Drawing the portrait: Week 4

Charcoal on smooth newsprint

The image I see in my head when I start to draw a portrait is ever so much better than what I actually draw; why won’t that image in my mind come out through my fingertips onto the paper? While I was happy that I caught the likeness of the model in this portrait (week 4 of Felicia’s portrait drawing class), the rest of it leaves me, well, disappointed.

Felicia often tapes tracing paper over students’ drawings to demonstrate how they might better change their drawings. As she demonstrates, she often mutters to herself. In those half-verbalized thoughts, there is a whole lecture for the student who pays close attention.

That night, she traced over my drawing of the model, concentrating on the nose. She talked about where she saw edges. Were they crisp edges? Soft edges? Form or cast shadows? How did they wrap around the form; where did they create a sharp angle? She applied her charcoal pencil as if it were the finest sable brush, and modeled a perfectly dimensional nose in a few strokes.

I realized—once again—that I still wield my pencil like a bludgeon. I need practice in order to handle it like a fine brush.

I need to go home and simply play with the materials we used for the class. Play with them with no expectation of results, except for learning what a simple charcoal pencil can do.

Now there’s some great homework. Play. Play. And more play.

I’m smiling.