Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Jordy - Drawing Eyes

As a teenager, I remember being told that the vocations of motherhood and serious artist are pretty much mutually exclusive. But, being passionate about my art and, also, of an equally passionate maternal disposition, this notion didn't sit well with me. However, after twenty years of motherhood, I have to admit that there is some truth to this, after all. With a nearly two-year-old to nurture and seven other children still at home, my drawings have to fit around the needs of the family, and progress can sometimes be positively snail-paced. This has meant that I have been unable to take advantage of the opportunities that have been presented to me, as an artist, and, being unwilling to abandon my passion completely, I plod along with slow, but sure and steady, progress, satisfying my own deep creative desires and attempting to combine my love for my family and my love for art in such a way as to neglect neither, but to tend to both, in the most happy realisation of their individual potentials.

This may be the reason why I am enjoying this portrait of my youngest son so much. I love bringing his little face to life on paper and I, also, have the luxury on working on a project, out of pure love for both my subject and my art. There is no pressure to meet any outside expectations and I can proceed at a pace which suits the needs of all my little ones.

Having said that, it should come as no surprise to find that I am still at a very early stage in this picture.

I have started with the eyes, which is something I am doing more and more rarely. It makes sense to lay down the initial washes for the skin first because the eyes can only be taken to a certain point before the skin of the eyelids, etc, must be incorporated into the surrounding areas. I, also, don't like to put undue emphasis on any one feature or part of the face, as I find that the whole must be taken together to avoid an imbalance and to keep the relationship between the different parts in harmony. However, I was itching to start on these sweet eyes so I began with the eyeballs, and, then, applied the washes when it became time to work on the skin around the eyes.

At this stage, the eyeballs still need defining shadows and some tweaking, but the colour of the irises has been laid down. The irises are exciting to render. A combination of scribbles, hazy blending, sharp highlights and soft, dewy tones will result in an element of realism. It is important to recognise the shadow which the upper eyelid and the eyelashes impose upon the eyeball, as to omit this simple stage will destroy all realism.

Also, note that the white of the eye is never just white. It may look grey, pale blue, beige or a combination of several colours. It may, also, reflect the colour of the skin and appear pinkish. When applying colour to the whites of the eye, it is necessary to be aware of the roundness of the eyeball and to shadow the contours accordingly.

Take note, too, of the inner and outers corners of the eye. The inner corner often has a moist highlight and is usually a darker pink than the surrounding skin. The outer corner is often shadowed by the brown of the eyelashes, before turning to the pink colour of the lower lid. Where the upper lid shadows the eyeball, the lower lid usually reflects the light that falls upon it from above. At the point where the iris meets the lower lid, there is often a mergence of reflected colour.

Because the centre of the eye is closer to the viewer, due to the contours of its form, it is often shadowed less than the corners, so I use a lighter touch here. The corners of the eye, by contrast, are more shadowed, so I use darker tones and, often, a heavier pressure.

Here the basic form of the eyeballs as been applied.
I have begun, now, to lay down the greys, blues and violets of the irises.
The pupils have been rendered, using pure black and a heavy pressure. More grey and a little black has been applied to the irises. The eyelids have been marked with a pink pencil and the whites of the eyes have been rendered using pale blue, violet and peach.

The deepest tones need to be intensified and highlights will be lifted, using a putty rubber and Blutak. The rendering of the shadows will add much to the realism and the careful rendering of the eyelids and eyebrows will be invaluable to the successful depiction of the character of the subject.

I am at an exciting stage. Next time, I hope to show you more of this little guy's personality, as I work on the defining features of his impish face. In the meantime, it's back to my labour of love!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A New Project

This is Jordan. I've drawn him, before on this blog - as a newborn and, also, as an 11 month old baby. In this photo, he is about 20 months old and he's grown into a very active toddler.

This time, the quality of the photo isn't too bad. I can see quite a lot of detail and I have the great advantage of having my subject close at hand, in real life. I know his little face like the back of my hand. In fact, this is how I can tell that the mouth isn't quite right.

A photo shouldn't lie but, in reality, it often does. Jordan was pursing his lips in an uncharacteristic expression, in this shot. The result is that his mouth looks smaller than it really is. So, I had to make a decision - was the photo worth using? Especially, as my subject was readily available to sit for another photo? If I hadn't been so familiar with his face, I would have said 'no.' But, as it is, I'm quite confident that I can improve the likeness with my real life observations - and I like the photo, so I'll go ahead.

The other reason for persevering with this picture is that good photos of toddlers are hard to come by. Little people rarely stay still, for a moment - and, this particular toddler is especially active. I have a great many photos of the back, top and sides of his head. We, even, have photos of him sleeping and, by contrast, snapshots of him blurring, in rapid motion, through the picture frame. But, a photo of him looking candidly at the camera is like gold dust.

Why I would want him looking at the camera is a further point of interest. Normally, I don't like my subjects to be staring at the camera, in what I see as an unnatural pose. I prefer them to be engaged in a characteristic activity or contemplation. This time, however, I was interested in a study of the eye - partly, as a step-by-step tutorial and, partly, because the big, wide eyes of infants are delightful to observe and equally delightful to depict in coloured pencil.

I'm really looking forward to doing this portrait of one of my little guys!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Concept Art

This is a picture by Carrie, which she drew on her iPad.

Unlike Megan and myself, Carrie has used colour from the start, and she has drawn from her imagination. This has allowed her to use bold, confident strokes and to develop her own style, without being unduly inhibited by imaginary or perceived standards.

Interestingly, though, Carrie is now turning to realism and is experimenting with graphite pencils. I encourage her in that, as basic drawing skills are very useful, regardless of style. Having developed her technique in reverse order to my own, won't disadvantage her learning, as I can see that, even in her experiments with realism, Carrie retains her individual style, which is almost ethereal, at times.

It is interesting to compare and contrast Carrie's style to her personality. Like the characters she portrays, Carrie is a strong and independent girl, but I have to say she doesn't possess the attitude that some of her pictures might imply.

Here is some of her recent work.

This is a concept picture, drawn as an assignment for Carrie's course in film production.

This picture shows Carrie's interest in animation. Carrie loves Disney and Pixar movies, and hopes to work as an animator, one day.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Portrait of the Artist

I couldn't resist sharing this portrait with you all.

It's not one of mine - it's actually a portrait of me, drawn by my daughter, Megan. And, of course, I'm a proud mother!

I have to say that I have had no direct influence on Megan's ability as an artist. Other than provide her with examples of my own work to study, I had little to do with her progress and, certainly, offered her nothing in the way of formal instruction. So, at first, it was a bit of a surprise to see her following my interests and, in some ways, mirroring my own style.

Here is another portrait that she drew of her youngest brother, Jordan. I love this one!
My second daughter, Carrie, has also taken up art, as a hobby. Unlike Megan and myself, she prefers computer art and specialises in stylised characters, drawn on her iPad - something that I find very hard to do. I'll post some of her work, soon.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Nun is Done

More or less finished - and looking a bit grainy in the photo. Only a couple of little touch-ups to go.
Here is the original photo to compare.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Style of One's Own

At certain stages of my learning, I have been tempted by the challenge of photo-realism. It would seem that my pride and vanity would be justly rewarded by the ability to produce a 'wow' factor in the minutely accurate imitation of observable reality. However, while I gain great satisfaction in producing representations of the real beauty I see around me, I find little satisfaction in spending countless hours reproducing an image which a camera could snap in a second. For me, art is more than a visual record of a material reality. It is, in addition to this, the interpretation of a subject, the revealing of a character, the defining of beauty and so much more besides.

It is, also, for me, the ultimate form of self-expression. I'm not implying that artists who specialise in photo-realism are lacking in these qualities or are, in any sense, artistically inferior. Or, even, that photographers are not creative or artistic, in their own right. Rather, I am saying that my own creative impulses have found their fulfilment in the development of a style which is fundamentally expressionist and, at times, impressionist, but never solely realistic, in its purpose.

Developing a style which is unique and personal can take time and, in my opinion, should not be forced or consciously directed. Creative freedom usually results in works of sincerity and individuality, if one has the courage to trust in the source of creativity and the integrity to develop an effective technique and personal artistic philosophy.

My own portfolio contains a number of works of differing styles. Some of these have been experimental - adventures in technique which have acted as learning curves for subsequent progression. Others are examples of styles which have provided a lasting means of self-expression and creative fulfilment. The picture above is one such example. It is a simple impression of a character which has been executed quite rapidly compared to my usual, more realistic style of portraiture. I enjoy creating impressions of real images, producing an effect which comes to life as one steps back further from the image and expressing my delight in colour, light, form and character - and the materials themselves - with boldness, fluidity, delicacy, drama, subtlety and any number of other emotions which can be realised by the simple action of pencil on paper.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Religious Sister - Blending

The dark clothing is taking a long time to cover. I don't want to rush this stage as there has been so much work put into the face that it would be a shame to spoil it with a poor background. Also, the habit is an important part of the nun's character. It says a lot about who she is and it substitutes for hair in providing a frame for the face. I have decided, however, to keep the folds simple. There is little movement in the posture of the figure and I don't want to make any folds look contrived by inventing what isn't really there.

The first layers were built up very gradually with light and swirly strokes. See the video below.
Then, I used a Derwent blending pencil to deepen the tones. At this stage, I am halfway through the blending process. The photo below shows the portrait before blending. You can see that the colours are very much more subtle. The blending gives a more painterly feel to the fabric.