Thursday, February 02, 2012

First portrait sketch

So, I've been reading the book, Lessons in Classical Drawing, and practising with charcoal, and I thought I'd have a go at doing a formal sitting. I picked a friend whom I knew would not be offended if I made him look like a bowl of pudding.

As it turned out, I think it looks OK...for a first go. This is the sight-size method that Andrea has been teaching me. You place the easel in such a way that you simply do a one-to-one copy of what you see.

Here's the original

It wasn't easy to get him to sit still until I hit upon the method of letting him watch a movie on the computer while I worked.

Also, yelling.

I'm going to have to keep working on charcoal technique, I've not really got the knack of shading and judicious smudging that brings the whole thing up to a fine polish, but at least it's a start.

I think I am going to call this a "portrait sketch" because I realised as I was doing it that I did not have either the time or the expertise with charcoal to do a more closely rendered drawing. With a real portrait, there are all sorts of wee teeny details that you have to get just right in order to go from it being "just a sketch" to a real finished portrait drawing. (For example, look at the shape of the shadow just on the inside corner of Chris's left eye. It's not round is it? It's got a little point on it at the top... Stuff like that.) There's also a whole lot of shading that can be done by putting down layers of charcoal where you deepen a shadow and then do another shadow on the inside.

Also, I think I'm going to use toned paper for the next one. I thought of just doing a value over the whole face and then bringing up the brightest highlights using the white paper with the eraser, but (because I'm still recovering and my hands are still somewhat shaky) I was not very confident about my use of the charcoal pencil for doing a light tone, and because the paper was the cheap crappy stuff I bought to just futz about on.

With toned paper, either grey or tan, you don't have to do that fine layer of mid-tone value over the whole thing and then erase, and you get to use white chalk to bring up the highlights and go really dark with the darkest shadow shapes. All in all, a much more pleasing effect.

Something I definitely learned with this though, is that I don't like drawing small. I think next time I'm going to have the easel and the subject close to side by side to get a much bigger drawing. I think I'm going to be one of those Draw-it-Big artists.

For a little while I think I'm just going to practice on some of the Caravaggio pictures I've got out of books, heads of Christ and St. Francis, etc., to get the hang of doing values with the brown charcoal pencil. Also, get ready for a long and fascinating series that I think I will call "Getting the white milk jug right".

Keep trying. Try harder...

(Also, I'm taking applications from any of the Rome/S. Marinella people who want to be next.)



Mrs McLean said...

Where's the one of ME?


df said...

Skills (though you made him so much thinner!)

Nicholas Trandem said...

I attribute any and all ugliness in the portrait solely to the subject.

Anonymous said...


(though you made him so much thinner!)

I noticed that. Makes me think of commissioning a portrait of myself!

df said...

yup, I'm sure Miss White can now expect to be in line for a slew of grateful commissions!

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Watch the video and you will see how far I have to go.

Dorothy: the first portrait sketch using the techniques being taught to me and not just me fumbling around.

JohnB said...

I like the way you had the light hit him. It helped accentuate the--shall we say--details of his face.