Exploring Colour in Figure Drawing, Part 1
Time for a drawing update. Hello! I have been pootling on here. With the end of the course in sight but no desperate rush to finish, I have been taking my time with my last drawings. This has freed up some energy and time to try and focus on my health a little more, which now seems to have settled into a chronic pattern of neurological dysfunction that brings a lot of challenge to each day. I am doing well though, in head if not in body. One last self portrait to do and then it will be time to put this drawing course to bed – an apt closing subject, to be honest, for a course that I have worked alongside such dramatic change in my personal circumstances and necessary way of approaching life. I’m hoping I can find some way to make my last piece reflect that.
Before that though, I have been focusing on experimenting on using colour in my figure drawings, using the example of other artists to guide my ideas a little, but trying to be brave and do my own thing too. I experimented a little more with drawing surfaces, from brown wrapping paper to watercolour paper with a background wash, and coloured pastel paper. I tried to work more loosely where I could, although find I still tend to be drawn back to strong line. In all my pictures I tried to capture something of a moment rather than just a fixed pose, something of an attitude or atmosphere, experimenting with drawing medium accordingly.
I’ll present two sets of posts of pictures to show my progress. Here are the first few…
I continued to sketch when I could, using pen or pencil to work as quickly as I can.
A trip to Covent Garden provided particular inspiration – both the next two scenes came from there and were worked using soft pastel and line pen directly onto brown wrapping paper. The little girls were from a sketch I made first in my sketch book and worked up big, using the full width of the wrapping paper at about A1 size.
It is works by Degas, examples of which appear below that provided the main form of inspiration here. The subject matter is very typical of Degas – musicians and girls in tableaux of movement and gesture, combining line with sweeps of colour, often utilizing coloured backgrounds like in the bottom picture here. Simple mark making in the background doesn’t detract from the picture but still helps to ground the figures, while giving them an almost ethereal quality. Faces aren’t always shown or that distinct and yet that doesn’t seem to affect the way character can still be depicted. I love working in pastel so this kind of impressionist technique really appeals.
Experiments with watercolour pencil were slightly less fun for me, but Berthe Morisot inspired, with something of a naive charm about her pictures, often domestic scenes, faces subtley worked and lines and colours worked sketchily. My son on his rope swing provided a subject matter I hoped would work in a similar style – I first put down a roughwater colour wash then used graphite pencil and watercolour pencil on top, not being too concerned about ‘keeping in the lines’ and letting the colours smudge together.
More coming up!
Hello. I wanted to take a bit of time to write and update those of you interested in what’s been happening to me. I am hugely lucky online to have a small army of people who seem to care about how I am, what a lovely lot you are. So here goes.
Those of you that know me well will know that I’ve had poor health for pretty much my whole life. It would come and go, I’d get a couple of bad years followed by some better, with a longer, more serious bout of illness in my late teens which took many years to recover from. What I find slightly embarrassing to talk about it is that they’ve never really been able to find out what’s wrong. I would experience very severe pain radiating out from certain joints and fatigue. At times this was labelled as Fibromyalgia or M.E., which in themselves are often umbrella terms that seem to cover a wide variety of symptoms, but no one could really agree what was happening, and I struggled to ‘fit’ a particular diagnosis. With the medical profession not much help, I decided to work hard on my own recovery. And to cut a very long story short, I did recover.
When I started getting ill again last year, I thought at first I was having a brief relapse – they did happen from time to time, with pain and fatigue nearly always a part of every day to a greater or lesser extent. But I got worse and worse and the symptoms were more and more different to what I’d experienced before. As well as an increase in the burning neuralgia pain I’ve long experienced, I started to get more and more neurological symptoms, intense pins and needles and weird numbness in my extremities and face, and sharp pain in my fingers and toes that was very different to pain I’d felt before, finding them difficult to bend. I’d get odd changes in my circulation and struggled to regulate my body temperature. I also started having problems with extreme dizziness and wooziness, with this eventually progressing to fainting, and episodes when I would feel very light-headed and then get trapped in this odd sensation of half-conciousness that would mean I had to lie down, drifting in and out till it suddenly passed again. Tests found my heart to be racing very fast at odd times, even when I was calm, or even resting. Fatigue began to infiltrate everything. And most frighteningly, I’d get times feeling suddenly very confused and disorientated, my vision even altering, like I was peering through a hot mist. The last one has been really horrible, especially.
All this was, to put it simply, a complete ballache. Life had just started getting interesting – I had fallen madly in love and was happier than I’d ever been, and I was loving exploring making art and writing and having adventures all the other things I love to do that give me so much pleasure. Life with my Kai was magic and loved being at home with him. I was active and positive and motivated and hugely baffled. I thought I understood my body’s propensity for odd ill health and things that would make it better but nothing I tried seemed to make the slightest bit of difference.
Needless to say, the development of all the above threw me back into a multitude of investigations and tests that dominated a great deal of last year. And, to cut another long story short, they still haven’t been able to pin down what is happening to me. Although they behave a little like seizures, I don’t seem to be having seizures. Although the symptoms fit diseases like M.S. and Lupus, tests don’t support that. And although my heart is definitely beating faster than it should at times, there is nothing wrong with the heart itself.
Through it all I have actually stayed pretty strong and happy. There have been some very low days, and at times I’ve been very frightened and increasingly confused about the whole thing, but a lifetime of not great health has given me a good ability to pick myself up and try again. My level of day to day function has dramatically reduced and this has been the hardest thing, to be honest. My degree has had to slow to a snail’s pace, Thankfully they’ve been very accommodating of deadlines, although it’s lost me my longer-term funding. Although I can never claim to have made a huge impact on the world around me, with careers and study and other things always limited by this funny body of mine, I derive an enormous amount of sense of self from DOING. I’m never one to really sit still, with always half a dozen projects on the go and a head full of hundreds of dozens of ideas and thoughts and dreams and plans and and and. Yes. I do not like this slow, wobbly thing I seem to be and we are difficult bedfellows. But I’ve done alright. My mental health is good, the best it’s ever been really, and I have an unshakable belief in my own ability to survive and make the best of where I am.
It is getting harder though.
Yesterday my neurologist seemed to pretty much give up on me. As the head MRI they did recently was clear, she doesn’t feel they need to pursue further neurological or autonomic testing at this time which I guess is fair enough. Some vague talk about “complex syndromes” and “neurosensory and autonomic involvement” and I’ve been left till December now to “see how I get on”, while I wean slowly off one drug treatment in case that’s contributing to my fatigue, with the suggestion we might start a different drug next year. In the meantime I have been advised to seek more support from my GP. I gently tried to explain that I didn’t really want ‘support’, I want to feel better, but this didn’t really seem to get much response. People that don’t know me very well when reviewing my case seem to tend to assume that I must be depressed, or very demotivated, and are usually surprised to find that isn’t the case. I don’t think she knew what on earth to to do with me.
What’s weird is that my over-riding feeling is one of deep shame and embarrassment. Not having a ‘proper’ disease, I find it hard to talk about it, or explain. I have to fight very hard against feelings of very destructive worthlessness. In this busy world of labels and jobs and identities I find it hard to convince myself I have a place. I have a tendency to slip into thinking that this must all somehow be my fault, and that the symptoms are somehow my own doing, that I’m making things worse, somehow, or not doing the right things. I know this is pretty unhelpful thinking though, and I try hard not to let it win out the day.
Without a proper diagnosis, prognosis or treatment programme, things start getting a bit tricky now. Up to now, as a single mum, Kai has been young enough for me to be supported by the benefits system to be at home with him, but this changes as soon as he turns five soon, and my part-time degree doesn’t qualify me for support as a student. I had planned to return to work for 16 hours a week, probably some fairly lowbrow job but it would make ends meet. But now I don’t seem to be getting better, I don’t really know what I’m going to do. It’s all or nothing in the benefits world – either I will need to work 16 hours a week, or I will be put on sickness benefits and have to prove whether or not I’m ‘fit for work’ – a phrase in today’s political climate that has taken on some fairly heavy and depressing implications.
It frustrates me a great deal. I want to work, to support me and my boy, and to be able to do something day to day, even if it’s something little, to try and make other people’s lives a bit better, and to feel useful and worthwhile. I want to be pursuing my talents to make and create. I don’t want to be sick and on sickness benefits. But even so, I can’t work that many hours without a basic level of physical function, and that doesn’t seem to be something available to me just now. I wish there was an 8 hour a week option, or a 12. Anything.
I am still very hopeful it will get better. Every period of bad health in my life has got better, even if this time has been a different kettle of fish and I don’t really understand what I’m dealing with, and I’m confident if I can keep looking after myself, trying to stay positive and as healthy as I can, I will eventually improve. I am a great believer that life is about challenges, not problems, and that I have the ability to overcome anything, if I take responsibility for it and am brave.
I guess the trick is going to be crossing each day as I get to it. I start every day with the aim to make it something worthwhile and I will continue to do that. I will continue to celebrate all the little things, and let joy find me, because I am very, very good at that, and enjoy time with my funny boy and my big lanky man who I adore, and who has been so unwaveringly patient with me through all this.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m very lucky, really, something I try to remember every day, and that one way or another it’ll all be okay.
I’m finding being online a little bit difficult at the moment. Like I’ve said, I find talking about this stuff weird and hard, and over the last few months it’s ended up being easier to let go more and more of Twitter and blogging and say as little as possible. I’d very much like that to change though, I miss the company and the expression, so I hope by getting all this out and over and done with, I can try and get back to some level again where I don’t feel like I need to hide, although low energy means I have to be a bit careful what I invest my time in, it takes very little to wear me out at the moment, pathetic weedy weed I am ! To everyone that’s kept in touch, via email and private messages and Facebook, thank you so much. The friendship of some of you has been invaluable and a source of enormous strength.
Thank you for reading.
love, Josie Porridge x
P.S. When you give an account like this, and because people care, people’s response often tends to be to offer advice, about diets or alternative therapies, or “I know someone who…” and as much as I appreciate the thought, and I do, it can be a bit overwhelming, especially after a lifetime of trying one thing or another. So for that reason, if it’s okay, I don’t really want to hear about cures and such, I’m sorry if that comes across as rude or ungrateful. Many thanks to you.
Figure Drawing Inspiration and Moving Forward
As I’ve been working the last part of this module, I’ve spent much more time hunting around for influences. With the way this year has gone, it’s been difficult to get out to many exhibitions or galleries, aside from seeing the Lucian Freud portrait exhibition in early summer, so I’ve mostly had to hunt around in my own virtual galleries for the same kind of experience of looking closely at other people’s work.
Seeing Lucian Freud’s collection of portraits was a wonderful witnessing of how an artist can evolve. It was fascinating following the exhibition through from his earliest work - wide-eyed, dead-skinned, simplistic portraits – through to a much more life-like approach and a fascination with intimate and disturbing poses and scenarios. His techniques changed, from flat skin tones and areas of colour, through to more dynamic use of colour tone and brush work. It showed me, in a slow walk through his career, how much an artist can GROW and change. As a very fledgling artist it was a challenge to me not to be afraid or down-heartened by these early years work of mine, knowing that I have more in me, and that progress comes with taking the thing that really inspires you – for both of us, people – and using that as a springboard to experiment and development.
For my last project piece I hope very much to do just that, in so far as I’m able. The more figure work I look at, my own as well as other artists, the more I am turned off by classic poses, depicted cleanly, or with very gentle tonal subtly, with the emphasis on realism and demonstration of very fine skill. I like it, I think it’s clever and admire it, and I even want to emulate it, but it rarely really moves me personally. I think as a learning artist there is the tendency to try and pursue this kind of work. It is obvious from the pictures themselves that the artist is skilled at the art of portraiture and drawing/painting techniques. And of course, I’d like to be able to demonstrate the same, but pursuing it doggedly can also become a self-limiting way to try and prove yourself.
Moving forward I want to try and shift my focus away from the demonstration of realism and emphasis on overly impressive fine skill, in an effort to try and create something I’m pleased with, and instead work the other way around. I will start at thinking about what excites me, what fires up my interest and then try and find different ways to capture this interest.
With this module it was the more informal drawings I loved doing most. Sketching people on the street, taking secret photos to work from, trying to hunt out interesting or intriguing scenarios… They weren’t always my most accurate drawings, but they were my most interesting. So I’d like to try and use this type of figure drawing as my base to work on. More sketches, live when I can, or using a combination of live and photography when I can’t or want to work in more detail, and then developing these drawings by working bigger, trying different media, perhaps using more colour.
With this in mind, it’s the following I will be carrying with me to inspire me as I start my last pieces of work:
I am increasingly fascinated with this guy’s work. A young protege of Gustav Klimt, he died tragically young along with his wife in the early part of the 20th century. Admittedly, some the drawings and paintings he produced are pretty disturbing. I don’t always love the way he portrays women in his pictures, and many of his work seems to reveal a dark, conflicted mind, with endless slightly tortured self portraits. But he was BRAVE. He seemed to want to challenge what was beautiful, breaking away from traditionalist ideas. For me the draw is particularly to the way he uses interesting, twisted poses. There is often the sense of the subject being ‘caught’ in the act of something rather than posed, and they have an energy, intimacy and immediacy about them. Most feature strong or snaking lines with selective use of colour which I really love.
Use of Colour
I’d like to have a go at experimenting with coloured pastels and oil pastels more and it’s works like these by contemporary artists that show me how colour can be used in figure drawing in ways that are exciting. I love how just simple sweeps and blocks of colour can still express so much grace and character.
Brush and Ink
It’s been suggested by tutor that I might want to try brush and ink as a media to explore, and I would love if I could find a way to use simple washes and splodges in the same was as Jordan Mejias, above. I thought I’d seen most of Georgia O’Keefe’s work, being an especial idol of mine, so I was quite delighted to come across this work of hers below showing a similar technique.
As well as washes like this, it would be good to try bold line drawings with a brush. Scary though – I always find ink so intimidating as it’s so permanent!
Lastly, I have been particularly inspired by drawings of the everyday. These charming illustrations by Kaatje Vermeire convey something of what I’d most like to be able to pin down – a moment, captured. I like the emphasis on specific details and objects as well as the people, the shoes, bag, umbrella, as well as the sense of movement and action – something I’d very much like to get better at.
Accept or Change
It is very, very easy in my life for me to feel powerless. I live a life within a set of limitations, as we all do. Mine just have a bit more of a tendency to literally take my feet out from under me than many.
But today I remembered, I always have choice, even if that choice is only between two things. I can choose to look at the right now and either accept whatever is going on, or do something to make a change.
Working out what I can’t, or don’t want to change and need to accept, and for which reason, takes a bit of brutal self-honesty. And acceptance isn’t the same as wallowing, acceptance requires a fair bit of looking on the bright side, or a least a vague stab at peaceful positivity.
And deciding, nope, I am not satisfied with right now and need to get off my arse and make something different happen, that takes a bit of courage, and, well, requires me to actually get off my arse.
Last night I accepted that I wasn’t going to get any sleep. I made tea, I was kept company (in literary form, of course) by a hundred-year old Swedish man. There was naff all I could do about the things my body was doing so I might as well be grateful I didn’t have Kai last night, keep warm, and try and ride it out.
By lunchtime when I was still no better and angrily boring the word WHY into everything in my immediate vicinity, I tried to accept that the doctors still don’t really know what’s wrong with me, and might not do for some time, and that there was naff all I could do about that either. This one is taking more work on the peaceful positivity side of things, but I’m getting there.
BUT. There are still many many things I CAN change. Loads and loads of them as I stopped to think about it, actually. Even if they were really tiny things. If sitting HERE was hurting and making me miserable, well, I could always go sit over THERE, couldn’t I. Or better still, go for a walk, or even better still stop thinking about myself for a god damn minute and go and do something nice for someone else.
Sometimes the only choice is, “am I going to continue to sit here doing nothing differently and feeling miserable about it? Or am I fooking well not”.
And if your feet have a tendency to taken out from under you, well, you can always stick ‘em in the air instead, can’t you.
It was a good thing to be reminded of today. So I’ve written it down here so I don’t forget.
(I will totally forget).
Found Treasure – A Bee and a Bottle
Yesterday we climbed a hill to hunt out a hidden geocache, which we found, leaving our names in the logbook with glee and swapping the little toy we had taken with us to leave me with the tiny, silver bee bead I found rattling around the bottom of the container along with a few other left-behind swapables.(NB. If you don’t know about geocaching or haven’t tried it, GO LOOK. It’s brilliant and I guarantee you’ll live close to dozens of caches you can go hunt for).
And on our meandering way back down, J spotted this, half-buried in the soil under some bracken, knowing my love of old, found rubbish which I always deem ‘treasure’, no matter how worthless, and the like of which I’m starting to fill my house with.
But, after getting it home and giving it a good clean and look over, followed by a bit of curiosity-led research, it turns out it might really be worth my label of treasure after all.
The bottle appears to be an old hip flask. Marked on the bottom is the word ‘Depose’ which is the word French glass manufactures put to mark glass as ‘registered’, along with the letters ‘GS’ and a logo of some sort, featuring a bird and a crest design. The glass is stained yellow in patches – showing it to Kai’s Dad today, he wondered whether this could be from a leather holder decomposing around it, and I think he might be right. The glass is heavy and thick, and the top is shaped to fit a cork or stopper, rather than any kind of screw lid, so my guess is it’s quite old.
We found it well off the path (we were looking for jaguars), half buried in the middle of undergrowth, less than a mile from, it turns out, the site of a First World War training camp. It’s a bit of stretch to imagine it could be linked, and as far as I know, French troops weren’t stationed there, but as the bottle, at a guess, likely dates from around that era, it’s impossible not to imagine…
… the image of a soldier, lying flat on the hill at night as part of a training exercise, cold and bored, with a nip of something for company…
Maybe? Maybe not. In either case, my mysterious bottle has delighted me. If anyone happens to have any knowledge of antique or vintage glassware, I’d love to know what you think J found!*
A good start to a year of treasure hunting, huh? I’m determined to collect all sorts of weird and wonderful things this year with their own hinted-at stories attached. I wonder what other found treasures will end up in my house by the end of the year?
*P.S. If it turns out this is a 1970′s mass-manufactured gin bottle with absolutely no story whatsoever, perhaps you can just smile smugly and keep schtum.
(I have hung the little bee inside, as a reminder of an all-round treasurey day).
We started our year braving brambles and ooze – scrambled climbs up steep hills to find treasure.
And right at the top, we found wind-swings and views – joy at seeing this year in together.
This year I… (in no particular order)
Began the year with dried tears and new resolve. Flew to Jersey alone as I turned 30 and knew peace. Trod in the footsteps of my Grandmother and whispered the names of those I loved out to the sea. Made a secret wish.
Accidentally found a tree fort and sat in it with a new friend. Hurt a heart and sobbed with the shame and guilt of it.
Felt true fear at being told I almost certainly had an eye and brain tumour, and true relief at being told I definitely hadn’t. Surprised myself with coping and knew I could handle anything. Continued to prove myself right by handling many, many things.
Fell in love for really real for the very first time and went “Oh!”
Discovered what true happiness felt like and learnt the secret that it was something I could hold but not keep. Realised that now I knew its feeling I could squeeze it out of tiny moments all around me and did that, a lot.
Reassessed every experience of my adult life. Felt regret.
Found laughter had moved all the way into the front of my mouth and now tumbled out twice as easily.
Said less. Liked what I said more.
Ate home-made crème brûlée at midnight with my eyes closed. Was wined and dined.
Finally let go of something that was never meant to be.
Looked at strong hands on a railing under blue skies and knew nothing would ever be the same again.
Took all my clothes off to take photos to draw from and laughed until I cried.
Was told secrets and kept them.
Ditched self-bullshit and excuses and felt amazed at the peace it brought, despite it hurting like f*ck.
Enjoyed motherhood more than I ever had before. Made our little house shake with laughter and swell with shared imaginings.
Crept into a quiet bedroom in the dark, just to touch a tiny tousled head and feel the pull of love and gratitude in my stomach. Felt the same muscles twist with fear and panic at childhood illnesses that warranted neither.
Learnt what it is to miss someone and thought my heart would break with it. Thanked the stars for new technology.
Found an alien on a beach and married the sea. Soaked up every second of the best holiday I’d ever had.
Wept at the joy of a hundred preschoolers running to the Chariots of Fire theme.
Felt churning hatred at living alone and the fear it brings me. Felt beautiful. Faced crises with hands on hips. Crumpled. Got back up again.
Listened to my son’s speech morph from incomprehensible to something he could share with the world. Delighted in a hundred thousand things he said and thought my head would explode if I heard one more “Mummy?”
Felt an old enemy creep back and bring with it new friends. Remembered pain and what ‘tired’ can really mean. Became my own drill sergeant.
Helped my boy into his first school uniform. Washed many many more of the same.
Got cold and wet and walked hundreds of miles. Wondered at all the things that people that drive must miss out on seeing.
Adjusted to a world that now span and lurched. Discovered what it’s like to faint in front of a crowd full of people.
Made space rockets and castles and dens and robots and dinosaurs and pictures. Made a bed into a boat and a fireplace into a pirate cave.
Did nothing that resulted in renown, success, or worldly achievement and tried to be okay with this.
Fell in love with a sloth and two snails and nearly stole a cat.
Poured attention over faces, watched people and realised how much I love humankind.
Vowed not to quit and didn’t. Realised the value in making mistakes. Cried with frustration.
Saw the last remaining trees near my house chopped down or fenced off. Mourned the destruction of our bug wall. Longed for pastures a little greener.
Wrote letters, tried to nurture friendships, gave gifts and wished for the energy to do this twice as much. Witnessed someone I love get famous.
Phoned my mum to say “help” and realised how little I have ever done this. Spoke to sharply to her and hated myself for it. Loved my family harder than ever.
Watched my Dad say promises with eyes full of real love. Gained three step sisters. Felt deep awe and pride at my brother and my best friend finding their paths.
Lay awake at night worrying about money and the future. Counted my blessings over and over, looked for the positive and wrapped myself up in silver linings and realised how much better life feels when you do this.
Noticed more things than ever before but struggled to record them. Wished I had.
Hid too much.
Wished I’d asked people how they were more and kicked myself for not doing so. Hugged strangers.
Remembered the smell of hospitals and the feel of waiting room seats. Was made dizzy by medical talk. Felt grateful seeing the really big stuff ruled out. Braced myself for a new year of tests and elusive answers.
Was given beautiful gifts and treated with more kindness than I still feel I deserve. Vowed to be more worthy of it. Knew I could be better.
Took more photos and wrote more words in my head than I could ever include here but still wished I had more of them to show you.
Looked forward with trepidation but a strong heart and felt good.
Happy New Year xx
Two Portraits – Figure Drawing Assignment
I cannot quite believe I’ve finally got here. Months later than planned, but my final assignment pieces for my Figure Drawing module are finished and sent off. It’s been a hell of a couple of weeks getting them done. I have been so determined to try and get this module finally submitted before Christmas, but trying to make that happen around bad days, endless trips back and forth to the hospital, and the Christmas mad rush of this time of year, has made for some gruelling days! I have never pushed so hard in all my life and I am, I have to admit, utterly, utterly exhausted.
Still they are done, and more importantly I loved loved loved working on them. I am so pleased I have the option to do some more figuring drawing for my final project work of this course ‘year’ (although y–e–a–r may be a better way of writing it given how long that ‘year’ has taken!) – I feel like it’s only really now that I’m really starting to get my teeth into all this. Proportions finally seem to be coming a bit more instinctively. I’m working faster and more confidently. The final project I will complete next is meant to demonstrate much more boldness of technique and experimentation and I feel like my work in this figure drawing module has really prepared me to a level where I’m ready for that. Fingers crossed for some energy and better health in the new year so I can really give it my all.
Right then, my assessment drawings.
Assessed Drawing 1: Line and Shape
For this first drawing I sat John in an upright position at the dining table. My study was to focus principally on line and shape – that is, expressing accurate proportions and finding ways to describe facial features and the ‘sit’ of clothes, using line only. This is tricky for me. I am more naturally drawn to tonal studies, I think. Line studies always feel a bit exposed. Errors in proportion and composition are easier to spot, and it’s hard to get the balance between energetic, expressive line, and over-worked pictures.
Quick preparatory sketches, again, didn’t focus on likeness or desperately accurate representations, but in exploring pose and identifying what might work, and what wouldn’t, in possible compositions, and as always were a useful exercise, very much helping to make the final piece better. The first (below left), I worked straight in pen. I liked the ‘gradient map’ type effect on the clothing and the bold, confident lines. The pose didn’t work for me though – once I had switched view, the tightness and pull of J’s body and gaze down towards the book, the balanced ‘up/down’ shape of arms and gathering of fabric, I got a much better feel for the composition of the piece.
With the second sketch shown, though (top right), worked in pencil, I fell into the trap of slightly overworking some of the detail. The temptation to add more lines to express the scrunch of J’s skin, and the folds of his shirt, didn’t enhance the picture. I realised that I really wanted to find a way to work this piece using clean, selective lines.
Moving to work on the finished drawing, this is what I focused my energy on. I tried to use bold, simple lines to show the anatomy and relative proportions of the pose. I tried to boil the expression of J’s face down to the bare minimum of lines, while still showing something of his character and concentration. Shorter, directional lines help to show hair growth and some facial lines, to prevent him looking too skeletal and flat.
The temptation to overwork the jumper was immense, but I tried to be as selective as I could, while still trying to show the fit and folds of the fabric. NOT EASY! I started out working very very faintly in fine mechanical pencil, committing to stronger lines with a thicker point. This was the scary bit as once that dark line was on, I wasn’t going to be able to erase it without it showing. Adding the lines of shadow, even without the tone, helped, I hope give some interest to the foreground and add to the slightly geometric feel of the piece.
On the whole, I’m pleased with this one. It has a style I like and I’m pleased with the accuracy of pose and proportion, and my selective, bold use of line. It looks like J, too, and carries something of him.
Assessed Drawing 2: Tone
For the second piece J was to be in a reclined pose, so we decided on the sofa so he could watch TV. The cream of the sofa contrasted well with the wall behind it and dark cushions, clothing and blankets, providing wider pictorial possibilities, and a strong light source from a lamp created good contrast in the fold of J’s jumper.
I sketched quickly in pencil to explore what pose might work best and how the light was falling. Quick, loose pencil marks made it easier to express the tonal qualities, but there was such a rich range of tone available to draw that I decided, in the end, to use charcoal and chalk for my final piece. Although sometimes having less energy about them, I love the way that the combination of charcoal and chalk gives you SUCH a wide range of tones to work with, from very dark, right up to white.
It was the fabrics of this piece that really stuck me as I was exploring initially. I loved the deep folds and tones of J’s jumper, his weight on the cushions. The blanket on the back of the sofa, once we experimented with pose a little more, gave another fabric to incorporate and some background interest, helping to pull the composition together as a whole picture.
I completely lost myself doing this one. I started out mapping the proportions as I had learnt, then gradually began to build the tonal values up. The light source was to the right of J, and slightly behind him, throwing highlights onto the rear of his jeans and left arm, onto some the higher fabric folds, and the very far side of his face, but left much of the rest of him in velvety shadow. The dark side of his right arm and shadow on the back cushion helped to depict the slight twist to him, and I loved working the folds and scoops of the jumper to show the way it twisted and pulled around him.
Getting the balance of tone was hard, the right amount of very dark, and mid tones, and light, and how to juxtapose them next to each other so you still got a sense of the difference, say, between J’s top and the cushions underneath him, or between his trousers and the blanket. It meant that I had to alter the tonal values slightly, sometimes, than were true of real life. The blanket needed to be slightly lighter than was true otherwise would have overpowered the composition. The negative space of the sofa and adding a darker wall helped to balance the tones too and pull together the picture together as whole.
For J’s face, I tried not to overdo the tone. I didn’t want a heavily toned face to get lost in the picture, so kept it slightly softer than the fabric so it would stand out in contrast. Careful shading helped to still give a sense of the skin’s fit over the skull, though, I hope, and the fine work of the hair gave the face some texture. I do love that it properly looks like him
It was a big job, this, and I poured my heart and soul into it. I love the drama of the tonal contrasts and am particularly pleased with J’s jeans and arms on this one. It made a good contrast to some of the other portraits I’d done which had stronger tonal lines on the face and less detail on the clothes, although I have to admit, I think I do enjoy working stronger features and if anything bugged me about this finished piece, it was the slight lack of energy in the face. Most importantly, though, I think both pieces really successfully demonstrate how much I have learnt and developed during this module, and it’s a big boost to my confidence to feel I have come so far, even if it has taken longer than planned.
Thanks so much for reading. Fingers crossed for some positive feedback from my tutor.