I’ve been fascinated with faces for as long as I can remember — not as an artist, but simply as an observer. People-watching has always appealed to me, and so much knowledge, information, and emotion can be found in the human face. In many ways, faces are like a map of an individual’s life, a living, breathing record of who we are and where we’ve been.
Of course now, as an artist, my fascination with faces has continued and grown. Although I first thought I would be mostly interested in drawing flowers and trees, I soon came to realize that human figures — and faces — would be among the subjects I most enjoy.
My first attempt at portraiture was a small image of Jacqueline Kennedy. I’d been drawing for about 5 months when I made this charcoal drawing. Even though it’s obvious I was quite a beginner, I think it does bear a recognizable resemblance to the famous, former First Lady. I was quite proud of it.
Recently I have become even more fascinated by faces than ever. It began, I think, with the March 2019 issue of Artist magazine, the theme of which was putting your best face forward. I played with paints and did two self-portraits just for the fun of it, but then I turned back to graphite and began working a bit more seriously on drawing faces.
One of my first attempts seemed perfect for the Halloween season. Although it wasn’t intended to be Freddy Krueger, that’s who my husband thought it was when he saw this portrait.
What happened here is that I somehow had my reference photo turned a bit, or else I was turned a bit. In the original photo, the man has his head tilted. Using a grid system, I got the angle right in my outline of the facial structure — my starting point — but then forgot the angle completely when I added the facial features. So, that’s why his ears look so funny and lop-sided. Oh, well. Live and learn, and try again.
What fascinated me most in my reference photo — and what I wanted to learn to draw — was the weathered, wrinkled texture of the skin. That’s where I focused most of my attention. So, the facial features aren’t great, the poor fellow’s ears look ridiculous, but never mind all of that. I liked drawing this “Old Man in a Hat”.
Then, being an equal-opportunity artist, I knew I needed to draw an old woman, as well. So I went photo-reference browsing again and used a picture I found as the inspiration for this graphite drawing:
I really enjoyed doing this drawing, and I like a lot about it. Ignore the hair. I haven’t yet learned to do human hair that really looks like human hair. I’m working on it now. I like the wrinkles and age spots, and I like her toothless grin. I think maybe I got her complexion a bit too dark in places, but overall, I was happy with my drawing.
My portraiture still needs work, but I think I’ve improved since that first drawing of Jacqueline a few years ago. I hope that in time, I’ll be able to not only draw convincing likenesses with graphite and charcoals, but also to paint portraits. Faces do fascinate me, and you’ll be seeing more in future posts.
Yes, each face is different, and each face has unique features. I’m looking forward to learning more about how to create faces that show not only a likeness to the subject but which also capture some of the individuality and personality that each person possesses.