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.

Research Point: 4.6.2.1 Self-Portraits throughout History

For this Research Point, I was tasked with finding self-portraits throughout history, including some more contemporary pieces, which I decided to try to find ones which closer resembled my own developing style.

Rembrandt (1606 to 1669)

Fig. 1. Rembrandt Self-Portrait at the Age of 63 (1669)

Rembrandt is one of the most well-known artists of history and one who created several self-portraits in quite a similar style throughout his lifetime. This piece has quite a moody atmosphere to it, which I was instantly drawn to. I don’t really like light and delicate pieces, but much prefer darker and moody, so this piece really draws me in. I can see that the light is focussed almost solely on the face, leaving the remainder of the piece in almost darkness. I think the piece is rather dated in the sense of the clothing worn by Rembrandt within as well as the darker muted palette often seen in historic paintings.

I think this piece is very subtle and creates a sense of humility of the artist. I see a modest gentleman in a very calm moment. By looking at the eyes and the position of the mouth, I am drawn to wondering whether Rembrandt was somewhat unhappy in this moment as he looks slightly subdued and down.

Whilst I do not see much of a connection to my own work, I do like the way Rembrandt has used one a small number of colours and the many hues within these colours, as well as his use of light and darkness to emphasise the areas of the piece he wants the viewer’s eyes to be drawn to. Whilst I know my tutor feels my work with colour needs much improvement, I do think pieces like this offer a great opportunity to dissect the piece and see the colours used and how they were used in such a clever way.

Sketchbook Dissection

Van Gogh (1853 to 1890)

Fig. 2. Van Gogh, V Self-Portrait (1889)

Considering my earlier comment regarding not enjoying lighter and happier pieces, I am actually rather drawn to this piece of van Gogh due to his story, the swirls used in his application but also due to his fantastic use of a limited palette. Considering the whole piece appears blue, van Gogh has very cleverly included a more orange colouring in a muted way to represent his auburn hair and beard. It seems somewhat strange to me just how these colours work so well together. I think it is perhaps because van Gogh has not only usd the orange shade, but also used touches of green and also the blue hues for the flesh and within the beard. Again, colour is not my strength, but this offers a fantastic opportunity to dissect the piece within my sketchbook to try and understand this colour concept better. I definitely have a long way with understanding the application of colour, but I find this piece a great reference point to come back to when coming back to colour in my future units.

Lieu (21st Century)

Fig. 3. Lieu, C Self-Portrait No. 32 (2012)

Moving forward in time, I came across this piece which I was instantly drawn to due to the almost solitary use of tonal patches to create the final piece. All sections appear to just be differing variations of pressure to create the different features. The lighting is clearly from the upper left-hand side of the page and highlights only certain areas, bringing the depth and shape to the piece.

I have found that during the creation of my pieces in earlier exercises, using tone as opposed to line has really worked in my favour and helps me create a more realistic piece, so this piece is a fantastic reference point for when I create my final piece within this Part of the course and is definitely something I would like to channel in my own work.

Sketchbook Dissection

I really like the techniques used in this piece, but definitely struggled with replicating the hands. I also rather enjoy the solid contrasts between sections of the piece and the heavy-handedness used by the artist. This very much resonates with my own techniques.

Auerbach (1931 to Present)

Fig. 4. Auerbach, F Self-Portrait II (2013)

Sketchbook Dissection

Whilst I am not extremely fond of this piece, I found it interesting due to the different pressures used to show different areas. I also really admire the fact that the lines do not appear to mean anything when viewed independently, however, they do come together as a whole to show the overall image of the artist. The lack of a solid outline and the presence of a very broken one resonates with me too and reminds me of my tremor. I wonder whether this artists has a similar issue and has reflected this in the piece?

List of Illustrations

Fig. 1. Rembrandt (1669) Self-Portrait at the Age of 63 [oil on canvas] At: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/rembrandt-self-portrait-at-the-age-of-63 (Accessed on 9 August 2019)

Fig. 2. Van Gogh, V (1889) Self-Portrait [oil on canvas] At: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vincent_van_Gogh_-_Self-Portrait_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg (Accessed on 9 August 2019)

Fig. 3. Lieu, C Self-Portrait No.32 (2012) [etching ink and lithographic crayon on Dura-Lar] At: https://claralieu.tumblr.com/post/21251081537/self-portrait-no-32-etching-ink-and-lithographic (Accessed on 21 August 2019)

Fig. 4. Auerbach, F (2013) Self-Portrait II [unknown] At: https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/frank-auerbach-speaking-and-painting-by-catherine-lampert-book-review-portrait-of-the-artist-as-no-10328712.html (Accessed on 21 August 2019)

Bibliography

My Modern Met (2017) ‘Iconic Artists who have Immortalised Themselves through Famous Self-Portraits’ [online] At: https://mymodernmet.com/famous-self-portraits/ (Accessed on 12 August 2019)

Van Gogh Museum (Unknown) [Online] At: https://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en/collection/s0022V1962 (Accessed on 12 August 2019)

Wikipedia (2019) ‘Self-Portrait’ [Online] At: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-portrait (Accessed on 12 August 2019)