I've finished the portrait part of the drawing of "Eden"... the important thing about babies, is the eyes, and mouth... well it's all important, but on the whole, if you get these areas right, the rest feels a little easier. The important thing about eyes (any eyes, not just babies) is to ensure there is a lot of life in them... reflections refractions light and shadow - they all play a part in making the eye look shiny, dimensional and expressive. The part of any portrait I enjoy the most, is the hair - babies have lovely soft, light hair, and it really helps to remember how the baby looked at that stage of their development...
Finally, I've taken the time to put a new (albeit temporary) banner on my website. I've procrastinated on this; I felt I could justify the feeling by my not knowing how far to go in 'representing myself' as an artist. Even as an artist (or especially???) you're pigeon holed into one area. By saying I fly under a multidisciplinary banner, keeps people asking questions... usually about how do I make money from my art??? And, of course, "but is 3d art?" and "... isn't 2d dead and buried" etc. And don't forget "... jack of all trades, master of none..." no right or wrong answer of course, just an idea that one can live for, and enjoy all forms of art.
The point is that I am passionate about all art forms, therefore I'll work at all and try professionally any form that is a. viable and b. satisfying. Some would call it more conceptual art I guess - learning an artform to represent an idea or to render a concept I have knocking about in my head.
Ultimately, if I spend the time thinking about who I am as an artist, I'll be able to put something of substance in the banner - for now it simply represents my drawing, illustration, 3d sculpting and 3d environmental works. It's a start....
And so, back to children and baby portraiture... this is always quite an intimidating area for me - people LOVE their chldren - no matter what, you've got to make their children look like THEIR children. Everything matters from, whether you've met the child before, to the quality of photograph, if you're working from a photo, to the paper you use, the medium you employ etc.
Photographs - I prefer to work from a photo that I take, but I'm not adverse to the parent/person having a particularly good photo that they'd prefer me to work from. Working from life is fantastic, but with children, it's incredibly unlikely you'll get the same expression, movement etc. more than once, that's what makes them so interesting.
Paper - unlike the animal work or other more experimental work I do, babies/childrens' portraits work best on a smoother, off white, heavy paper. Too much texture loses the focus, being the child. The disadvantage here of course, is that less erasing, longer times on detail and a greater accuracy need to be employed earlier on in the work.
There's a great book by Harold Speed -The Practice and Science of Drawing... I highly recommend this book for the drawing of portraits (especially children).
Pencils and grids - I use lighter pencils, and start very softly with this type of portrait. I often use a transparency with 4 grid system on it for mapping out the features, in a very light, soft pencil. I have tried the 'transfer' technique, but find the grid technique better for this sort of portrait.
Start with the eyes - Mapping out the distances between major features, starting with the eyes, works for me. My theory is, if I get the eyes right, the rest will follow. Often times, I will work from the mouth upwards, but generally for portraits, it's the eyes that determine whether the piece is working or not. With my animals, I vary it - with deers, dogs etc., I'll start with the eyes, but found one or two (the chimpanzee for example), starting with the mouth worked well.
Mirror, Mirror - ALWAYS look at your work as you go, upside down and even in a mirror. If you've made a slight odd shape or direction of the pupil, you'll surely pick it up at this stage.
Be ever critical - always use a slightly critical eye with portraiture... you're being paid for accuracy and personality in your work... it's that uncanny valley thing - if it's supposed to be someone, and it's not a caricaturisation of the person/child, make it beautifully accurate.
I've had discussions with people along the lines of "... if I wanted a snapshot, I would have taken a photo..." well, that's all well and good, but what drawing a portrait adds, is the benefit of imagination and creativity - I add a story in my pieces wherever possible.
Anyway, it's early days yet - the drawing itself will take approx. 10 - 20 hours.
"Undo undo, control Z!" sums it up pretty well. You get most of the way through an image, which you've spent days on, and you realise the drawing has lost it's original form. So, how far can you go back to 'fix it'.... on computer, all you have to do is control z to undo, until you reach the path where the image whent 'awry'.
There are a few things you can do in your drawing to help with the 'fix up' process:
1. Drawing in graphite is very forgiving. Using a putty eraser, lift the graphite until you've worked into or removed the area you're not happy with. With the Arches clay papers, there is a disadvantage - the pencil leaves a scratched surface, even after all the pencil is erased. In the above piece, I used this to my advantage. hair has many directions and facets, so I can rework an area pretty much until I am satisfied.
2. Good paper allows for erasing better than thin fibrous papers. I have found, however, that there does come a time, when working a paper too much (even a good paper) starts to show signs of overwork. It's just finding that balance.
3. Good erasers make the greatest difference. I use a putty rubber and a fairly soft gum rubber - both of these keep the paper underneath in tact.
4. Don't overkil the pencil work - I tend to work densely on my main areas of the drawing, so that there is a greater tonal variation,but what I find is the pencil reworkcan sometimes dull an area of the paper, no matter how much graphite you lift.
5. PLAN before - I generally plan a drawing before starting it, and in many cases, I do a few test drawings and warm up drawings before I start each session, this helps with the 'getting into it', part. This keeps mistakes low and helps with the overall uniformity of the drawing.
6. DON'T panic - and DON'T leave it. Perhaps I'm being a tad fanatical here, but have you ever worked on a painting or drawing, messed up an area, and instead of fixing it (even if it does require erasing whole areas, as above) you leave it? I can almost guarantee that if it's a commission, a. the person paying for the work will pick up on the error (especially if it's portrait work) and b. you'll know it's there, and really come to dislike the piece for it... do yourself a favour, fix it... toil , and then be satisfied.
I have been working on a tryptich for the past month or so - it's coming together with one more in the making. I've learnt a fair bit so far, mostly to do with good pencils, the right erasers and good papers. This series is drawn on clay based Arches with a fairly high grammage.
I completed a version of one of the animals on a cheaper stock paper, and found that the paper didn't 'take the graphite'. I then went out looking for the perfect fixative. Not that there's anything like the 'perfect' of any art medium - it's the combination that works.
Through experimentation I found so far that cheap art supplies are not going to work...
Once the final piece is completed, I'm going to investigate framing and presentation. This is as important as the piece. Wrong frames and the piece is incomplete.
I had the absolute pleasure to travel up the Sunshine Coast on Friday to attend the Analogue Digital Creative Conference.
There were six speakers in all - all impressive guests and creatives in their own right, discussing their journey, bad choices and better advice. It was interesting to see th works of Troy Archer, and Magda Sayeg specifically, who have both come up in my artists research in the past.
Troy's work - biro drawn portraits of old faces with juxtaposing bright sharp pattern - appeals to me on many levels. At the conference I spoke about meaning and although not wanting to go into some sort of 'conceptual depth', it's clear there's a story there, and one that is close to his heart - literally.
(below image Market Man - courtesy of Troy's blog site).
Magda Sayeg is considered to be the mother of yarn bombing, Magda's work has evolved to include the knitted/crocheted covered bus in Mexico City, as well as her first solo exhibit in Rome at La Museo des Esposizione in the summer of 2010.
I remember walking through Teneriffe, Brisbane a couple of months ago, and seeing a tree completely covered in bright knitting, and wow, the impact was immediate, uplifting and felt like a cause to celebrate urban life. To hear her speak about her progression with ideas was refreshing, unconvetional and inspiring.
Below image Bali Scooter courtesy of Magda's blog.
Overall the AD Conference aimed to give honest advice about working in design and art industry. The venue and casual atmosphere gave the event a friendly and comfortable vibe. The advice was plenty and while I still try to absorb the almost six hours of knowledge, I think a few tips stood out:
1. Just do it (SneakerFreaker)... don't wait, do what you do and do it well.
2. Take criticism and accept the experienced voice of others (Damien Aistrope)
3. Put your happiness and family first... all speakers.
4. Take jobs you want to do, and do them well - presenting your unique style as a 'brand' (Ill Studio and Troy Archer)
5. Don't Give Up.... each chocolate! (Troy Archer, We Buy Your Kids)
For me - the top mantra's of the day:
6. Find your 'thing' - For Troy, it's biro, Magda, it's knitting, for WBYK it's poster screen printing for bands, for SneakerFreaker founderSimon ‘Woody’ Wood it's about sneakers....
7. Have your PP (Passion Project) - spoken about by the We Buy Your Kids founders Sonny Day and Biddy Moroney and Simon Wood.
Big thumbs up to all the speakers...
There's more there... so I'll rethink the days event's and reference the days' events in my next posts.
Welcome to my traditional drawing blog. No digital pens, wacom tablets, just the bare necessities: 2B, 6B pencils, erasers, sharpeners and paper!
During May I will be updating Drawing Room blog with inspirational artists talk, how to's and comments from others.... here you can view the progress of a drawing.
You can contact me by email or on the contacts page of my site if you have comments or would be interested in commissioning a portrait or piece.
My BLOG claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Images on this blog are copyrighted to their owners.
If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and you do not wish for it to appear, please e-mail me with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed.
Tanya is a traditional and digital artist, living in Brisbane and inspired by all that is 'Art'.