Drawing Portraits

I began this exercise by sketching my own face from different angles, trying to pay attention to accurate dimensions.  Here is a sketchbook page with annotated sketches documenting this exercise: 

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I drew two self-portraits using different media.

Drawing 1: this portrait was drawn with a Derwent Coloursoft pencil (brown-black shade). I enjoy using these pencils for sketching. I chose a three-quarter view to make it slightly more interesting and chose to wear contact lenses and avoid dealing with drawing glasses!  The portrait contains light.  The nose seems slightly too large and it is also slightly tilted upwards, which my nose isn’t.  I tried to adjust this and improved it slightly but then decided to leave well alone. I would need to redraw the portrait. The eyes do not seem to belong together – the one furthest from the viewer is probably the right size and the one closest, a little too large. The overall shape and perspective for this angle are about right but the neck is too long.  I am not sure if there is a likeness – a slight one maybe.  However, the portrait does “belong” with one or two of the initial sketches (above). 

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Drawing 2: I made this drawing much too quickly, straight after the first one. It was done more in the spirit of having to get a task out of the way than in exploration and discovery! I was careful with the positioning of features on the face in relation to overall head size but didn’t look very carefully at my subject and perhaps ink was a rather unforgiving medium in inexperienced hands. This drawing was made using two different black fineliners and a wash. The face is too thin – the width to height ratio is incorrect.  The nostrils are very odd resulting in a nose that is overall too dominant, not helped by the shadow, which gives the nose an asymmetric appearance. Apart from the nose, the mouth is rather too wide and she is also slightly cross-eyed.  Oh, dear! I sincerely hope this is not a likeness! 

I have left the hair as no more than an outline in order to focus attention more on the face. The Chinese watercolour artist, Wang Changshou, paints portraits in which he often zooms in on the face of his subject such that their facial features fill the format. To focus attention on the facial expression, he emphasises the eyes and mouth and plays down the nose, which is often not significant in expressing emotion (a few emotions, such as disgust, would be exceptions to this). 

There is a sense of directional light in the portrait below, and her gaze has some intensity – cross-eyes notwithstanding.  

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The next task was to draw a portrait from memory.  I recalled doing this some time ago and found the portrait in an earlier sketchbook, one of my father which I attempted about two years ago. My father died 30 years ago and I no longer have photographs which means that I must rely entirely on my memory. 

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I found this very difficult the first time around and so thought that I would have another go at the same subject.  I scanned the first image and printed it very lightly onto a sheet of grey paper, which I used as a template to develop further.    Although I created a more developed image this time around, it is not my father as I remember him (and would have no trouble recognising even after all this time).  I am not sure if this is a case of being insufficiently focused, of being distracted by the template, or perhaps reluctant to, literally, draw out this memory after so many years.  In the absence of photographs, I would like to have a drawing of him as I remember him so perhaps this is something to work on privately and without time pressure. 

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The last one is a charcoal portrait made from a video still.  I cannot remember who the subject of this drawing was but recall that I was watching a drama in which I was losing interest and decided to use the opportunity to draw another portrait.  I recall acknowledging that there was some likeness to the subject but likeness is definitely something that I will need to work on in future. 

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