Portraits – new sketchbook, new focus

August 29, 2012

I’d like to “sneak in” a second drawing a day now that I’m back to drawing more or less six days a week. A Portrait/Figure contrasting with A Building seems a nice way to go. 

Got hold of a new sketchbook for studio work (bit too big for outdoor work): hardbound, Sterling (New York) “Black Book” graffiti sketchbook, probably 90-100gsm, A4, quite thick, with pages of graph paper in back. I want to review my work with portraits/faces/heads and want to put it all into one book. It’s almost a year since I did the Riven Phoenix figure drawing course, so it’s time to revise what I learned – I watched some his lessons again today. The paper in this sketchbook appears not to be cream cartridge paper with tooth; the paper is very smooth (and very white), probably recycled, and the graphite pencil slips and slides around nicely. I’ve started drawing heads and faces quite quickly as part of general speeding up my sketching when it comes to people. Working in 4B and 6B pencil means I can’t get too fussy. 

Today’s warm-up exercise is two pages of faces moving through 180 degrees. They are of footballer Mario Balotelli and I’ve picked him because the thing about photos taken of famous people is that the photos are taken from lots of different angles, making it relatively easy to focus on the same facial features moving through 180 degrees. I’m not worried I’ve barely captured a likenss of Balotelli; it’s just about getting my eye in.

Photos of antique busts, by contrast, tend to be more of less taken from the same position, making the development of flexibility and imagining/seeing the face from different angles all that much more difficult. I’m a bit dependent on sketching males who are bald in order to get the size of the skull correct, but will eventually move on to hair eventually.

New way of working I: I’ve changed the way I hold my pencil. I’m holding it not between thumb and first finger, but between thumb and second finger with the pencil lying against the knuckle between first and second fingers. I’m surprised how much greater control I’m now getting.

New way of working 2: I’ve long been a fan of double-sided tape. I’m thinking of printing my word/commentary on to translucent tracing paper and ‘tipping’ them in over the top of my sketches, especially the large A4 ones. The tracing paper will not only keep my text next to my sketches but protect them from rubbing against each other, since I’m not overly keen on spray fixative.

New way of working 3: I notice that I have, in the past, stopped drawing (for a day, a week or a month) whenever a particular sketch doesn’t come up to my expectations. I’ve decided to ‘work through’ these moments, to just “push through” by tackling something simpler or less complicated. Rather than paste sketchbook pages together, I’m resorting to an eraser. Not to obliterate the sketch altogether, but to knock back extraneous or distracting bits of a sketch.

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