting that accompanies each and every single item.
Anyway, the possibility of emigrating to sunny Portugal now totally preoccupies me. I’ve attended overseas property exhibitions, examined online, plots of land for sale, researched property purchasing regulations and everything about private swimming pools – it’s addictive and so much fun! If this does happen, it won’t be until 2018 after my son complete his university studies.
I’m itching to paint and draw again. At the risk of being boring, I’m considering revisiting an image of my youngest step-daughter, the composition of which, inexplicably, still stimulates my creativity. Already drawn in pencil and ink, painted with watercolour – twice. This time I plan using a mixture of media and may give pastels a go.
Here to prove that I haven’t totally given up, is the ink version, but this time with some minor digital modifications.
It may be possible to detect a whiff of satisfaction since I’ve muffled that chattering inner critical voice.
I’ve realised that in order to appreciate my own work it is imperative that I wait a few days after completion to be able to stand back and look at it with fresh eyes…rather like getting used to a new haircut.
The fear of using watercolours is diminishing. First using only transparent pigments mixed with plenty of water enables me to lightly ‘map out’ the image. It allows for painting as many layers as I need to build up the impression of dimension.
Flat brushes instead of round were used in an attempt to introduce spontaneity, with charcoal and pastels for intensity.
I’m persevering with the same subject as before, my youngest step-daughter, Ruth.
The ink version was all about the lines; a clean, graphic quality being appropriate.
Although not exactly a whimper of a painting, I abandoned the watercolour portrait because, despite scribbling on it with pastels, it still felt too flat, rigid-as-a-stick and the edges were too similar. It didn’t excite me – it lacked those extra ingredients of chaos and energy that I respond to and there was none of the fluidity that only watercolour can deliver.
With this simplified version, the ‘unfinished’ appearance is entirely intentional (assume your “Oh come OFF it” face here).
Pablo Picasso described art as the eliminiation of the unnecessary and Claude Debussy stated that “music is the space between the notes”.
Simplify, simplify, simplify! Do more with less!
In this vein, I tried to embrace the blank spaces and make each mark count, obtaining a perfect image being less important than how the paint was applied. And what was left out. Yes, you guessed it, I’m making it up as I go along here.
This painting feels complete to me. And there are edges; some soft, some sharp and I may have even managed to lose some!
In keeping with the minimalist theme, I’ll end here and see myself out.
Isn’t it always the way? With this drawing of my son I didn’t try. Really! It was only a spontaneous sketch with barely any conscious thought…yet somehow, I effortlessly managed to accurately ‘capture’ my son and his mood. He even likes it enough to use it on his website.
Striving for perfection and overthinking often sabotages creativity. It’s a paradox! This was only achieved because I was ‘in the flow’, in a ‘zone’; the usual self-inflicted pressure was off and I didn’t care about the outcome. I was unleashed!
Drawing with coloured pencils is extremely satisfying. It’s just so very simple – all that is required is some paper, pencils and a sharpener. And the results are gratifyingly fast…no drying time required.
I’ll have to cultivate this – in future, I’ll try not to try.
My head frequently bubbles with detailed artistic ideas, but actually accomplishing them isn’t always easy.
I’d like to create a series of paintings portraying likenesses of people I know, with their facial features and hands taking prominence.
You may wonder why I don’t simply call them “portraits”. Well, have you ever tried to render the essence of an individual onto paper or canvas? Obtaining a true recognisable likeness is staggeringly difficult. Formidable, even. Not least because the sitter is unlikely to view themselves in the same way that the artist does and there are always critics ready to pile huge lumps of vitriol onto the artist.
Clueless but undaunted, the first step was taken; I found a photograph that makes me want to to dust off my paints.
This preliminary ink drawing was to make me look hard at her features to familiarise myself with depicting them – also to decide which elements of the photograph to include and which to leave out in the composition.
The quick pencil sketch helped me ignore the myriad details and to simplify by considering the tonal values of her face that create form. Squinting helps with this.
My lofty aspiration is to somehow infuse the painting with more personality than the merely flat one dimensional drawing (although I do quite like flat images). To cultivate an intimacy that goes deeper than a mere likeness. Ideally I hope to reveal something of what goes on behind her eyes.
If I manage to fulfil my heady blur of ambitious imagined plans, the next post should be the painting. Any resemblance to the sitter will be an indescribable relief, but mostly I’m just happy to be doing some art again!
Now if someone could just sprinkle some fairy dust onto my paint brushes…..
More pictures of (the same) bare, naked man without a stitch on, in his birthday suit. He was impressive in that he effortlessly held difficult poses without swaying or trembling and never complained. Next week we’ll have a female model.
This figure drawing/painting class is freeing me up – it’s refreshing to focus purely on the PROCESS instead of the end product.
The first was a 15 minute pose and the second 10 minutes. In future I’ll only use large 420 x 594 mm paper for figure drawing as the 10 minute studies are far superior to the 20 minute watercolour I did on smaller 356 x 254 mm paper….which is why I’m not showing it to you.
It could be said that this post leans toward self-indulgence but it is written in the hope that other artists who recognise my dilemma may even glean a morsel of comfort from reading it.
Since my earliest memories I’ve been told and accepted that I could draw and I admit that the act of being creative has immeasurably enhanced my existence. My passion was cutting hair but, since being enveloped in the vice-like embrace of M.E., hairdressing became impossible – so for two years I’ve been attempting to rediscover my self-taught drawing skills.
Inexplicably, for most of this year my energies have focused on torturing myself with self-induced pressure, whilst my innards wrestled enthusiastically. The harder I urged myself to produce, the more paralysed my hands and brain became – my illustrations became as rare as those metaphorical hens’ teeth.
Last year a very thoughtful artist friend sent me “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron, which did the trick – even though I consider the author to be slightly dippy. After revisiting the book this week my rather arthritic recovery seems to have begun once more. It feels like I’ve been given permission to enjoy being creative…scandalous!
This is not a book endorsement – it is merely an attempt to point out how easily we can become so goal-orientated that we forget to enjoy the process. So intently focused on becoming an Illustrator was I that I froze and became afraid of failing.
In addition, it is often hugely intimidating to observe the mass of incredibly talented individuals abounding on the internet – a glance at the work of some of my Twitter associates perfectly demonstrates my point.
Apparently my anxiety at feeling I have to produce something ‘great’ every time has blocked my creativity and the remedy is to take small steps rather than large leaps. I was setting impossible goals for myself.
Today, after a good mental slap, I treated myself. I sketched my son and muse solely for my own pleasure, without concentrating on best technique or medium. Don’t think I’m there yet but I hope to keep it up!