This involves covering the photo with clear cellophane on which I've drawn a grid of 6cm squares.
I then take my sheet of white paper (80 x 60 cm) and mark off a border of 10 cm at the top and bottom and 9 cm at the left and right sides. This leaves an area of 60 x 42 cm in the centre where I will draw the portrait. I divide the centre area into 8 cm squares, which leaves partial squares on the lower and right edges.
Using a 2B graphite pencil I then draw in the image according to how it appears in the cellophane grid. It's important to get this right, and not too difficult if you pay careful attention to where the outlines of the image cross the lines of the grid.
The outlines of the head and shoulders and the details of the blouse and surroundings were easy to complete.
Ok, attempt number two. It starts off quite promising - at least that is what I tell myself - but on stepping back to take a good critical look I once again discover that I've turned my lovely sister into something akin to, at best, a crazed child, at worst a grotesque monster! This will never do! This is definitely not fit for public consumption, so, once again, the eraser saves the day. Another attempt and the eyes are too far apart and the mouth too big. Yet another and the nose is too wide and the features all way too crude. It's no use, I'm obviously thinking about it too much...well, that's my excuse. Meanwhile, the paper is becoming grey with graphite and my patience is wearing thin. This needs to be tackled from a different angle, literally! I turn the photo upside-down and try to draw the shapes and negative spaces. This might work... But, NO, still not the right result!
Dismissing my mounting frustration - after all, why is this so much more challenging than drawing leaves or fish or trees? - I finally decide to clean the whole area of the face and to toss the graphite pencil aside. I'll just start drawing the colours and see where they take me....
A flesh-coloured pencil suffices for the first layer of the skin, making sure to leave the paper white where I believe the white of the eyes should be. I apply a deep pink to some of the darker areas if the face, just above the eyebrows, along the eyelids, in the shadowy space under the fringe and around the nose, mouth and cheekbones. More of the same pink is used to show the lines and shadows of the neckline. Some blending with a clean stumper smooths things out a little.
It's now 3 hours since I started and I'm not entirely dissatisfied. Time to stop and have some tea. I don't believe, at this stage, that this drawing will be much good, but I'll face my fear despite fearing the face and who knows what will happen! Isn't drawing exciting!?!