In this section I have put together a series of portraits, some of which were done specially for this book, and others which were drawn previously. Almost all of them are studies for oil paintings or for more elaborate drawings and I chose them because the intermediate stages of implementation, more than the 'finished' works are the ones which show how to recognise and tackle the problems of composition, pose, anatomy and working technique.
H, HB and 9B pencil on 30 x 40cm (12 x 16in) paper.
The portrait in profile works well with young subjects, especially female. The hair contrasts with the features and creates interesting 'graphic' effects of composition. For the hair I used HB pencil, lightly blended with a finger, and added darker accents with a 9B, drawing some 'flat' strokes, that is, using the side of the point.
Compressed sepia charcoal on 30 x 45cm (12 x 18in) paper. To draw a smiling expression effectively, use photographs as, after a few moments, the face loses 'sparkle' and the features show the effect of an unnatural, extended, effort, instead of maintaining the cheerful and pleasant attitude which characterizes the subject. Notice how the contraction of the skin muscles causes little creases at the corners of the eyes and under the lower lids. The lips look wider and slightly apart and this may cause you to get the proportions wrong - make sure you carefully evaluate them on the model.
Self-portrait. HB and 2B pencil on paper, 33 x 48cm (13 x Win).
The one model you can study whenever you like and in any condition is the one you see when you look at yourself in the mirror. Practise drawing your mirror image and don't worry too much if, in the end, you won't be able to recognize yourself fully in that self-portrait. Posing is tiring and, after a short while, your usual expression will look 'drawn' and hard. You could, of course, use photographs, as with any other portrait, but if you draw from life the result is more gratifying. Above all try to get the relative proportions of the whole head and then insert the details. Glasses, if worn all the time (as in my case), become part of the physiognomy of the face and can significantly characterize it. Lenses can distort the size and shape of the eyes, enlarging them or making them smaller. Also bear in mind the shadows cast by the frame.
A portrait is not necessarily limited to the face - the whole figure, or part of it, can better characterize the person represented and create an interesting composition. Pay attention to the anatomic structure, although it is hidden by clothes, as these lie on 'shapes' and the drawing must convey this three-dimensional impression.
H pencil on 30 x 40 (12 x 16in) paper. Children are difficult to portray because they are restless and don't like being watched and therefore turn cross and diffident. Use photography to help you and get your little model to concentrate by giving them an interesting game or letting them watch TV. The proportions of a child's head are different from an adult's (e.g. the face is lower in relation to the cranium), the hair is much finer and the eyes appear very big. Simple linear drawing, with just a hint of chiaroscuro, is perhaps the most suitable to express the gracefulness of a child's features, as well as a technical necessity considering that the drawing needs to be done quickly.
HB pencil on paper, 37 x 45cm (14'/i x 18in). This is a quick sketch in which I portrayed two people, mother and daughter, at the same time, concentrating only on the line and looking for a composition that was both spontaneous and unusual, arranged diagonally.
Note, in this drawing, the morphology of the eye, typical of many Eastern peoples, where a fold of skin masks the upper eyelid and makes the eyes appear elongated. Study the physiognomic characteristics of different ethnic types and practise drawing as it can sometimes be difficult, at least to begin with, to get a good likeness.
Pencil on paper, 35 x 45cm (14 x 18in). It is sometimes worthwhile introducing elements which can make a portrait less 'formal', as for example the basket in this study. This has enabled me to catch the subject in a pose both informal and spontaneous, almost 'immediate'.
The drawings on these two pages are studies which I drew from life for a carved portrait. I walked around the model observing his features from different viewpoints (you can see the profile on page 58), and I partly neglected the chiaroscuro effects as I was interested, most of all, in understanding the volumetric structure of the head.
Portrait. Charcoal on paper, 33 x 48cm (13 x 19in).
To draw this study I used weak side lighting as it seemed particularly suited to highlighting the 'severe' character of the subject. The sketch shown on top indicates the basic lines drawn to find the proportions.
The profile can make a very effective portrait, especially where the elderly are concerned as their features are enhanced by the presence of big wrinkles and folds of skin. Notice, for instance, how they form around the lips (sometimes curved inwards when the teeth have regressed or fallen) and near the throat. Linear drawing, without chiaroscuro is suitable for these studies.
This portrait study was drawn with HB graphite on card, 15 x 20cm (6 x 8in). I enhanced some shadow areas with water-diluted Indian ink applied with a round brush. Finally, I 'glazed' the whole surface in order to soften and even the tones.
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