What’s in a Face? An Introduction to my Journey Through The Aggravation of Creating Portraits

Everyone’s doing it – painting, drawing, embroidering portraits. Cute little stylized faces, hyper realistic portraits, something in between. What is so fascinating about faces? And faces can take a really long time, what makes someone want to spend all that time with a stranger’s face? And, when you try to draw someone you know or love, likeness becomes really important – and oh! the disappointment when you totally f- them up! Why put yourself through that anxiety?

I’ve tried many styles of portraiture – mostly as a bandwagon thing – but I also find it a challenge, like a really complex puzzle – putting it together can be very frustrating, but when you get it right, and the puzzle is done – it’s really really satisfying. Of course, when there’s a piece missing, and it’s a total fail, that’s not so satisfying, and that’s the case more often, for me anyway, with my portraits. But, I plug away, stubbornly.

Mostly I’m stubborn because I don’t want to learn properly. I watch online tutorials, and I’m familiar with the Loomis method – which is technical drawing method to ensure correct facial proportions. You draw a circle, bisect the circle, you draw ellipses, shaping the sides of the heads, you measure equal distances between the brow line, the end of the nose and the jaw, your mouth lines up with the corner of the eyes – blah blah blah. I really get bored. I want to be one of those artists that just eyeballs it, but placing features in relation to each other. Now of course, those artists that eyeballed once drew diagrams, and have developed their craft so they can now do something looser – but I want to skip the learning and go to the skill, and that’s why I have frustration. Having diagnosed my problem, you’d think I’d go back and do the work, but I don’t. So, I try to satisfy myself with getting a face at least, if not a likeness.

This year, I signed up for Kara Bullock’s Let’s Face it 2021, which is a year long workshop dedicated to creating portraits. This year, the theme is different forms of inspiration – books, photographs, etc. The first section was devoted to books, and I was really excited. Unfortunately, she picked artists to start off the year that actually aren’t interested in books, and tried to pigeon hole what they really wanted to do into the theme. One artist even said she doesn’t really like to read. One artist at least focused on book covers. So, this took some air out of the course for me, and now that I think it’s back on track, I’ve stopped paying attention to it a bit – I think I need to log back in. Anyway, one of the artists was not inspired by a book, but by a vintage photo, and that did inspire me, so I did a few ink and wash watercolor portraits in a sort of vintage style:

I actually really like the top one, because I think she’s very emotionally compelling, but her features are wonky, and she looks a little thin.

On the other end of the spectrum, I watched a class on Domestika this week, all about illustration, and I ended up with this:

So, as you can see, I’m kind of all over the place when it comes to faces, portraits, figures, and I thought I’d do a little series on my portraiture journey. So, next week, I’m going to do a series of blog posts from the beginning of my portaiture journey to where I am now. I’m a little scared to do – maybe I’ll actually see regression! That happens sometimes when you try too hard. I don’t think that’s going to happen, but we’ll see! Along the way, I’ll talk about some of the online classes that really helped me on my journey, and maybe at the end, I’ll find myself on a new journey, who knows?

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