Project: Self Portrait – Check and Log


Check & Log

  • Which drawing materials produced the best results? Why?

Over the course of this project I used varying grades of pencil (4B, 6B and 8B), liner pen, watersoluble pencil, soft and hard pastels and coloured pencils.  The majority of drawings were made in my A4 sketchbook which has NOT water colour paper pages and the colour self portrait was drawn on sanded pastel paper in a neutral green shade.  All worked reasonably well.  The liner pen seems to encourage me to be loose and expressive with my marks, yet still allows me to see what I’ve done.  The graphite pencils, as long as I keep them sharp, are good for more delicate shading and tone in smaller studies eg the Neck Shapes, although I do find them hard work for anything over A4.  My favourite, and therefore the best for me, was the combination of pastel and coloured pencil as in the self portrait – this was also helped by the neutral green tint of the pastel paper.  The pastels were great to block in tones, shapes and intial colours to establish the bulk of the head and neck.  Once the bare bones of the drawing were established it was nice to use the coloured pencils for more accurate drawing, although, once I realised which alterations were needed, I also used them for vigorous hatching and blocking in.  The main problem with doing this was that the pastel paper had a strong, abrasive tooth and wore the pencils down very quickly.

  • Does your self portrait look like you? Show it to a couple of friends or family members and note down their comments.

I think in general it does look like me.  As detailed in the exercise notes, it was fascinating to me how it evolved through a couple of family likenesses before it got to me.  I could definitely see my mother in it at one stage, which is very interesting as our features are quite different.  She used to say she had a “Bob Hope” nose, which although an exaggeration, I could see what she meant (realise this reference may have to be Googled by younger readers!).  I have to say I think the nose I drew is too small.

The Bob Hope nose

Disconcertingly, the next resemblance was my middle brother, we have a strong likeness to each other but I needed to bring in more feminine features.  As to what friends and family think, I bravely posted it on my Facebook page for critique!  In general, the comments were “I only remember a much more smiley Gina”, “looks like an older version of you”, “you’re definitely much more smiley than that”, “…looks even better than yesterday, was worth the re-work”, “eyes are spot on”, “an older version of you”, “…but you’re much more smiley”.  Very interesting I thought, I also noted the caption beneath the example in the course notes: “Boccioni’s frown of concentration is a frequent characteristic of self portraits!”  My conclusions are that: when attempting a portrait, self or otherwise, the sitter will relax into an expression and with the best will in the world can not hold a smile for the duration; a portrait is more than a moment in time, as may be said about a photograph, it is about a living, breathing person that should capture the essence of that person, the viewer should probably feel a connection or some sort of emotional pull that makes you feel you know something about them or have at least met them.  If I take my conclusions, then I probably failed on these aspects because people had specific recollections involving a lot of smiling (apparently), they thought I’d made myself look older, however, I think I got that part right, but I am quite animated when I talk so they don’t often see a “freeze-frame” serious me.  Well enough about me, let’s move on…

  • Did you find it easy to convert your sketches into a portrait?

No definitely not!  My portrait from memory was of my neighbour, and whereas a couple of my sketches do actually have a good likeness – or at least how I remember her, I could not replicate that likeness, try as I might!  I did put it down to the fact that Linda did not want her glasses on when I was sketching, yet that was how I’d always seen her and how I remembered her.  However, going back to the previous point, I think it was more than that, I needed to see her in front of me for the drawing to “be” her.

Court Artist Elizabeth Cook

Court Artist Elizabeth Cook

I have renewed admiration for court artists, such as Elizabeth Cook, who can capture not only a likeness but also the emotions and expressions of the players in a court of law.  They have to remember all these things and have their drawings displayed to the world as a realistic record of events denied to TV cameras and photographers.  See link:


  •  Were your preliminary drawings adequate?

At the time I thought so.  After leaving it a couple of weeks before re-visiting the drawing, I was still confident until pencil hit paper.  I should have concentrated more on the solid head shape, BOTH eyes and more tonal structure.










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