For the next set of exercises in my figure drawing module, I was to draw a portrait from memory – my boy Kai’s face.
You would think when it comes to a face you spend hours looking at every day, this would be easy . This exercise proved surprising in how untrue that was. It also made me realise how little we REALLY look at the faces of those around us every day, and it was a re-discovered joy to really study my son’s face. I remember gazing at him like this when he was a new baby, and it was wonderful to trace his bigger boy lines and shapes with my eyes, observing the way his eyes turn down slightly, studying his round face with pointed chin, his short, round nose, trying to memorise the curve of his thin lips and the freckle sat upon his top lip.
The numpty I am, I posted off my sketchbook to my tutor this morning without photographing the preliminary sketches that I did to warm up to this exercise, but I first tried quick sketches of Kai as he was playing, trying to practice and capture something of the shape of his face and the proportion and arrangement of his features. Even with him right in front of me, none of them seemed to come out looking much like him! I was struggling to get Kai to sit still long enough to get many decent sketches done, with the added problem of him interrupting me every other minute, so I looked at photos too, trying to memorise the lines and patterns of his face. A beautiful hobby , one I’ve started to do with John’s face after numerous drawings too.
Even if you’re not an artist I can recommend this as a pastime – it doesn’t even have to be someone you’re very close to, if you can get away with covert looking. Learning to really look at the faces of people around you is, I think, a wonderful way to appreciate new kinds of beauty. It becomes very difficult to see someone as ugly once you’ve really studied the unique play of line and expression, and hinted-at biology and family resemblance on someone’s face. It’s like having a hundred thousand walking little picture shows to watch and delight in.
Once it was time to put all reference aside and work completely from memory, I tried to work as fast and instinctively as I could, concentrating on face shape and the main features of eyes, mouth and nose. My attempts certainly don’t look exactly like him, but they DO capture something of him, I think. What’s interesting is that some of the drawings seem to depict an older Kai, capturing the proportions but not so much of the softness and still slightly baby-featured immaturity of my four year old’s face. It felt like I’d inadvertently been given a pencil time machine, and I will love looking back at these pictures in a few years to see how accurate my accidental ‘predictions’ were!
Wellies on, folks. Fetch clipboards and pens. Pack a bag with chocolate buttons to bribe them with half way round when they lose interest. Plan a route and make up your list of things you’re likely to see in your little space of the world (it’s a good feeling to get home with all the boxes ticked) and have a big pile of cake or the equivalent waiting back home to reward your grubby, small adventurers with.
Kai knows our neighbourhood pretty well so drew us a map of where he thought we should go. Getting him to draw his own version of our ‘treasure list’ helped to give him a mental map of the things we were looking for so he stood a better chance of remembering them on our way round (it also killed some time while I had a shower. Ha.)
We decided on a BONUS sheet too – good to add to if you reach a bit of the walk where you treasure items are a little unforthcoming. Ours was leaves of different colours, with spaces to stick down leaves of each colour as we spotted them (pack sellotape).
Next time I want to do a sounds list. Get them to listen for bird song, dogs barking, a car horn, the wind whooshing, wet branches dripping. I’d have liked to have had a list of a few more wildcards too – writing down the most interesting thing we saw that had been thrown away, writing down an unexpected sound we heard, or a word we saw written down. (*steers Kai past our urban graffitti*).
It was a beautiful morning for us. I hope you have as much fun as we did.
One hour, and one VERY illusive bug later (turns out bugs do NOT like damp November days) … RESULT.
Happy treasure hunting.
(NB. Not Hitler’s dog. FOUR DOGS. Four ticks. Yikes)
If you’ve been following me on Twitter you’ll know that the last couple of weekends I’ve been transforming Kai’s bedroom into a pirate den for his 4th birthday. My sweet boy has been such a star this year. I know I talk about him endlessly, but there’s a reason for it. He’s had to battle through his speech disorder, absolutely shining in his preschool class regardless, and cope with a mum who’s not been that well at all. I’ve watched him learn to write his name, ride a scooter like a pro, do forward rolls, jump almost as high as the moon, and make his first best friends. Every single day he’s made me smile with his extraordinary HIM. His thoughts and questions and stories and imaginative play absolutely fill up my world. He is my companion through my wakings and sleepings and all the bits in between, my strength and my hope and my endless bewildering and exhausting and delightful joy.
So I thought he deserved something a bit special.
Happy Birthday funny fella.
Pirate boat den! The middle section of fabric pulls down to cover the whole bed.
The black cave entrance is blackboard paint for drawing on spooky eyes, spiders and pirates. Arrr.
Pirate dressing-up station.
His beloved castle has a new play base with moat. And a new shark to patrol it. You’d never guess I made that curtain too short and had to improvise, would you? Ahem.
Bunting very kindly made by @100707
Many thanks to my mum and step-mum for helping with the wallpapering and the fiddly bits of DIY. And all you lot for putting up with the endless pirate tweets. Thanks so much for all your birthday wishes this morning, you lovely people xx
(the required pose for this photo cost me two jellybabies)