Self Portrait Drawing 28th January 2006
Where to start with this one?
I'm deeply, deeply disappointed with this drawing. Mainly because I really thought I had something going on when it was about half way through, I thought it was going to be a real progression, the best one yet by a wide margin, and it isn't.
I spent at least three times as long on this one as I did on any of the other self portrait drawings. I was determined not to rush it, to get the form right, to get everything in the right place. I did it over three days, today being the last day. I put more important things aside so I could work on it, and I've ended up with something which to me looks no better than the others.
Maybe I'll feel better about it when I've had a chance to calm down, but right now just looking at it makes me angry. I feel like its an opportunity lost.
I need to get this one off my chest, so lets start at the beginning.
Here it is when I'd just started it, on the 26th. I'd worked on it for an hour to an hour and a half at this stage, but I started late-ish and light was going, so I decided to leave it unfinished rather than rush it, and come back and finish it later. I've got the main shapes and the tonal blocks established, if a bit vague, but there's not enough done yet to be able to say if its going to come out good or bad.
Given the amount of time I spent, I haven't got much done on it yet, but that's ok. I'd already decided that for this one I was going to make more of an effort to produce a more finished, better observed drawing.
Start of day two, yesterday. I worked on it for about two to three hours yesterday, at this point I think I'd been on it for about half an hour.
I'm defining the shapes more, and making corrections. I'm trying very hard to get the relationships between the shapes right here, working slower than usual. I'm not exited yet, but I think its going ok.
I've stated the shadows round the left eye and down the side of the nose more, and the forms are starting to get more clearly defined. My bottom lip is protruding and the chin area is too big, but I hadn't noticed that yet. I've deepened the tone blocks down the left side of the head (as you look at the drawing), and worked into the ear a little more.
Second picture from day two. Progress is being made, slowly but surely. I've realised that the head is too narrow, so I've moved the back edge back a little. I noticed that the area between the back of the jaw below the ear and the back of the neck was too narrow, so I moved the back of the neck back a centimetre or so. That improved the proportions a bit.
I've also worked into the eyes a bit more, and dropped my left eye (the furthest away in the drawing,) down a little to improve the eye line. Realising that the lower jaw was jutting out too much, I've brought the outline back a little. I haven't changed the mouth yet though, which now looks like its protruding even more than before. Its so crucial to get the relationships between the elements of a drawing right. Move one thing and it invariably throws something else out.
Third and final picture from day two. Thankfully I've realised that the mouth is out and pulled it back. Also I've added some more of the highlights with a white conte stick.
I've also made some small corrections to the jaw line, and the whole drawing is looking more in proportion now. It doesn't look like three hours more has been spent on it, but a lot of that time I spent just looking and trying to get the relationships between the shapes right. I've pretty much stopped measuring altogether now. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing really, but I do think my eye is getting more attuned to seeing relationships now. Bad measuring is much more destructive than no measuring at all.
I'm feeling a bit exited at this point. I know that's the best I've got the proportions in any of my self portraits so far. I'm starting to think that this one might turn out really well if I don't screw it up. Big if.
Although the proportions are much improved, the drawing is very hesitant. If this drawing is going to come out ok, I know I've got to go in and restate the tones. Since the tones on the head (disregarding the background for the moment) are working pretty well together, that means I have to redraw the whole thing basically. So be it. At least I'm pretty confident that all the elements are in the right place, or at least pretty near.
Day three, final picture. The drawing is badly overworked. I was so disappointed at this stage I couldn't be bothered to take a decent photo of it. I think it would have been better if I'd just left it as a study and moved on to the next one.
The main problem I think is that the tone relationships are badly out, I think I made a rod for my own back there by leaving that until the end, and by working in too hesitant a manner throughout the drawing. I won't make that mistake again. At least the proportions are better, I think probably the best I've got them yet. I'm wondering now if I should concentrate on some tone studies for a little while, since that appears to be where I'm weakest right now. Sometimes it seems like I have so far to go. I think I need to sleep on this one.
Posted 28th January 2006