October 2, 2008

Portrait Process

Cele once asked me to describe for her my art process, and I figured this graphite portrait of my niece would be a good place to do so. I had to remember to take photos as I went, so that I could successfully show what I do to get a finished portrait from a blank piece of paper.

First, I have to either be inspired by an image or create an image I imagine in my head. I've only once created art from my imagination that I didn't use a reference photo for. If I want a portrait to turn out well, the reference photo has to be good and inspire excitement in me. I prefer to take my own reference photos, and so that's what I did when my brother-in-law called to commission me. He got the girls ready and I went over with my camera and we had a little photo shoot out in the back yard. :) Then we headed indoors to upload the photos and choose which one(s) were best, which we narrowed down to one favorite from each girl. Here is the one we chose for T:


We printed the chosen photos, then I took them home and got my drawing paper out and taped it to my drawing board. I measured my drawing to fit the frame and mat that we had chosen. Using the lightest (hardest) pencil I have (2H), I lightly drew in the outline of her face, measuring for proportion constantly as I went. Sometimes I have a direct size match from the photo to my drawing, as happened with this portrait. I freehand the drawing either way. I do draw one line through the center of the drawing horizontally and one vertically, so that I can verify that my proportions and dimensions are accurate. Some artists use a full grid system, but I don't have the patience for that much work, and they risk being unable to successfully erase the grid once they're done.


Since I'm right-handed, I tend to draw left to right to avoid smudging and smearing, which is a real risk when drawing on a board in my lap. Once I'm confident that my drawing is sound and is proportioned right, I begin shading in the background and face. I use a 2B pencil almost primarily for this stage of the drawing, unless the background or hair or clothes are black, then I'll use a softer, darker lead size like 4B or 6B.

I continue until I have finished, which I clean up using my kneadable eraser, and I sign it, then spray using a fixative varnish spray to prevent smudging. After it dries for a night, I frame it in the cheap frames I can afford. Sometimes the person who commissioned me has it professionally framed.



My beautiful niece, T.

15 comments:

Melliferous Pants said...

Absolutely gorgeous! Thanks for sharing your process!

Cele said...

Oh mi gosh amazing, thank you so much for making this a reality. Thank you so much, the insite into your talent, wow.

mark said...

Good post SML. Quite interesting. That drawing turned out really nice. I like it. You have some serious talent.

C. L. Hanson said...

Wow, gorgeous!!!

Léo is here with me, and is asking to see your drawing again. I'd love to be able to draw like that! :D

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Thanks, my friends. I appreciate the appreciation! :)

lostinutah said...

I wish I had a thimbleful of your talent.

aka madre said...

Dear lostinutah:

So does her mother! :)


aka

aka madre said...

BTW all:

SML claims she didn't have her talent until she was in school. May I add a note: When she was 6 yrs old, we had just moved to MT and two men came to our home to visit. Suddenly one said, "What is she doing?" I looked over and from across the room she was lookin at him and holding up her thumb and index finger measuring him. I explained, "Oh! She is seening how big you'd be on paper if she drew you." No one taught her that, she just "knew" it. She was born with it-and she didn't get it from me! :)

aka

Bishop Rick said...

Greetings from Dublin (Malahide).
Nice portrait. Looks like someone took a digital photo and converted it to pencil. Not saying you did that, saying that its that good.

Equality said...

I love it when artists show their work in progress. I think the process is fascinating. Another great piece, L. I have a few favorites--one is your collage of Audrey Hepburn, which I use as the background on my laptop. Another is that graphite drawing you did of the woman lying on the beach. You have real talent. I hope you can continue to produce such wonderful art. I am sure your patrons will treasure the portraits you do of their children for years to come.

Red Eyes said...

This is absolutely breathtaking, the colors, the theme, and everything about it.
See you soon.

chris (from salt lake) said...

Stunning.

As a side note, sorry I missed you at the conference - I was really looking forward to chatting with you more!

JulieAnn said...

You are amazing..."I staaand allll amaaazzed at the aaart SML shoooows to meeee...."

I'm back. So is Wank. More to come. Link me up if you can....muah

Chris said...

I just noticed your "art" links and started clicking some of them. Pretty awesome stuff.

sideon said...

Verry verry veryy nice!

I love su madre's story about you being six years old :)