Goodness me, drawing self portraits is a weird experience. Like most people when it comes to thinking about their appearance, I can’t say I am particularly enamoured with my own face, so scrutinising it from different directions in a mirror to try and draw wasn’t always particularly comfortable for me. But once I switched off thinking it was me, and started viewing it as just another face to draw, just another arrangement of features and shapes to try and get in the right place, I started to relax into it and quite enjoy it.
I used a combination of a mirror and my iPad. This turned out to be a useful thing for self portraits – you can turn the camera on and use it like a second mirror in order to see awkward angles, or if it’s a really tricky head position that you just can’t hold in your memory long enough to look down and draw, you can take a quick photo to work from.
As I’ve started doing when it comes to these exercises, I started making REALLY quick sketches. I try not to spend more than a few minutes on each one, and although it doesn’t make for the best drawings to start with, with accuracy not always that great and it certainly not showing off my best work, working this way helps me ‘warm up’. It helps me to start to observe problem areas, and to start to practise shapes and lines, without worrying about tone too much. It makes me really LOOK and notice what I’m drawing, so as I start to move into more careful drawings, I work more confidently and produce better work. None of them looked like me, but that was okay. I am getting so much better at understanding the process in all this – first you experiment, make mistakes, then you learn from them to produce your better work.
After the warm up sketches I spent a little longer on a couple more, trying to get a bit more detailed. I was getting there with the likeness, starting to learn more about my own face. I have a long face, quite pointed, with high cheek bones. In profile my nose is long but it isn’t sharp so from front views my nose is rounded and soft. My eyes are quite large and ‘open’ and my mouth is very full. My neck is quite long and with my short hair tends to look very straight and pronounced. I started having a go at introducing tone, (incidentally, massively overdoing the shadows around my eyes in the picture below – I look like I’ve walked into a door frame!)
What was funny is that I ended up drawing myself looking so miserable! The thing is, when you’re drawing yourself ‘live’, your face is in a relaxed, expressionless state as you concentrate on what you’re doing. Maintaining a smile or expression would have been really hard work. Working this way doesn’t really show off what I really look like though, doesn’t show much of my character. I end up looking tired and serious, although to be honest, when I was working on these I was extremely tired, but doesn’t really show what my face is usually like – face slightly twisted in a lop-sided grin and eyes smiling. So I didn’t love the pictures I was producing for that reason. If I was to do more self portraits I’d want to try and fix this – capture something of ME rather than just get my proportions right.
Anyway. Practise done I decided to do two self portraits - one in pencil and one in charcoal, each allowing me to express the tones and shadows or my face in different ways. Pencil was well suited for a drawing with heavy shadow, while charcoal allowed softer blending of skin tone in the second. I used my practise sketches for reference and a couple of photographs – I’m beginning to find it easier to ‘composite’ a drawing, using different elements from other images to form a new one. Satisfyingly both have good likeness and I was really pleased with the way I managed to capture some of my features, my mouth especially.
Thanks for reading! I am finally nearly finished with this unit – one assignment piece finished and only one more to go. Hurray!