28/08/14 & 16&19/09/14
Portrait from Memory
For this exercise you will use your imagination and the skills you have learned to draw someone you have seen momentarily or draw a self-portrait from memory. In this situation you will only have time to make brief sketches and some written observational notes.
I asked a neighbour if she would come round and let me draw her while we chatted over a cup of tea. She was aware that I wasn’t trying to create a portrait there and then but gathering information to try to produce one at a later date.
Linda is one of my neighbours, I see her fairly often when walking my dog and we occasionally meet up for tea and a chat and the odd neighbourhood party. My impression of Linda is a positive, smiley person with a hint of mischievousness.
The sketches left are not overly representative and seem generalised apart from the profile, which is definitely her.
High arch to the eye brows; Small round, smiley eyes; Appley cheeks; Green/hazel eyes; Upright stance – good posture; Slim mouth but bow-shaped.
The sketches (right) are fairly true, although Linda said when she looks in the mirror, she thinks the eyes drawn in pencil (on the right) are more like hers.
I hope she won’t mind me saying but I know she had her 60th birthday a couple of years ago but her outlook is very youthful. She’s had some major losses fairly recently but keeps her positivity and pushes herself to try new things.
We spent about an hour together that afternoon, knowing that I was going on holiday at the end of the week and wouldn’t be able to complete my portrait attempt until I got back, I felt that would be a good test of my sketches and notes.
When I came to revisit this exercise, I referred back to my notes and was quietly confident I could make a reasonable job. Typically, although the front facing or 3/4 view sketches were life-like, they were only partial renderings. The complete profile sketch, was definitely as I see Linda. However, I thought that would make it too easy on myself just to reproduce the profile.
This first attempt was very frustrating – the eyes are odd ie they don’t go together. Having not looked at this for a few days, I think the eye brows are right, and the mouth is not too bad. The face seems too large and there is no spark of Linda at all.
I decided to try once more.
Second attempt in retrospect is just as far off but for different reasons.
The shape of the lower face is better, but I think the mouth in the first drawing is more like her.
The nose this time is better positioned and less bulbous which is a bonus – surprisingly, I referred more to the profile sketch for this drawing as it made me think of the face as a whole and as three-dimensional. The area of frustration was the eyes and it suddenly struck me that I always see Linda wearing glasses, however, she didn’t want to be drawn wearing them. I mildly protested but was grateful for her sparing the time, so that’s why I sketched her eyes a couple of times. I think this maybe the reason why I struggled because when I recall her, she is definitely wearing glasses. I tried a pair on the drawing and, although it is better, it’s still not right.
This exercise brought home that a portrait is not just about features being right but about the whole image, and the personality needs to come through too. It was almost as if my approach was too clinical and would only ever come up with a poor facsimile of the person.