When I started I didn’t have any specific face in mind and initially I was wary about drawing a portrait from my imagination because I thought I might get frustrated not observing a sitter and being able to capture the essence of that person. So, putting my mind chatter to one side I just went for it and drew purely from imagination. I produced four drawings and with the initial one, which I’m not posting, I was thinking about the illustrator and Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell, who can draw from his imagination, (I follow him on social media). Riddell’s works are mostly fairy tale like and are effortless. However, my first attempt looked superficial and vacant but it was a good warm up. For some reason I found myself drawing an attractive female which on completion made me remember that as a child I drew a lot of princesses and queens to pass the time and it’s almost like I had reverted to an old habit.
For the second drawing I cleared my mind and started to think about the shape of the head and moving the pencil around lightly, building up the lines so I could feel the portrait forming and I could feel it was becoming more male. I liked the idea of the eyes closed, head slightly tilted, a more peaceful repose. The face is quite androgynous, not as male as I thought it would turn out and working into the skin and building up tone the portrait also became culturally non-specific.
For the 3rd drawing I decided to try and loosen up and without a gender in mind I lightly painted a wash using a watercolour to help build up light layers of colour and then using watercolour pencils I drew in some detail. I probably should have stopped working on the face long before I actually did but I did enjoy the process and another androgynous face revealed itself!
For the 4th drawing I used the same method as above but this time to avoid working too much into the image I decided against the watercolour pencil and used acrylic paint and I think this helped to produce a more convincing image. With abstraction and the use of negative space an older lady was in front of me and I liked this best. I think this exercise made me realise that without a model in front of me I prefer to leave the detail of the eyes out, (as they are as they say “the window to the soul”), and with both drawings without eyes they somehow look more realistic. I think the last image is also where I created the best mood, one of contemplation or perhaps sadness.
A definition of a portrait, according to the OED –
A painting, drawing, photograph, or engraving of a person, especially one depicting only the face or head and shoulders. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/portrait.