Who would have thought that, in order to draw an open door in correct perspective, it would be necessary to draw so many guidelines first:

To figure out the way the door opens, you have to draw an ellipse to describe the path the outside edge of the door swings.  Before that, it’s necessary to draw an accurate square in perspective on the floor that contains the ellipse.  And before that, you’ve drawn a triangle from convergence lines originating at the vanishing point.  A lot of geometry.

Luckily, geometry was the one math class I did enjoy in school!  And on the heels of the much more subjective, interpretive, nebulous work of shading, it’s such a refreshing change to depend on math to figure out your drawing.  It’s comforting– relaxing, even– to know that, as long as you use your ruler right, you’re going to get the drawing right!

I’ve sketched in the face and shoulders, and am taking a break before doing the hair, in order to get a little more practice on hair first.  Because hair is a real weak spot for me, I’m a bit anxious about going forward because I like what I have so far and I don’t want to ruin it when I add the hair!  I do think it’s starting to look like me; as I’m working on it, I feel like I’m looking in the mirror.  So here it is:

It’s amazing to see how things start to come to life when you begin shading, especially the eyes.  Here is my progress so far.  First the outline, and beneath it the way the drawing stands now, with the eyes a little bit shaded.  I spent a lot of time first trying to get the proportions exactly right in the outline, measuring and re-measuring, and measuring some more.  In a portrait, even a line being off my a millimeter can make all the difference.  And there’s a lot about a person that is expressed in the shape of the eyelid.  I’m hoping I’m off to a good start here….

What art course would be complete without the requisite drawing of an urn?  I enjoyed doing this one a lot.  The round, even shape was a welcome rest after attempting to draw that hair.  And Cindy Wider gave me a great tip for drawing with charcoal.  She writes:

“Charcoal is different; imagine that you are sweeping around tiny piles of sand on a shiny floor to create the drawing; it only requires a ‘lay it down once and move on’ type of application. The best way to get it right by just laying it down once is to really loosen up and relax your entire upper torso. A lot of drawing skills require the mind to be at ease and confident but this is even more so for charcoal.”

I love the image of “sweeping tiny piles of sand.”  I will work on that in my next drawing.  In the meantime, here’s the urn.

Here is my first assignment in charcoal, and clearly I have trouble drawing hair no matter what the medium!  Instead of blonde hair, to me this looks like a bad Halloween wig of black hair with blonde streaks.  I considered redoing it, but I’ve submitted it to my teacher instead, so that I can hear what she has to say, which will hopefully help me learn how to do it better next time.

I’m ready to call this “finished.”  Or, I should say, I’m at least ready to submit it to my teacher for comment.  I’m happy with the portrait generally, but am not at all sure about the white conte highlights I added at the end.  It was an experiment, and I’ll be very eager to get feedback on that in particular.  I’d love to know what you think, too!

So, here’s how it’s coming along.  I really enjoyed doing the jacket, although it’s been very time-consuming indeed!  I have just posted this to DrawPj for Cindy‘s comments, so I’ll let you know when they come in.  Thanks for watching as this progresses– slowly but surely.

That’s my recently completed assignment for Portraiture class, and below are comments from Cindy Wider (click on it if you want to see the notes better).

I struggled a lot with this one, and now feel like I’ve accomplished a lot– just by getting through it.  We were asked to start with drawing the hair, and hair has been a real weak spot for me.  So it started off very poorly and I decided to move on to the facial features.  But my confidence was really shaken and I had a hard time doing anything.  I came very close to throwing the drawing away.

But I pushed on, and by the time I started blending the face, I was beginning to finally like the portrait.  When I returned to the hair, it started to come a lot more naturally, and by the end I was actually enjoying doing it.  I found it truly relaxing.

I shared my struggle with Cindy, and she wrote:

“Learning to draw is as much about overcoming the self as anything else. It is the emotional side that we all need support with. Anyone can learn the drawing techniques, but not everyone has what it takes with regards to character and personal skills; perseverance, courage, inner-strength, self belief. That’s why we admire great artists so much; because a great artist has overcome many personal hurdles to get to where they get in order to create incredible art.”

True, and very well-put.

It’s come a long way from here, but there’s still a long way to go.  I’ve been blending the graphite on the face to soften the features, and that’s a new technique for me to practice.  The hat is only just sketched in, so there’s still a lot more work to be done there.  I’m still trying to figure out how to improve the eyes, because they don’t look quite right to me.  The photo I’m working from lacks detail, especially in the eyes (they are almost entirely in shadow), so I’m having to kind of make things up, which at my beginning level is pretty hard to do.  I’ve already erased and started again from scratch the right-hand eye.

I am learning a lot from doing this portrait, which after all is the whole point.  This will be my first project for the Mentored Art Skills Program I’ve signed up to do with Cindy Wider.  She’s already given me some good tips to get me going, which I really appreciate.

Ooh, I just now noticed some weird dark spot underneath the nose, and I’m not sure how that happened, so I’m going to go fix that right now. Sometimes looking at the scan of the drawing helps me see something I’d overlooked when looking at the drawing itself, such as that strange mark.

Back to work!