Part 4: Project 6: The Head

Exercise 1: Facial Features

Considering these features include a lot of detail, I actually rather enjoyed certain areas of this exercise. I thoroughly enjoyed recreating the eyes, for example. My favourite by far is the charcoal study in the bottom left-hand corner. With this, I tried to focus more on the different patches of tone as opposed to concentrating on the line.

I think the charcoal works best for me for a lot of areas, including the nose, ear and hair. I like the results in the conte sticks, however, I found this medium much harder to manipulate.

The black biro pieces have been effective as I think the medium allows me to use line to show depth and definition, giving weight to the sketches purely by bending the lines to suit my purpose. I think this has been very apparent in the ear, mouth and nose sketches. I think the biro also allows me to indicate the individual hairs in the eye brows.

I decided to create the study of the shapes of the face in black biro too as I find this medium the best for finer lines but whilst still being able to be expressive with the line markings. The head looks rather bulbous and unrealistic, but I think the general shapes will really help me when trying to remember them in my studies.

Research Point: Depictions of the Face throughout History

Please click here to view my findings for this piece of research.

Exercise 2: Your Own Head

Initial Studies of Own Features

Before I began making sketches of my face as a final piece for the exercise, I decided to recreate the previous exercise but this time looking at my own features before trying to create a piece as a whole. I decided to create quick studies of my eye, nose and lips as these are the key features which would be seen in my pieces. I also decided to create these studies in charcoal as I trusted myself much better with this media and knew the outcomes would probably be the best result of all media available to me as I could manipulate it at will; rubbing areas out simply or smudging to show slight shadows on the skin.

I was rather pleased with the outcomes of the studies and do think I was able to stay rather light-handed with the end results. I am most pleased with the study of the eye as I think I have managed to capture a rather true likeness and a good balance of contrast in the tonal range of the eyebrow, iris, pupil and then the lighter areas of skin and the nose. I think I may have been slightly too heavy-handed with the bridge of the nose and the tones of the lips, but I am generally pleased with the outcome.

Quick Biro Sketch of Own Head

Quick Biro Sketch of Own Head

For this exercise, I tried to barely look at the paper, but to stay focussed on my reflection in the mirror. Whilst I think there is no real resemblance to me, I am not too bothered about that really as I was more focussed on trying to draw what I saw as opposed to a true representation. I think overall I have elongated the face, the nose is too much of an oblong shape and the chin too small in comparison to the other features of the face. There was a bit of foreshortening through the mirror, with the top of my head being closer and the chin slightly further away, but I do not think I have conveyed this accurately enough.

Quick Charcoal Sketch of Own Head

Quick Charcoal Sketch of Own Head

Again, I looked through a mirror but changed the angle slightly so the foreshortening was more pronounced and clearer to see, as well as the medium used. I think this piece was much more successful than the biro and that I have been able to keep all of the features rather accurate this time, however, I think the mouth is slightly too ‘forward-facing’ to be fully accurate. The charcoal was great for creating a lot of hair very quickly and is most definitely my favourite medium for quicker studies.

Longer Charcoal Sketch of Own Head

LArger Sketch of Own Head in Charcoal

I then decided to slow things down and do a piece from a photograph of myself, using my grid system and using controlled pressures thoughout to try and achieve different tonal ranges.

I am extremely pleased with this piece and do not think I have overworked the piece at all – for a change! I think I have been rather successful in trying to make the nose believable, since this was the hardest part to do so in the features exercise. Whilst the other two sketches weren’t visually accurate, I think this piece is, although I do think there are some areas I could have improved; the nostrils appear somewhat crooked and the chin line should be more blended as opposed to so defined. I think I have managed to capture my eyes rather well. I think I could also have added a little more shadow to the neck to create depth as I think it looks somewhat flat.

Overall, this has by far been my favourite piece to create and as an end result, to date.

Research Point: Self-Portraits throughout History

Please click here to view my findings for this piece of research.

Exercise 3: Portrait from Memory or the Imagination

For this exercise, I tried to work with four different media; biro, charcoal, conte stick and acrylic markers and to create sketches from my imagination.

I didn’t really enjoy this exercise as much as others as I don’t really enjoy the imagination aspect and much prefer working in a realistic manner and from an actual subject, whether it be physical or via photographs.

Looking at the sketches, whilst I did try to mix it up a little, I think I somehow managed to create four very similar images. I think I was able to get the features in proportion rather well and, whilst they do not look like anyone in particular, I think the separate features do work rather well together, but appear somewhat caricature-like in places.

The features I found the hardest to recreate realistically were the lips and the flesh of the cheeks, as I think is apparent in all of the sketches. The lips appear too bulbous and the flesh not defined enough or evenly stretched.

I think the fourth sketch is by far my favourite and appears the most realistic of all. I enjoyed working with two colours (black and silver) to create the piece and feel they work well to create a sense of depth by just using line. I think I will consider this method for my assignment piece where I am to create an image in line.

I created the biro sketch in the style of Chalhoub, whose work I have recently looked at. I thoroughly enjoyed creating the sketch and liked the fact I was using several different coloured pens to create the depth in the piece, but also how there wasn’t much need for specific emphasis to the features within the piece, however, I did decide to add much more detail than the other artist as it just felt right to me to do so for my own piece.

Part 4: Project 2: Proportion

Exercise 1: Quick Studies

Two-Minute Studies

For the first part of this exercise, I decided to work in charcoal again due to its flexibility, ability to move quickly and my growing confidence in the medium overall.

I began the exercise by asking a friend to pose for two minutes (measured by the stopwatch on my mobile phone), before changing positions for another two minutes.

During this process, I tried to think how short a time I actually had and how much information I wished to include. I decided omitting any details was my best way of getting as full a picture as possible within the time-frame. I also decided that including the chair the model was leaning on was important to help ground her and explain how she was capable of being in the position she was in at that time.

I began each sketch by drawing a simple line through the middle of what would become the body, extending it down, up and across for the arms and legs, depending on their positions. I then moved on to drawing basic shapes for the different parts of the body , after which I worked on building the actual shape of the outline I could see, having decided to learn from my error with the towel in the first exercise. I also – whilst admittedly only very quickly – tried to bear in mind the model’s bone structure and muscle movements to help me measure things out as accurately as I could in the short time available.

I thoroughly enjoyed this process – possibly more than anything I have done so far in this course! I was able to be extremely cathartic and focussed whilst having almost no interest in the finer details seen at all. I think this will be extremely useful in the future for eliminating unnecessary detail, since detail really is not one of my strongest points, nor is it as enjoyable.

Whilst I think my first study is definitely the more ‘pretty’ and finished of the five due to the structure and – whilst still expressive – more controlled and tamed lines, I think it is clear to see from the progression of the sketches that I became looser and less controlled with each exercise, trying to include as much information as possible.

My least favourite sketch to create was the fourth as I found this pose rather difficult to measure as accurately as the rest, not to mention the model’s raised leg tiring as the time progressed and lowering closer to the ground, which then changed the model’s whole pose; the twist in the torso and the change in direction of the head. Whilst this is my least favourite and the one I would deem the weakest, I was somewhat pleased with the result due to it including some movement and my ability to keep working through that. I think this will come in handy when I reach the crowd and energy / movement exercises.

Ten-Minute Studies

For the first of my ten-minute sketches, I stayed with charcoal again to avoid the change in medium throwing me off slightly and allowing my focus to rest on how I would approach this task.

For this exercise, I admit I used a photograph from a book I have bought which is full of poses for artists as I did not have the opportunity to draw someone from real life at the time and did not want to waste too much of my allotted time for this Part of the course on the exercises since they are meant to be stepping stones to the final piece. I know my tutor has said that working from photographs has stifled me in the past, but I thought this would be ok for some of the longer studies to avoid too much time passing.

I began by drawing the line with its branches for the torso and limbs, then drew an oval for the head. From there, I drew the rest of the shapes in the body and then the outline as seen. At this point, I had reached a point where I had finished on the two-minute studies and I admit, I was a little dumbfounded as to where to go from here. I decided my next step was to include the darkness of the hair and the areas of tone I could see. I decided ten minutes was not long enough to remove the outline of the figure by blending it in, so left this be. From there, I began to focus on the facial features, which I had not been able to do before, besides an indication of the direction the face was facing. I was still working rather quickly on the details of the face, but wanted to get the direction in which the model’s eyes were looking. Finally, I added a darker layer to the model’s hair to try and consider my tutor’s comments regarding layering to create depth. It was at this time that my timer went off and I had to down my charcoal.

First 10-minute sketch

When I initially looked at the first ten-minute sketch, I was rather disappointed with the rather juvenile looking outcome; the outline was too bold – too much of a heavy hand! – the right arm’s weight was not even to that of the left (as was the weight of the left leg compared to that of the right), the head was rather too large for the rest of the body and the facial features too forced. Finally, I had spent too much time focussing on the finer details (for a change!) and had run out of time with the lower half of the model not looking half as complete as the top.

All this disappointment aside, I was able to see some successes within the sketch; the model’s gaze appears rather convincing to me and suits the direction and flow of the model’s general pose, the hair does hold some depth and shows a slight curl (though I think this could have been emphasised more). I think the seated position on the stool is rather believable too and the areas of tonal value work well in showing such things as the armpit and depth of the forearms.

Bearing in mind my over-interested approach to the details of the previous sketch, I decided to now swap to oil pastel since this was also a medium which is flexible and also one I am rather comfortable with. However, instead of using black for this sketch, I decided to use a brown oil pastel. My reasoning for doing so was because I had thought long and hard about my tutor’s comments in relation to my lack of skill with colour, yet improvements in monotone and decided to try and work on improving my use of colour without *actually* working using colour.

I decided to catch my husband unawares in a natural pose (he was fine when I told him about it afterwards! haha!) whilst sitting on the settee on his phone whilst, again, timing myself on my phone.

Again, I began with a very, very light layer of the oil pastel to create the basic shapes seen and slowly built upon this in the same ways I had for the previous exercises. Once again, I found I had reached the same level as the two-minute studies rather quickly but, having learned from the previous sketch, decided to work more on the blocks of tone instead of the finer details. I also included some of the settee where he was sitting to help ground him and create a bit of the backstory. I kept layering the oil pastel and even indicated the facial features with just the patches of tone until the timer went off and it was time for me to stop.

Second 10 minute sketch

I am rather pleased with this end result as I, firstly, I was actually able to bring it to a stage I felt it was quite ‘finished’ looking and, secondly, I think I have managed to measure the proportions rather well considering there was only a limited amount of measuring due to time constraints. I am really happy with the contrasts in the tonal areas and how by purely using patches of tone, I was able to create a sense of the direction in which the eyes were looking (at the phone). It just so happened that the lighting fell from our floor lamp to his right, so there was quite a few areas of really light areas and also very dark patches of shadow.

Doing this has really helped me understand the comments my tutor has made regarding eliminating unnecessary information by giving me the opportunity to work fast to fit in what I could in a short amount of time. Whilst I think the two-minute studies will be good to help choose interesting viewpoints and compositions, I think this method will be helpful to assist in working out the main areas of lighter and darker patches of tone within my chosen viewpoint.

Exercise 2: A Longer Study

Again, I had to rely on a photograph in the book I had bought to assist me with this exercise; I did not have time to get to a life class at the time (though I intend to do so when I am further into this Part of the course and have a little more understanding and I did not want to waste any of the invaluable time without practising more first) and also it has become really apparent to me just how little spare time I actually have to be able to fit such long studies in and how few people are willing to assist by modelling for you (even fully dressed!).

I set my timer again, but for one hour this time. Due to the fact I had an hour for this exercise, I decided to use pencil to draw out the central line of the model, the head, torso and limbs before committing myself with my pen. I also decided to use a black pen for this piece as I really enjoy working on a finer scale with this medium and feel as though I have the best control over it as opposed to the flexible fluidity of the charcoal and oil pastel.

Initial quick sketch of basic shapes

Once I had the initial shapes in place, I began to draw the outline in with my pen. I then built up the darkest areas; the section where the buttocks meet the legs, the hair and the shadow around the model.

From there, I then focussed myself on adding in the lighter areas of shadow and creating the definition of the muscles and bones underneath the model’s skin. I stayed rather expressive with regard to the model’s hair, however, I tried to be much lighter for the shadows on the model.

Finished piece

To look at, I am rather pleased with the piece as a whole; I think my measurements are rather even generally and equal on both sides and I think the shadows on the body as a whole are rather convincing and believable.

I am, however, slightly disappointed with the outlining shadows as I think the model does appear to be floating in midair. I think, had I had more time, I would have introduced more of a background (whilst the model was actually standing against a wall, I think I could have made it appear as though she were on a bed or even emphasised the wall in some way – perhaps by an indication of some brickwork? There is also too much empty, excess space within the piece but, having used my full hour, I decided to ignore my gut instinct to carry on and learn from my mistakes for my future pieces.

Finally, I really struggled with the hands and feet and creating them on such a small scale and decided to crop these off in the end. I find I can draw the basic shapes of them as a whole, but on a really small scale, I just cannot seem to get them right – perhaps it is because I am too heavy-handed (no pun intended!) or because I focus on the outline when I should be focussing on the tonal areas instead and allowing the digits to form naturally. I decided I needed to carry out some further practice with these things in a range of different sizes and poses.

Research Point: Foreshortening and the Human Form

Please click here to see the findings of my research.

Project Five: Townscapes

Research Point: John Virtue

Please click here for my findings from this research.

Exercise One: Sketchbook of Townscape Drawings

Sketchbook page of 10cm x 10cm close-up squares

For the first part of this exercise, I created three squares which held close-up quick line sketches of points which interested me and then another three squares which held close-ups of tonal sketches.

Having learned what I have learned so far, it is very apparent to me that my perspective skills when used without assistance still need a lot of work. However, I have found I am looking for ‘clues’ now which I wasn’t before. Bearing this in mind, I am happy with the outcome of these as quick sketches, as I think they do show some improvement.

For the next part of the exercise, I created two quick sketches in biro of two interesting points of view.

Sketches of townscape

As with the previous part of this exercise, I have found again that my perception is not completely accurate. I was aware there were errors during the creation of these sketches, however, I tried to work through these errors and correct them during the process. I really tried to imagine the vanishing points again when creating this, but do think this is going to take some time and practice to be able to see naturally, however, I am happy with the results and how I am progressing in this way. It will take some time to perfect, but I think I am getting there slowly!

Exercise Two: Study of a Townscape using Line

Preparatory Sketch

Preparatory drawing in sketchbook

For this exercise, I began by creating a sketch in my sketchbook over two pages, as instructed to do, of a townscape scene I thought appealing. After the previous exercise, I decided to continue the study of my own house in an attempt to ‘work in series’, showing my continued development of my understanding and appreciation of the details of the exterior of my home. I have actually found this rather enjoyable as, not only is it very sentimental to me and I enjoy working with sentimental things, I feel I have looked more closely at things I have merely taken for granted and walked by obliviously when coming and going from my home, day in, day out.

Composition for Final Piece

I then decided to use a piece of tracing paper as a view finder as the view finder I had made for myself was only roughly A4 in size. I placed the tracing paper at different angles on my preliminary sketch (as can be seen in the pics below – if you squint hard enough!) before choosing my favourite.

In all honesty, I actually really liked Viewpoint 3 and thought it rather abstract and interesting, but decided to play it a little safe and go with Viewpoint 4 as it held a lot of visual information and different parts of the preliminary sketch.

Final Piece

I decided I was rather intrigued as to what the piece would look like if completed on the tracing paper and – although a bit of a cheat on my behalf – traced my preliminary sketch with my finer drawing pen before adding in the extra bits of detail with thicker pens, using the thickest to show the darkest (and actually black) areas of the composition as well as the shadows and darker parts of the clouds.

Final piece

Whilst I think I have been rather successful with this piece in respect of the depth and perspective, I did struggle somewhat with my really straight lines as my tremor was rather strong when I created the piece, so i was a little disappointed with that. I actually wanted to keep the slightly wobbly lines more for the brick walls, but my arm had other ideas! Also, I think I have definitely overdone it with the clouds as it was a beautiful sunny day and I think the markings used would represent a more dense and rain-filled cloud as opposed to the light and wispy clouds which were actually visible. Again, this is a little disappointing, but definitely something I can consider for future pieces. I also think they try to jostle for the foreground focus too much too – another reason to keep them thin and dainty. I don’t think I have been all that successful in separating the grounds in this piece, but I do think it rather difficult when working with line. This is something I will have to try and work on.

Exercise Three: A Limited Palette Study

For this exercise, I chose again to continue studying my home and to recreate the same piece again, but this time using as close to the traditional colouring as possible. Again, due to my increased tremor and a little weakness in my hand, I chose to work with wax crayons. I made this decision as I thought the finer grip / motor skills needed would cause much more cramp in my hand, so I chose to avoid these. I then considered soft pastels, but did not have a good enough match to the colours (I had black, but no brown, only yellow and orange). Then I considered oil pastels but decided they were too loose and expressive for the piece as I did want to keep it delicate, bearing in mind the weather of the day (I waited -a little too long! – for the sunshine to come back and for the conditions to be roughly the same as the day I had created my preliminary sketch in my earlier exercise.

Limited palette final piece

Whilst I think there are still a few issues with my work which I need to address (the bricks I drew in quickly do not fully sit at the right angle, so this spoils the effect somewhat, the door is too narrow and the garage roof was difficult to recreate due to its strange angles, to name just a few), I used this exercise to practice my lighter touches in the clouds and in the shadow on the white sections of the piece. Again, I think my angles still need a lot of practice and I did struggle to see things clearly, but I think I have definitely improved dramatically since beginning the course and, hopefully, this will continue.

Exercise Four: Statues

When I first thought of this exercise, there was only one statue which came to mind that I wanted to study due to its place in my memory; having grown up driving past this statue on numerous occasions, I had always been fascinated by the ‘magic’ it held as it seemed to reach up to the sky at an angle, as though anchoring the giants’ world from the ancient fairy tale, Jack and the Beanstalk, to ours!

I went to visit the statue and noticed things I had never noticed about it before, having always been solely focused on the ‘magic’. The shadows were fantastic for working on my tutor’s comments regarding patches of tone and the contrast between the two. Also, the fact it disappeared into the distance and everything became smaller as it became further away was also really good the help me practice my foreshortening skills. I tried to move around the statue for different viewpoints, but also zoomed in on key points of interest to try recreating.

Sketches from varied viewpoints

I think I was a little tame with my first two sketches (top left and top right) as I stood in a position where there was not much shadow (I was here for some time, so the light changed position too). I think I have made the mistake again though on the top two of giving them too defined an outline. I just cannot seem to get away from this!

The bottom two are much more interesting I feel and are less outlined than the previous two; I think the lack of tone in the top two compared to the bottom two really seems to affect me. It is as though I just cannot get my mind around the fact the very solid outline does not have to be there for it to look realistic. I think I should have blended it a little better so it was not so solid a line. I am, however, very pleased with the links in the bottom right piece. I used the lifting method with a rubber to lift to the lightest value and I think it has genuinely paid off! I tried to draw the links roughly in place so I knew where I was going, but then just followed the tonal changes and worked my way downwards. I think this has really helped make the sketch look convincing.

Final piece

After doing the four quick sketches, I decided to draw the whole statue on a page in my sketchbook, trying to take note of what I had gathered in the quick sketches I had made. As a whole, there was not masses of shadow and tonal contrast from the view I had now chosen (and with the sun’s placement changing etc), so I decided to work quite lightly in tone and use very deep tonal areas for the shadows, as well as lifting areas (such as the scratching to the lower half of the hook) and the reflected light on the links.

I was actually quite impressed with the finished result and, again, think it has helped my understanding of foreshortening massively, which I think will help me no end in the next Part of the course.