So here are more of the lovely, colourful women who kept me company during the lockdown. I learned that just about any colour combination can be used to depict faces. And that layering many colours makes for interesting tones and textures.
I was, of course, unprepared, and faced lockdown with nothing in the way of art supplies but a (thankfully quite empty) sketch book and a lovely new giant pack of fineliners. That lack of choice was quite useful since I didn’t have to think too much about what I was going to do.
Lockdown was not a time for great inspiration, so knowing that I was just going to draw women’s faces made it easy to get started, even on those days when I didn’t feel like getting out of bed.
Old but happy
I learned that faces depend on the right degree of contrast in the right place. Here are some of my favourite, but the kindly face on the right needs more contrast around the hairline.
I also learned that there are great liberties to be taken with depicting faces. That as long as the eyes, nose, mouth combination is there, one can change the features, and their spacing and size and shape. Faces allow great freedom, they develop on the page in a most satisfying way.
Since lockdown has been over (at least here in Portugal), I’ve had less time for drawing. Which is a pity really. It was a wonderful space, all that time to just work on faces.
Since closing down Better, I have finally found time to go back to my Faces series. To see the start of the series, click here for Face 1, Face 2, Face 3 and Face 4. This series explores men’s faces using colour to sculpt the contours and reflect emotion.
This painting turned out looking vulnerable, some combination perhaps of the exaggeratedly large eyes, the relaxed mouth or the neutral expression. The young man is quietly self-possessed, but open; not defensive.
This painting combines my favourite colours – yellow, pink and gold (not so visible in the photo) – grounded with sienna shades.
Face No.5: Vulnerable is painted in acrylic paint on a 50cm x 50cm stretched canvas and finished in gloss acrylic canvas. It is not framed.
Well I managed to complete 31 days of drawings. It was actually rather fun. Some evenings I only got to my studio after 8pm, and feeling rather uninspired, but the muse was there, every day. It’s a good discipline, but if I did it again, I’d make it a first-thing-in-the-morning priority, like meditating before breakfast.
During these five days I found myself busy and sitting in meetings. It was easier to fit Inktober in by drawing the people around me. So portraits came to the fore. It turned out to be quite a lot of fun, reminding me of why I set out to work on portraits this year.
This face was inspired by a picture in Germaine Greer’s wonderful book, The Boy. The Boy is well worth a read, especially for mothers of sons in a world where there is so much focus on daughters. The beautiful illustrations (paintings and photographs) are a wonderful source of inspiration.
I liked the picture for its combination of angelic beauty with a direct challenge. I call the painting Sullen because it is a look I have seen on so many young men at that point where they stake a claim for independence. It seems to say “I am not who you want me to be; I will be my own person.” The refusal to participate comes across as sullen.
This picture combines reds and blues to create the pinky-purple tones with a little yellow and sienna for warmth.
It is painted in acrylic on a gallery wrapped canvas and is finished in a matt acrylic varnish. At 40cm x 40cm it is a little smaller than others in this series. It is ready to hang.
This painting is based on photographs of Michael Stonebraker published in the Communications of the ACM (June 2015) at the time when he was awarded the ACM Turing Award for his contributions to Computer Science.
I think he has an interesting face. Ageing, not symmetrical, but with the kind of confidence that comes from doing worthwhile work. I have taken liberties with the specifics of shape and proportion, exaggerating the diamond shape of the face. The kindly eyes become the focus.
The colours include bright crimson, phthalo greens, both deep and light, and a rich magenta that becomes lilac when mixed with white. There is a fair amount of sienna in there too, also lightened with white. I love the way layers of colour sculpt the contours of the face creating the impression of lines, where there are none.
Face No.3: Kindly is painted in acrylic paint on a 50cm x 50cm stretched canvas. It is finished in gloss acrylic varnish.
The new year has been busy. I am in the process of opening Better, a physical place for creative makers to hang out, and that has kept me from this blog. But there is lots to share.
Those of you who talk with me about my art know that I’ve been saying for a while that I want to paint portraits. I think that portraits are about the highest art form there is. To try and animate a human face has to be the ultimate creative challenge.
Last year I played with painting mandalas because I wanted something easy to practice with, but I’ve decided that if I really want to paint portraits, I need to practice on those.
So I have been sketching faces.
It’s interesting how compelling faces can be. I find myself staring at people in the street and tracing the lines of their faces in my mind. When I find an interesting face, I want to draw it over and over.
I’ve been sketching with watercolour too, as this forces me to work more intuitively and to focus less on accuracy.
So far, I’ve discovered that faces are fun to draw, once you get over the terror of how difficult it is. Sketching faces is far more about line and shadows than it is about colour, which is a bit of a new space for me to play in.
I’ve started work on some paintings of faces too and will share those in my next post.