Thursday, November 10, 2011

Learning to Sketch Portraits - Part II

Today I listened to the Artists Helping Artists interview with Carol and David Marine. In one portion of the interview Carol was speaking about branching out into painting silly faces and how important it is for her to keep experimenting and trying new things in order to keep fresh and enthused about her art.

It was inspiring to hear her thoughts. They felt like support being sent in my direction to encourage this section of my latest journey. If you haven't listened to the interview yet, I highly recommend it!

So in Part I of this post I spoke about my desire to sketch more of my life moments and, how in the past, I have been stopped by my discomfort in sketching people.

My solution for this discomfort was to jump from the frying pan into the fire. A simultaneously exciting and frightening jump!

After trying my hand at sketching from other artists' sketches - both more linear sketches and value based sketches - I decided the next logical step was to try a sketch from a photo. You could say I was being thorough, or you could say I was avoiding the scary prospect of sketching from life. I think both statements are true!

My intention was to create a linear sketch because I am wanting a quicker sketching style. I also tried not to be concerned with likeness - as the saying goes that was easier said than done.

I chose to work from a rather small image thinking that a smaller image would have less detail. Detail often entices me to get fiddly, which I was trying to avoid. In hindsight I think working from a larger reference would have been easier.

Below is my sketch from a photo of my hubby. Handsome guy isn't he?

practice sketch 6
graphite on newsprint
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

Reviewing the sketch above I can see I was more hesitant in this sketch than the sketches I posted in Part I. I'm not sure if I was intimidated by the challenge of capturing his likeness, if I was hampered by the size of my reference or if I was reacting to having to edit the detail I saw in the reference. (In the sketches I copied, obviously the artist who did the initial sketch had already been through the editing process and the subjects of the sketches were strangers to me.)

I can also see the style sliding toward more precise line work instead of using expressive lines. I am very interested as I continue this experiment to see where my natural style falls on the continuum from detailed and precise to loose and expressive. I secretly hope I can move along the spectrum towards the expressive, loose end. Time will tell if that is actually possible.

All of the sketches posted in Part I and the sketch above were completed in one afternoon. Feeling encouraged by my results I decided to finally take the brave step to sketch from life.

Several days later I was visiting my kids at school. I always carry a pocket Moleskine and pencil in my purse. Making use of these tools I made several quick sketches of my girls during the times when they were reading or working quietly at their desk. I limited my sketching to the times they were doing desk work because I didn't want to draw the teacher's attention and get sent to the Principal's office. That wouldn't have set a very good example!

The main challenge I experienced during this "sketching from life" session was that my models were not at all still! Honestly they moved every two seconds and rarely returned to the same position. They even knew I was sketching them (I had asked their permission first) and they still weren't still. Below are the results of sketching these moving targets.

practice sketch 7
graphite in Moleskine cahier pocket sketchbook
© 2011 Stacy L. Rowan

practice sketch 8
graphite in Moleskine cahier pocket sketchbook
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

practice sketch 9
graphite in Moleskine cahier pocket sketchbook
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

Practice sketch 9 is my favorite because the lack of facial features made for stress-free sketching! I was pleased that in all three sketches I stuck with line and did not resort to value. I was also happy that I remembered to leave some breaks in the line work. I did not have as many "suggested" areas as in the copied sketches but, because of the constant movement, I wasn't able to get to finicky.

The middle sketch was the most challenging because of the angle and because of the size of the sketch with respect to the page. Apparently I wasn't quite up for the challenge because the sketch makes my daughter look much older than she actually is!

For those of you who know my kids, sketches 7 and 9 are of the same child and sketch 8 is the other one. I'll leave it up to you to determine who is who.

In summary, I learned a lot from these two sketching session. In some ways sketching from life was easier than sketching from a photo. The built in time constraint made it almost impossible to get hung up on details and forced me to make quick decisions and live with the lines I put down.

I need a lot more practice to build fluency of line and expressiveness. I think that will come as I get more comfortable. Practice will hopefully also make it easier to capture a likeness.

I am excited for my next practice session. I already have a few magazine photos set aside and several personal photos in mind. I am also trying to identify times or activities which require my family members to sit still so I can make use of those times as live sketching sessions. Wish me luck as I think I live in a house of Energizer bunnies!


Rose Welty said...

Love these Stacy! You did a great job - and I do hope you grow more comfortable with it - because these are fun to see! :D

Stacy said...

Thanks for the encouragement Rose! It is always appreciated, even more so when I'm trying something new!