I have wanted to do some sketching for weeks, but my time has been taken up with producing my new book. I am so pleased to report that all the components of the short story collection are with the printers now, and most of the hard slog is over – until the promotion begins. Yesterday I knew I must have a break, and drawing has always been a great antidote for me, whatever is causing the stress. And so, I began a portrait of a dear friend, to whom I had promised the drawing several weeks ago.
I worked from a photo, which I’d taken after our lovely day out to Somes/Matiu Island in January. I sketched lightly at first, which most artists do, while working out proportions, and thought that I’d let you ‘look over my shoulder’ while I took you through the process. My friend Jayne has light hair, and was lit from behind by a bright sun, meaning she was in a good deal of subtle shadow. She has dark eyes, and I did have some difficulty in ensuring they weren’t overworked, although I believe I have done that a little. I kept to two pencils only, HB and B; the latter has a nice soft lead, but can be controlled easily.
When I felt the sketch was nearing the finish, I decided to add touches of colour for contrast to the graphite. I chose the dark orange chairs just behind Jayne and the greenstone bracelet on her arm. I decided to add a touch of pink to the lips too. From here, I used my ‘squinty eye’ technique, which allows me to view the tonal values, and choose what needs more, or less work. The final touches were with the hair (which I love to draw), but I still wanted to bring some highlights in. I cut a wedge off my Staedtler (Mars plastic) eraser, and standing now, I pulled the sharpened edge of the rubber through the drawn hair, from the crown down, in two or three places.
As any artist knows, when to stop, is often the most difficult choice. I stopped once I’d marked a line for the table. I could have made more of the resting arm, but decided that less was more here. I quite like to leave a drawing with some loose, sketchy lines, rather than risk overworking the drawing. I have a small plan of producing more portraits to post. I hope that these won’t prove to be ‘famous last words’, as I want to return to posting more regularly.
PS. Do take short breaks, then come back and assess your progress. It helps to see possible mis-judgements of proportion etc. And, you can always start again. I didn’t this time, but I do if warranted. Whatever you do, don’t be too harsh on yourself. It is for enjoyment, remember?