Periodically I get so tired of my careful, precise drawings. And I suspect this portrait above happened after I had overworked the last one. So I reached for my Pentel Brush Pen and just went for it. No subtlety here. Just the deeply grooved face of an elderly man who knows the meltdown of facial muscle tone has already occurred, and thinks, So who cares!?
And another one, all bristly white hair and determined scowl, or is it simply compassionate concern? Sometimes older folks have a scowl on their faces, but it’s really because they’re struggling a bit to see with failing vision. I should know.
This guy’s younger, and an experiment in color value. Find the shadow shape and flood it with color! Two colors here: quinacridone burnt orange and pthalo blue, and some white gouache.
What’s my favorite facial feature? Why noses of course and the bigger the better. More drawing with the Pentel Brush Pen, though I think I must have done a quick pencil sketch first? I can’t remember. The paper is good watercolor paper and white, so there’s no need to finish with white gouache for the highlights. The white of the paper does that best.
I wanted the subject, Katarina, to speak in that throaty Baltic/Russian voice. Can you imagine it? The gel pens at the end helped to convey a kind of glamour she seemed to have. That, and oh those lips!!
I thought it might be interesting to contemplate and document my loopy and sometimes treacherous path of art discovery in the area of portraiture and figura-ture over the past month. Discovery as in experimentation.
Starting with this one a month ago. I remember starting out with the idea that this would be a quick and expressive sketch. An hour later I was still correcting and laying in more layers of paint, which wasn’t at all what I had in mind when I started. I think I was distracted by the handsome fellow in the picture. Reminder to self: whether it’s a landscape or building or figure, don’t become too enamored with the visual subject matter.
After a break traveling and sketching scenery I resumed sketching portraits, mainly with the aim of discovering the personality of my own line making. I found that this is a lot more fun than trying to make a pleasing picture. I’ve never been partial to colored pencils, since watercolor is so much more fluid and immediately saturated. But since I’m not used to colored pencils there was more freedom expressed without the need to “get it right”.
So I turned the former sketch over, a loose sheet of unidentified paper I found in my drawer, and told myself I could just throw it away, so anything goes. And plunged in. Again, fun. I’d tapped into the secret I’d known and taught for years.
Reminds me of the paperweight I was given years ago on which is written “What would you attempt to do if you could not fail?” In this case, I could not fail because I wouldn’t ever have to show it to anyone. Then I realized that showing it to others would never result in failing either, because who cares!
So I go back to my toned paper sketchbook with more confidence in my ink line making, which is crude and scratchy in a way I am liking, and I realize that the shadow shapes in this subject are so fabulous that I can play with watercolor, running one color into another wetly. Soon I can’t stop painting, but at least I don’t hang out too long trying to make it “right”, so maybe I’m learning something.
So what the heck, now I figure I’m ready for a selfie, to celebrate my allowing the gray/white hair I’ve been coloring to emerge and help define the freedom of my senior status. Those of you who know me will say, oh that doesn’t look like you Susan, and in a way you’re right, but she’s there somewhere. . .and not least of all in the scratchy lines.
Next day I did this one of another older lady. Same materials and half the time. If I were smart and not so distractible, I’d do 10 more.
Instead I did just one more in the 15 minutes I had before the call to dinner. I think I used the Lamy Joy pen. Why in heaven’s name I sketched the pipe first I don’t know, except that I liked the shape and wanted to make sure to fit it in. But as you can see, the nose fit into it better than the mouth. So, big deal, I drew another pipe stem and made it darker. Problem solved. There was no time to add the white value with the gouache. and I don’t miss it at all in this one.
All of the portraits above, except for the selfie, were drawn from the excellent photos available for this purpose on the SktchyMuseum app I’ve been using. Gratitude for all these fine poses! Can’t imagine a better resource for us portrait artists. Check it out!
I’ll finish this post with some practice drawings, copied from the Spanish illustrator Inma Serrano, whose workshop I’m taking: Capture Your City in Motion.
And here I’m sketching from picture of figures in motion on internet sites like Pinterest. All warmups for the real thing of capturing the action live. Gulp.
I’ve almost filled up my Stillman and Birn Nova sketchbook with the three toned papers: beige, black, and gray. Time to order another I think. The Museum app keeps offering not only these great poses but inspired portrait art from artists all over the world. Have you tried it yet?
Abandoning refinement in the service of drama here. The particles suspended in white gouache make for a chalky surface revealed in all its roughness when painted wetly on a black surface. You have to just let it do its thing and be ready to move on! Next portrait I painted on black though, I dispensed with the white pencil drawing which did not dissolve and could not be erased.
Rick N. is another favorite on the Museum app, willing to offer his visage in the creation of characters like this ? mad magician?
No background or hair or clothing needed here! It was done in minutes. Brilliant pose Roxana!
By this day I was ready to take my time and try for a bit more refinement.
This one got a bit out of hand very quickly, drawing with the brush pen!
It’s fun to go in at the end of a portrait with some unexpected color bounce. Really the green is just an exaggeration of what is there. And it works so well with the violet tones.
The Bumblehummer in a recent post turned out to be a female Rufous hummingbird, for those of you who wondered. Positive identification occurred when I emailed the local Audubon society and in the process made a new friend! Kim is a wealth of information and answered a slew of bird questions I hardly knew I had. And now I have an invitation to go birding with the Gals Go Birding group. And Kim even teaches a workshop for people like me whose vision is fading, called Birding By Ear.
Undoubtedly there will be more birds arriving on the blog, but today I’ll slip in a recent portrait . ..
.. .which I have named Pathos, because the beauty of this woman rests in the utter depth of feeling her face conveys. Her heart breaks for the suffering of humanity, which knows no bounds. Her own suffering is etched on her skin, even while she glows with the light of compassion. One’s eyes brim over just by gazing on her image and the heart muscle jolts awake.