Portrait Drawing: a learning process

Portrait drawing: charcoal and chalk on toned paper

This was my first portrait drawing at LARA, which I completed during my second term. I learnt a lot but I regret not asking for more help with it; though it was done as an extra evening study rather than in class time. I think it could have been much better….next time!

It was my first time for many things, including setting up a model. Thankfully Chris, my model and a fellow LARA student and LARA studio assistant knew exactly what was required. It was a little weird though, even working with someone I know; it is unusual to look at someone that intently. I was pretty uncomfortable setting Chris up so that he was looking directly at me, even though I think it would have been better for the drawing; both easier for me at this stage and a better reflection of Chris’s usual, quite direct, demeanor. I guess I’ll get used to this in time. Chris and I were doing a portrait modelling swap and Chris set me up to look quite directly at him; an interesting inversion of our respective demeanors, which I think perhaps reflected each of us as artists rather more than sitters.

This made me think a little more about the relationship between artist and sitter. I hadn’t really considered how much it is a portrait of the artist, not so much visually but in other respects. One of my previous teachers, Alan McGowan said that drawing from a model is a three way negotiation between the artist, the model and the drawing. I feel like I’ve just caught a glimpse of what he might have meant by that.

On a positive note it was reassuring to take a little of what I have learned and apply it in my own way; I enjoyed the freedom to make small departures from ‘the method’ but I did noticed that the freedom came at the price of much less accuracy.

Chris was a really interesting model with a mixture of thoughtfulness and integrity in his face of which I think I caught a little. Overall I was pleased with the atmosphere that came through in the picture. I really struggled with the underlying skeletal structure though,  and the direction of his eyes. I’ll be drawing Chris again this coming term, I hope to make a better drawing and one that reflects Chris more.