Revisiting Pencil Portraits

Posted Feb 2019

"Imperfect. And that's okay", I said. It's not like I'm being paid to draw this specific Portrait.

I used to make a lot of Portraits ~ Oil Paints, Pastels, and Pencils. Pencil Portraits. A long time ago. Before we all had computers.

My initial learning involved gridding. But then I figured ~ why work so hard ~ I started to trace the Reference Photo. Then fill in the values ~ carefully ~ using a gray-scale. I got great results. Very accurate.

Then computers came out. Not only could I have easily printed out the lines easier than tracing them, I could have even had the computer find the lines For me. And I think I could have even just told the Computer to affect the photo as though it was a Pencil Sketch (or Pastel or Oil Paint), and then print that out. But why would anyone want me to do that for them? So I switched to Caricatures ~ because, when well done, a Caricature needs the Artist's interpretation.

Tonight ~ wanting to take a break from my constant Caricature endeavors, I decided to revisit simple Pencil Portraits. No cheating. No printing, no tracing, no reference scale. Just drawing. Because that's what I wanted to do.

I used a photo of a man that I recently posted at my website as Reference ~ because I could still find a slightly larger file in my Computer's trash. I put the photo into PhotoShop, turned it upside down, and sort of started to copy the shapes ~ while guessing at values at the same time. Carelessly. I was figuring that I didn't care if it didn't look like him. It was just to feel the pencil making shapes. Just for 1/2 hour.

At the end of the 1/2 hour, I felt surprised at just how badly it turned out. I barely laid in some values ~ not surprised that I didn't get time to 'round them out' in only 1/2 hour, but it didn't look anything like him.

I do like doing puzzles ~ so I could see myself doing the fill-in-the-blanks type of Pencil Portraits that I used to do. But I didn't feel like it tonight.

So I smudged the whole thing together. And I dropped the Upside Down thing, and spent lol Another 1/2 Hour redrawing this right-side-up. Came out better.

I'm figuring that that Upside Down drawing thing was just an exercise for teaching that we're drawing shapes ~ not noses and boats and houses. Just triangles and ellipses and t'hat other shape'. I certainly don't need to learn that anymore. I know that. So I decided to apply real Art to my creative process. Copying the shapes right side up ~ with my Impression.

Now I know why we 'waste our time' doing this sort of stuff. It felt good to let the drawing harness my mind. I really got into it. Maybe I'll give myself the luxury of continuing this drawing later.

And if I decide to do this again, I'm hoping I'll leave the White areas white. Lifting them out with an eraser is torture

Follow Up the next day ~ I spent another half hour on this Self-Imposed Review. Pencil Sketch. I wished I had started it more carefully. What I learned is that there are good reasons why we learn to do things the way we do them.

Follow Up the next next day ~ I wished I had made the 'eyeglasses' bigger ~ just slightly would make it 'look like his glasses' ~ not exaggerated, but if I had paid attention to That ~ what Felt right to me ~ it would have affected all the Other shapes that built off of it.

Now I'm not interested in continuing this particular picture ~ because it's too much trouble to move such dark lines with such crummy erasers.

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You can click on some pictures in this blog to see them larger.
To Hire Caricature Artist Alison Gelbman:
(516) 579-4706
optidust@gmail.com



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