A Self Portrait
Draw the overall egg shape of the head and divide the facial plane into sections as described before. Now start to build in the overall shape of the features on the facial plane. Keep it simple – don’t get caught up in small details. Don’t worry about a likeness at this stage… Consider the hair as another shape… basic shapes and angles influenced by the bone and muscle structures beneath the skin… Use tonal gradation to indicate the three-dimensionality of the face… Take a break, change position and drawing medium and do another portrait.
A Self Portrait – One
Using a mirror and the guidance given ie drawing the face shape, dividing the face as per classic proportions, building from a line drawing, introducing tone.
I really don’t know who this is – definitely not me. However, am pleased with the tone and solidity of the face. I did enjoy drawing it as I don’t think I’ve done a lot of pencil portraits before. I attend a portrait class and have used, pastel, oils and watercolour but not such a complete image in pencil.
Next day ( 14/08/14), I held this up to a mirror next to my face and think the main problem is the eyes, plus I have shortened the top of the head quiet a lot – if I cover this it look a little more successful. So the actual structure of the head appears crucial to helping achieve a likeness.
A Self Portrait – Two (Preparatory Sketches and Notes)
I made a lot of notes in my sketchbook but they may not be legible in the photo so will transcribe them here.
Sketch 1 – Experiment: Tried drawing my left eye first – I’ve noticed some portrait artists start with an eye then work the rest of the face around that. I usually start with shapes and planes of the head so thought it interesting to try something different. The first eye (left) although quite accurate in itself became far too small in comparison to the second. I worked down the left of the features first then back up from the mouth and across to the right side.
Observations: This was interesting as the face is not often, if ever, absolutely symmetrical and working the features like this actually makes it more of a likeness as it’s taking one side at a time (not withstanding the different eye sizes), and working round the inside of the face.
Sketch 2: Concentrated on face shape and planes of the face first – marked out placing of brows, nose and mouth and the centre line. Used the ears as landmarks.
Observations: Less of a likeness, features became too big in relation to the face shape and size. Eyes were totally the incorrect shape. What went wrong?
Instructions to self:
1. Define face shape and planes
2. Mark placing of features
3. Use ears as landmarks
4. Work down from left eye to nose, mouth, chin and then back up to the right eye.
Results:- I think this approach has helped with the likeness. Features are more in proportion, not only to each other but to the face shape. I’ve noticed I tend to make the irises of the eyes too large which results in the likeness being lost from them in particular. Taking each side of the face on its own merit has removed the false symmetry that I think in hind sight, stopped the likeness coming through on the first self-portrait. I think this method is particularly helpful in a self portrait as we may not know our own faces as well as we think, or conversely, we know them too well to be objective.
A Self Portrait – Two
The previous preliminary sketches were useful and I was going to attempt a colour version, however, I decided to change to a three-quarter view rather than another face on.
25x32cm fine pastel sand paper in a neutral green mid tone.
Soft pastels, hard pastels and pastel pencils for underpainting.
I set up 2 mirrors to get an angle I don’t usually see of my own face with a light illuminating one side. Also, have windows in front and to my left side.
Blocked in with mid tone pastel to attain rough shape and planes of face and head. Added planes of nose and chin, hair-line, neck and shoulders. Continued with pastel until more accurate drawing required use of pastel pencils in first instance. Built on foundations with coloured pencils for the features. In retrospect, it would have been interesting to take photographs along the way.
Results 1: Checked result by standing back and could see something was not right – initially thought it was the nose and mouth but in reality it was the chin. Interestingly, I could see my mother in the drawing.
Results 2: Adjusted the chin and was about to call it complete, but from a distance the tones needed work.
Results 3: Refined the chin and tones – stood the drawing up and could see where more work was needed – by the time adjustments had been made, I could see my brother in the drawing! This wasn’t a complete disaster, however, although the family resemblance was there – it still wasn’t me. I think I had drawn my brother in drag! So, I set about feminising the drawing – refining features, emphasising eye lashes etc. Again I was going to call it a day but, it still wasn’t me. The nose was quite different.
Results 4: Worked on the nose specifically, really observing the shapes, nostrils and nuances that was MY nose – which I have to say, is a very specific and difficult shape! Finally, pleased with that, I stood back and the mouth and chin were wrong. I scrubbed through these and gave up for the night.
Next day:- Sat down again in front of the mirrors and worked on the mouth and chin. Try as I might, I could not get it. I realised that the reason the chin was wrong was because I had changed my position. It had become more profile that 3/4 view. Rectifying this made a huge difference. I could reshape the chin with tone rather than line as the side of my face further away from me (?) helped define the shape. So I was then left with the mouth problem – I was sure I’d noticed and drawn all the subtleties in the mouth but still wasn’t right. I hatched right across it with a paler colour and it became obvious when the problem was – it was too defined. I decided to use the pencils in a more painterly manner rather than drawing definite lines – the main tone was where the upper and lower lips met, so I purposely left that as the focus and muted the outer shape – this worked so much better. I can now see myself – even though the nose still isn’t quite right. I decided to quit while I was ahead.