12 June 2013

Another self portrait

I did this one from a photograph I took of myself with my smartphone. The angle was a little weird (see previous about smartphone), but it's definitely easier to work from a photo than from the mirror. I took Charles Reid's suggestion from his book The Natural Way to Paint (in which he delivers a contour drawing lesson) and started with the eyeballs this time, working my way outward, instead of starting with, say, the top of the head. I think it helps with face proportions, since it makes it pretty easy to get the distance between the eyes and use them as anchors from which to measure other points. The nose is too short, the mouth is too low and rather oddly shaped, but it's a closer likeness. I still think I like the first wonky one in the mirror better, though! I didn't really have the time to paint it, so I just laid in a background and a few shadows and let it go at that. This definitely takes practice!

09 June 2013

In the mirror: blind contour

At my library this summer, we are running a Self Portrait Contest for the teens. They can submit a photograph, a drawing, a painting, or a collage. After one too many comments that "I don't know what to do" or "I would like to do this but I can't draw," we decided to run a little workshop to get the uncertain or undecided people started, and I've been madly preparing to teach it. I have created a short powerpoint about self portraits, and then I am going to give a small tutorial on contour line drawing, and Anarda (my teen librarian colleague) is going to talk about various ways to do collage.

We asked them all to bring a freestanding or hand mirror with them, plus some reference photos of themselves, so I decided today to do a couple of examples of contour line drawing in the mirror. I thought it was an excellent idea to teach them contour drawing while they are just starting out--I know it would have made all the difference to me had someone given me instruction in this as a teen. Instead, I learned the traditional method of making a bunch of geometric shapes and lines and trying to fit my drawing into them, with the result that for years I sought to make a perfect drawing without really looking at my subject! Contour has really opened things up for me, and while I am by no means expert at it, the liveliness of the line and the quirkiness of the results appeal to me, even though they aren't "perfect."

So, first I did a completely blind contour in the mirror:

which is to say, I drew this without looking at the paper, and without lifting my pen. Well, I might have lifted it once or twice, but no more. Strangely, although the eyes are cockeyed, the nose misshapen, and the mouth kinda weird, it does look like me!

Then I did a continuous line contour and allowed myself to look down a few times, with more or less the same results--the mirror looks better, but me? not so much...still wonky-eyed.

Next, I decided to show them what you could do with contour when you DID allow yourself to lift the pen occasionally, and you DID look at the paper, while working from a photograph. I didn't have a photograph of myself to work from, so I pulled this off the computer--he's a German model, and he looks just like a character in a book I recently read, so I saved him for a fan fiction painting I want to make; this being good practice for that. I decided to try sepia instead of black, and then use watercolor to define just the shadows. I was pretty pleased with the result, except that I had a weird jog out too far on one cheek at the jawline. This took me about 30 minutes, and I wanted to illustrate what you could do fairly quickly with just a contour drawing and one color. I'm not sure I would do so much delineating of shadow patterns with the pen next time, as it creates too much of an outline effect, but...this is an experiment!

I can't wait to see all the self portraits that the teens turn in this summer. I will be posting them on our teen blog, so when some are up, I'll link it from here if anyone wants to see them.