Exercise 1: Facial features

Another exercise that I found very useful, isolating the feature and repeating seems really useful to understand the construction of the face, the focus being so narrow cuts out a lot of noise.

I ended up actually drawing the round shapes that are made by the eye socket, the visible eye is of course just the tip of a larger sphere, that is wrapped up in two sheets, one that has a perambulating motion.

the mouth is essentially controlled by a large floating hinge, the top part being fixed, the way the mouths gestures are controlled is by pulling or pushing, repositioning the bulbous shapes of the lip over the teeth to produce a multitude of shapes.

The nose seems to be made of around 5 separate shapes, I found it really helpful to draw the bridge, the ball the nostrils and the septum that separates the nostrils and joins the the nose to the philtrum and lip

Using a photo i tried to draw Bob Dylan, It started to go wrong early on so I abandoned this, the likeness was off and the face seemed a little out of kiklter.

I then found a photo of Jack Nicholson, I wanted to try to capture some of the weathered features of his face, textures of old stubbly skin.

Research Point: About face

I was asked to look at some artists who focus on portraiture, the two that was suggested was Graham little and Elizabeth Payton, while I was researching I stumbled upon a contemporary artists work that I really enjoyed, his name was David Booth

Elizabeth Payton

I read that her main source of inspiration from the works of Gustave Flaubert and John Singer Sergeant, this I found quite interesting as they both have a rich colourful style that seems to sit just below a realistic style, by that I mean their work while very true to life still seem like paintings. Elizabeth Paytons work is quite the opposite, it isn’t her intention to capture photo realistic images, but to capture expression or mood. In fact her work is so stylised I found that most of the portraits, while clearly recognisable looked like their subjects all seemed to have a similar appearance, in fact when I saw the artist photograph you can see quite a lot of the repeating characteristics in her own face.

Graham Little

I was quite taken back by Graham little’s use of coloured pencils, these images have a muted photographic quality, I loved the way that his small stippled strokes actually mimic film grain, adding to the photographic quality. I tried to get a close up of this as I really wanted to see his marks, but had absolutely no luck. When you use certain medium it gives a certain appearance or aesthetic, but I would never have imagined the artist was using coloured pencil.

David Booth

I had never saw any of his work until doing this research, It popped rigth out in a google image search. I like the mixed style and the way that even though the faces aren’t complete, or in some cases recognisable as human they convey a range of emotion and interest that that makes you want to look at the whole image rather than just for example the eyes. He has won several awards, and I will certainly be keeping an eye on him and wouldn’t mind attempting something similar with my acrylics when I get some down time.

Exercise 2: Your own head

I was asked to draw 2 self portraits, before doing that I was also asked to make some 5 minute sketches, this not only served as a good warm up exercise but also gave me oppurtunity to observe my own face in detail.

I worked in a3 size, and used my thick graphite pencil . This has proven quite useful in creating fast and loose drawings that require minimal detail.

5 minute sketch #1

My initial sketch is actually my favourite, I think it might have turned out different because I was a little more cautious, and thoughtful even though 5 minutes didn’t seem very long, I seemed to have made more useful choices in describing my face.

5 minute sketch #2

The pose for this one was better, the proportions of the hand was a little off at first, and look still to be on the small side in the final drawing. the emphasis on this drawing was more tonal than the previous, the abscence of light on the right side. of my face does help to describe the shape but could have benefited from some refinement, after a’ll this was a 5 minute sketch so withy the time allocated I think it captured some useful information, on not only my face but how I would approach a more complete image with less strict time constraints.

5 minute sketch #3

The heaviest of the three sketches, this one remains the most unfinished, I didn’t have enough time to describe all the tonal range I was seeing in my own reflection, I went in quite fast and bold, another ten minutes and maybe I would have created enough dynamic range to describe the form of the head and added some more detail.

Portrait 1

The first portrait, in my opinion suffers from 2 things, 1) it is very heavy and 2) it is quite elongated. It’s not the end of the world but it feels very heavy, I ended up forsaken a lot of form by going in too dark, the softer pencils also muddied up the picture somewhat, my next portrait I want to aim to be more subtle, using harder pencils and building them up. this drawing mainly used a B pencil, the next I think i will try one of the H types and layer up to get harder edges and mark, building on each one to get darker and darker. the elongated pictire was all down to the angle I drew this at, i used a board and A3 paper but the paper was flairly flat to the table, my view point across the angled paper was skewed, the large sheet of paper exaggerating the angle, I have tried to repair this in the photos below.

my drawing board angle, really stretched out my features
This was more of the image I was seeing as I drew

Portrait 1 (second attempt)

This portrait felt more succesful. The portrait is similar to the previous, but harder pencils, a slower approach and a suitable angle for the drawing board made for a slower and more calculated approach, I used small marks for texture and tried to follow the contours i observed in the mirror around the shapes in the drawing. I felt there was a lot more tonal range here to be used and offered more detail.

Portrait 2

Using some toothed green pastel paper with conte sticks, I quickly marked out my face, a mark indicating the harline, top and sides, some soft marks for the eyeline, then nose and mouth position, I mark out the hard fixed structures around the eye the cheek and brow and then start to observe and document the shape of my features. my conte sticks are brown, orange, white and black. surprisingly the red in the brown conte stick when blended with the white makes some good skin tones on the Green paper, that was not my intention, but I didn’t mind it all the same.

Over all I was really happy with the session, in fact I really enjoyed it, although my angry expression would make you believe the contrary. I learnt an important lesson, and one that needs to be applied before I even make a mark, make sure you are in the best position to draw, particularly on a large surface.

Exercise 3: Portrait from the memory or Imagination.

I have recently been reading treasure Island to my stepson mason. I have always developed a strong visual sense of characters from their descriptions in books, often after reading a book and watching the film version I have questioned the choice in casting. Long John Silvers descriptions have become pretty much the blueprint for the stereotypical pirate, The wooden leg, the shoulder perched parrot, the round hooped earrings and so on.

The actual facial description is quite thin, even so I have always had a good sense of the characters persona and facial appearance. Jim Hawkins, the books narrater and key character describes him at first site as a pale, plain faced man, his first impression was that of a happy man and very likeable. Later on we find that he is in fact much more than a retired sailor and pub landlord but a pirate. he is proven to be cunning and deceptive. Even though he is described as plain and pale, I tend to think of him as tanned or dirty looking, a nut brown face, being out on deck at see would certainly affect the tan of their skin and produce some weathering, especially around the eyes. I don’t tend to think of him wearing the tricorne hat, that feels to me like a status indicator, or a symbol of leadership, almost like a crown. Long John up until a point keeps his Pirate status and position of leadership hidden, masquerading as the ships cook, waiting for his mutiny to come to fruition. I also Imagine him with a dark beard, although this is not mentioned in the book to my best recollection. I tried to make my portrait of long John Silver, friendly and jovial but deceptive, spritely yet weathered. His smile loud and lively is juxtaposed with sinister plotting eyes. Overall I was happy with my John Silver portrait, If I was illustrating for a book, or graphic novel then I’d probably go more in depth in his clothing, his one legged gait and other defining characteristics. But as an exercise to visualise a person’s character from imagination this has been a deep enough exploration.

Research point: Self portraits

I was asked to look at some self portraits of historical and contemporary artists. I compiled a list of work that resonated with me, Im sure I could have spent hours doing this and still found more to feature but these were the highlights.


Whenever I think of self portraits I always think of Rembrant. I think its because they have a very lifelike quality, the lighting is dim with only the face illuminated, the expression quite stern or somber looking in some ways. He was quite prolific with his self portraits, I counted 12 from his early twenties to the year he died at the age of 63.

Van Goth

This is a well known self portrait as infamous as the story behind it, I love the textures, and detail given how bold the marks are. The fur of his hat looks soft and thick, the skin tones of the face when viewed closely and in isolation do not seem typical of what you would expect to find in a face, but the hues of the face doesn’t seem to be off or exaggerated at all. Green orange and yellow with warm pink and browns all seem to mix inside the eye to create a portrait of a troubled man with some self loathing issues.


I’ve included Picasso purely because his style and the way it changes is very interesting to me, a sense of style is something I always try for. The author Neil Gaiman said, and I may paraphrase slightly that “a persons style is the repetition of the mistakes and choices they cant help but make.” This I found interesting, even in my own drawing I can see an inherent style, but the work below is clearly something that had to be at least initially forced, a conscious effort to create something unique and new. Maybe the mistakes in our art sometimes force the style. Picasso clearly had a realistic style in his youth, and maybe the flaw in his art, to him at least was that he didn’t want realism, and set about a new approach.

Lucian Freud

This portrait was created using a mirror on the ground, I love the distorted perspective, misshapen head and a sense of grotesque. the colour pallete is dull and the expression is quite uncomfortable for the viewer to look at for too long. The addition of the children, his own children in fact seems to be outside of the portrait, maybe Freud would rather show us his children, not any to show they are a part of him and given awkward expression to divert the attention away from him.

David Hockney

This mixed media/collage is really lovely, it has a sense of realism through its sense of scale and proportion, the David Hockney trade mark glasses give a sense of who this is, he seems to be portraying himself as quite young here. The colours are bright and what you would expect from Hockney.

Jenny Saville

A very realistic portrait embellished with some interesting marks and shapes, certainly not concerning itself with vanity, it looks almost like she is in discomfort, I suspect she is laying on her back, the soft areas of her face under the influence of gravity. Again some unexpected colours in the portrait. but they don’t seem to be out of place.

Assignment 4

Assignment four was made up of three parts, I have got into the habit of preparing a couple of sketches before the main piece to work out any complicated aspects of the pose and get a sense of space around the composition.

Figure study using line – Seated model in an upright chair

My notes suggested I experiment with some unusual formats, found paper etc, as the drawing was in a large format I couldn’t find any found paper large enough, I also wanted to explore clean lines with smaller marks for details so some smooth paper cartridge paper was probably best, I wanted to work with ink, I like the control of fine-liners but I wanted to use them in a way that didn’t appear technical. My thinking was after I had a drawing I was happy with I would use some of the techniques I explored in the Experiment with mixed media exercise, such as wax and inks or water colours. I also wanted to try water colour and salt, to texture the paper. I could add all this to the image in post. This was ideal as I didn’t have access to the model the day after so this could be carried out then.
After my drawing was complete I didn’t want to ruin it, I really liked how fresh the lines appeared, I was happy with the tonal values I had created my the length and orientation of my marks.

I thought about how it would look if the paper was a different colour, or even if I could experiment non destructively, for example with a large sheet of acetate, almost like a film cell overlaid. Another option was take the drawing and work on it digitally, changing the background colour, texture etc.

Figure study using tone – Reclining model

Again I produced two sketches for this piece, I also wanted to revisit some perspective in the body, after my frustrating attempts to do this before, now calm and focused I thought I would take another stab at it. I sat a lot lower this time, in hind site I wished I sat closer to further distort and exaggerate the perspective. Again I found it quite a challenge to not work initially with line, I ended up outlining blocks and filling them in before finally settling into a blocks of tone only style. my subject was actually watching the tv, it was really quite shocking to see just how much the light from the tv fell on the subject, and how the changes on screen affected the shapes of the face as the shadows changed positions. Overall I was happy with the drawing, if I was to do it again as I mentioned above I would change the pose to a more exaggerated, distorted almost fish eye effect.

Portrait combining line and tone

Feeling a little guilty about the lack of experimentation from the first study, I thought it might work nicely here to do something interesting with the surface for the portrait. I was thinking I would like to use colour, the exercise does ask for line and tone, tone is present in colour so I thought this would be ok. I was hoping to achieve something similar to Jenny Saville’s work, big bold blocks of textured thickly applied colour. I decided that oil pastels would be a good medium. Ionly had some smaller sheets of pastel paper, i wanted to work fairly largely, I thought if I was to rip them leaving an uneven edge I could join them together and add the resulting off cuts to build up some, different surfaces on the paper, I also thought some black marker pen as an under drawing might make a good effect, similar to the one that I was trying to achieve with the “group of figures” exercise, a kind of moving while frozen double image.

My textured pastel paper, joined at the back with magic tape and then smoothed together with PVA gorilla glue, which has its own brown hue.

I was looking to cover most of the paper with oil pastel and black marker so the surface was of more importance than the actual colours, we will see how successfully they cover over the paper and glue. Another interesting thing about this method was that the pastel paper has a heavy toothed side and a smooth. While the main body of the paper is toothed the additional texture scraps are a mix of smooth and rough. I am hoping this makes for interesting marks.

My picture had a lot more texture than I was expecting, my loose under drawing, was all but lost under the pastel, I can see the advantages to using wet media to get the effect i was after, I added vaseline and baby oil to try to smooth the pastel together, as I had used PVA glue over the scraps of paper this actually acted a s a barrier and smearing the pastel resulting in “cleaning” off the marks, it would seem my experiment was more of an obstacle in this case.

I also used the other side of a brush and scratched into the oil, this is a trick that Rembrandt used and In an interview with Jenny Saville which I actually saw on the OCA by pure chance she reveals she does the same, claiming that you can learn everything you need to know about painting by studying Rembrandt. If i was to attempt this style of portrait again, I would go larger scale and ideally with paint, I think oil pastels was a good choice but not wet enough to produce the broad unpredictable swirls and dashed marks.

I do like the final image, but already I can see things I would approach differently. I tried to separate the face into three colours, green for the shadowed side warm pinks and red for the light and yellow green for the top of the forehead. I feel this structure would work better with a bit more distinction between the areas. The positives are their is certainly a mood to the piece, albeit not a happy one and there is a decent amount of form described. I think it had a good resemblance to the model, she didn’t see it as much. Hopefully that’s because how we see herself is different to the perception of others. None the less, I very much enjoyed all of this assignment and hopefully my deviations from the text aren’t too much of a problem.