Ninth in the series – a self portrait a day until Christmas.
This was so very nearly a good drawing.
Before this drawing, I did a sketch based on the correctproportions of a head, adrawing that artists have done for many hundreds of years. Coming across these proportions has been something ofa minor breakthrough, I must admit. It’s strange to think that with all the time I’ve spent in art educationI’ve never learned this before. I was aware of (but had forgotten about) the eye-line bisecting the skull,but all the other measurements and proportions are new to me.
Looking back over the last eight drawings now, places where I’ve got the proportions wrong fairlyscream at me, and I can see exactly what I should have done differently to get a better likeness.
Not that that helped me much when I did this portrait yesterday. Well, maybe that’s not entirely fair,some of it Ithink I’ve got bang on – from the nose down is good, and looks like me, also the forehead. The nose is close, but abit too bulbous. What really spoils it though is the right eye (as you look at the drawing). It’s eithertoo small or too far from the nose or both, I suspect both.
If it weren’t for that right eye this would have been a pretty good likeness. And there I wasonly yesterday saying how I wasgoing to have to be more careful with eye widths.
This drawing was approached pretty methodically. About 30 minutes to an hour of laying out andmeasuring first, then the major tone blocks, which went in very quick. After that I started to work onthe features more, trying to see smaller shapes and balance tones.
I soon came up against a problem I always have withnormal graphite pencil – I need to go darker and the pencil won’t do it, the more I work the worse it gets,and I get that shiny pencil look. Charcoal is the opposite, almost like paint. You can push it about andchange whole areas at the drop of a hat, go as dark as you like, but it’s not so conducive to detail. I think today I’m going totry a conte portrait, see if I get the best of both worlds.
It’s disappointing to have got that eye wrong having spent so long (about three hours) on this drawing,but I’m also happy with the progression I’ve made. I know I’m close now to getting everything in proportionand getting a good likeness, and I can see the quality of my marks improving too, getting some of their oldstrength back on good days. I really didn’t expect it to be this difficult to turn out a good self portrait.Simply knowing about general proportions and trying to see properly is not enough by itself.
The missing link of course, is just practice. Today’s drawing will be the tenth and half way through theproject. Although I don’t think I’ve done any good drawings yet, I’m still happy at this stage because I can see aprogression. The drawings are taking me longer and longer to do, but that’s no bad thing. I’m pretty sure thatat some point in the future I’ll do one and be able to sit back and say, ‘yes, that’s it, everything’s in the right place’.At that point I’ll start thinking more about improving the quality of the drawing itself.
Although this project has kept me from painting, I’m not concerned because I think what I’m learning now willimprove my painting too when I get back to it. Apart from anythingelse, I’m really enjoying myself.
Posted 14th December 2005
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