vrijdag 3 mei 2013

The Familiar Face

I've set myself what I think is going to be an impossible task this time. Having looked around at some of the wonderful coloured pencil portraits on the internet, some so realistic they could easily be taken for photographs, I decided that my next drawing would be an attempt (and most likely a feeble attempt!) at a portrait of one of my sisters. I've always found, and this is already proving to still be the case, that expecting to achieve a good likeness when drawing someone whose face is so familiar is nigh on ridiculous... but hey, there's nothing like a real challenge to keep me slogging away! There's always a tiny chance it might turn out well enough...

So, having selected a suitable photo which I've had enlarged to 30 x 40 cm I set about drawing the image on a larger sheet of white paper.


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.
Now it was time to attempt the facial features... and this is (predictably!) where I ran into trouble. Firstly, I'm hopelessly out of practice, not having drawn a portrait for quite some time. Secondly, familiarity breeds incredible mess looking nothing even remotely like my sister! She'd frankly, be disgusted, as am I! I grab the eraser and destroy the abomination.

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....

I start with the lighter areas of the hair using gold, followed by burnt sienna.
Then I fill in some of the darker areas of the hair using burnt umber and chocolate.

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.  

Hmmm, this might lead somewhere, but I think I'll reserve judgement until MUCH later! I carefully sketch in the pupils of the eyes and the edges of the eyelids with a blue-grey pencil. Hmmm....maybe....

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!?!

donderdag 21 maart 2013

Catch of the Day!

Wow! It's been a long interlude between the last blog and this one. Life seems to get in the way sometimes. Yesterday evening I made the firm decision that today would be the day to finally finish off the drawing. It's been lying there waiting for the last pencil strokes for quite a while now and really it's just a matter of about half an hour and some discipline. The half hour is easy since I'm recovering from a cold and don't feel like doing much else. The discipline is the tough bit, but I'm determined - today is the day. So I retire to my little studio, turn on the heater (spring is sooooo late this year) and the radio, clear my desk of all my jewelry-making paraphernalia, lay out my pencils and the almost complete drawing and get started, at last! Really the only thing that needs doing is to darken a few small areas, deepen some shadows around the fish and highlight a few ripples in the water. Using indigo, prussian blue and ivory black I do just that. What was the problem? It really did only take about 30 minutes and I'm fairly satisfied with the result.

Just two small things left to do... take the eraser and clean up around the by now fairly grubby margin and, finally, add my signature and the date in my customary manner in the lower lefthand corner...

There might be 22 colours in the woods, but there are 25 (and maybe even a few more... I may have lost count along the way!) in the Koi pond.

And this is it....after a total of 40 hours and 5 minutes from beginning to end....finished!

Now I have bigger fish to fry... what will I draw next?...

Darker and Deeper

At this point everything is pretty much finished, except I have to make the background much darker, giving the water more depth.

 As you can see in this photo, I'm aiming for something close to the darker shades of the photo I'm working from, visible at the right. Using prussian blue and indigo I apply a few layers to the entire background. You can see how light everything is to the right of the drawing.

There's still lots to be done.... but by applying a slightly darker blue on each layer and then introducing some jade green things start to look right.

It's important to have all the pencil strokes go in the same direction. This whole exercise takes ages - a sitting of 1 hour and 20 minutes, another of 2 hours and 35 minutes. Still not finished but I'm getting there....
Using the Chinese white at a different angle I carefully blend everything together. The stumper is useful here too, helping to get the surface as smooth as possible.

Now it's time to add some Delft blue, remembering to keep leaning on a clean sheet of paper to keep the drawing from being smudged.
This takes another 45 minutes.

 More blending and shading at the next session and 2 hours later this is the result.

40 hours and 5 minutes in total so far. Not bad, but still a bit more to be done.