Sunday, January 27, 2008


Before school starts up again, I wanted to do one more charcoal portrait, preferably a profile, and something with complexity in the hair. I was going to do a random pic off the web, but as I was sorting through my photos I found this really nice one of my friend Swati.

This is my response to the issues I had with the photo-realistic style of the portrait of my niece. I just think it's too hard to compete with the camera, so in this one I tried to make it look like a drawing. I intentionally left some parts a little rougher, and concentrated more on gesture rather than getting all the details perfect. And I pretty much left out any kind of background. I wanted to get that spontaneous feel like Rembrandt's drawings, or the paintings of Velazquez and Sargent.

Wow it was hard. The problem is that normally I do the initial lay-in roughly, figuring I can fix it later. But in this style, adjustments need to be kept to a minimum, so the initial strokes are very important, and I was really afraid of messing it up. But I remembered what my Color & Design teacher said once in class, that if it's hard it means you're learning, and if you're comfortable then you're not learning at all. So I decided to just go for it, and somewhere in the middle of doing the hair it really started clicking.

The result is astonishing. I really feel like this is the best thing I've done. Not necessarily because of the accuracy or quality, but because this drawing really has life. I had hints of life in my still-life, and to a lesser extent in my Lauren Bacall and small Audrey Hepburn. But none comes close to this one. She really feels like she emerges from the paper.

The hair and face are obviously the focal point, and I tried to de-emphasize the dress and hands somewhat. In the hair I used two different shades of charcoal, and built it up in several layers, giving it a surprising depth considering her hair is black. This is especially obvious when compared to my large Audrey Hepburn where the hair feels flat. The dress also turned out well. It looked really complex in the photo. But because that part is de-emphasized, I could afford to render it more freely and sketchily. So it actually only took about 45 minutes to do, but still looks representational. I'm not that happy with the hands, but then I could never do those. :)

I really feel like this a breakthrough for me, as much for the thought processes that went behind it as for how it turned out. So this one becomes part of my permanent collection!

What Art Students Do For Fun

I can confirm that all the wild rumors are true ... art students paint mute charts in their free time. :) Okay, maybe it's just me, and I was trying to use up my goauche paints. These mute charts are really useful though because of all the beautiful hues created between complimentary colors. And now I have a full set! The yellow-green/red-violet one is a bit off because I ran out of paint, but it's still indicative of the range.