Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Forbidden City faces - work in progress

Teresa asked about my technique so I thought I'd scan the drawing I was working on and see if I could explain. I'm still feel fairly new to colour pencils so I don't have a technique as such. Certainly not compared to my graphite pencil work where I can visualise what I want the result to be and know how to get there and how long it will take me. With colour pencils I'm still learning as I go along so with each drawing I'm trying out different colour combinations to get the results I want. There is no set plan so I might try out a colour to see how it looks and if it doesn't work I'll erase it (as much as that's possible).

With this drawing, the face on the right interested me most but I liked the face behind too. The photo was taken from a distance so the man behind looks closer than he really was and I was curious to see if I could make that work in a drawing. In retrospect, perhaps it wasn't a great idea but it was worth a try! So, anyway, at this stage I had started the face on the right with layers of Light Yellow Ochre and Venetian Red to get the base skin tone. I built up the shady areas with Sanguine and Venetian Red then defined with Warm Slate Grey. It looked quite pale still so on the shady part of the cheek I added some Magenta and Burnt Carmine. I don't have a particular order, I'll just overlay what I feel it needs. Some yellow was 'washed' over it all to brighten it up and make it glow and more grey and red to deepen. Black is used lightly to really define thngs like nostrils, eyes, and the darkest shadows. Black was used for his hair and then a little Sepia at the front and some Light Ultramarine in the highlights.

For the man behind, I decided to use Burnt Ochre and Warm Slate Grey to build up the base tones. With graphite I start the eyes first but with colour pencil I leave those so the skin colours are kept clean but also to work out exactly where the eyes are (I have trouble placing eyes!) relative to the rest of the face because I can't erase back to pure white once I've made a mark.

He had a pale grey look about him that I tried to exaggerate but he had a glow around the jaw so I added some Light Yellow Ochre and Sanguine. I should mention that I also use tortillons ocassionally, especially for softening lines, and I use tissues folded around the end of my finger to soften, smudge and deepen colours - it makes a big difference.

I always find with colour pencils that everything looks quite saturated as I work on it but when I look at it the next day it's as if there is a milky film over the top. I'm sure it can't be wax bloom but it does seem odd. Yesterday he looked at if he was behind the man on the right, but today I look at it and he looks ill - like Keith Richards! I tried out a touch of Burnt Carmine on the cheek but I didn't want to put too much colour on it. Sanguine, Cinnamon and Burnt Ochre are added to warm up and define and -one of my favourites - Magenta. His hair is kept simple - just Black - and his clothes are kept very grey and light - a hint of Burnt Carmine in the collar and a hint of Raw Umber for the jumper darkened again with Black.

The finished result. I used a tissue to smudge the black in the clothes and fade it out. It's not quite as good as I'd hoped but as another sketch in my China sketchbook, it's fine. I started putting my China sketches in a large Winsor & Newton sketchbook but there are so many empty pages I thought I should try and put some more drawings in it!

I used mostly Polychromos pencils here but the Warm Slate Grey that I find invaluable is Lyra. I erase with a Jakar battery operated eraser also a Tuff Stuff 'eraser stick'.

What I love about these faces outside the Forbidden City is that all their teeth are bad, the haircuts are terrible, they all wear black or grey and three of the four I've drawn have warts on their faces ! I wish now I had pointed my camera at a few more of them - who knows what treasures I've missed!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Faces at the Forbidden City

Travel sketches have been very much on my mind for a number of reasons. After meeting and listening to Jean Pierre Montmasson (written about on my other blog, here), seeing his tiny sketchbooks and thinking about his advice that there are 'no rules', I've been focusing on what it is that inspires me and the way I like to express myself. I interpret 'no rules' to mean I'm free to do whatever pleases me, not what is expected of me, not what is in fashion and not what may or may not be 'cool' - which appears to me to carry quite a few (unspoken) rules.

Another very inspiring moment was discovering a video by one of my favourite artists, Reno Marca, talking about his new book and in it he is seen drawing from his computer. I've long suspected that many of my favourite illustrated travel books are done by artists using photos. It's clear, to me, that some are done on location and some from photos although this is never mentioned in the books. I don't see anything wrong with this, on the contrary, I find it very inspiring as it means these artists are not gods, what they do is within my capabilities too! Seeing Reno Marca drawing from his computer was the spark I needed to get me going again, as I felt slightly guilty about drawing from my photos of China. But chatting to Jean-Pierre about his many trips, it's obvious that to draw on location you need plenty of time and you need to go on a trip either specifically for that purpose or to have time scheduled in. On my trip to China, the tour didn't stop moving from the moment the plane landed - I think even seasoned sketchers would have found it nearly impossible most days.

Last but by no means least, I've been inspired by the new sketch blog Urban Sketchers. Inspiring moments come occasionally but with Urban Sketchers it's updated so often its like having inspiration fed intravenously! When it first started I wondered how on earth I was going to keep up with all the posts, but now I find myself checking for the latest installment - it's completely addictive! And very interesting how many sketchers are architects - I wonder why that is? With everyone's style being so different, it's clear there are no rules to sketching in public either. I think seeing these daily sketchers just getting out there and doing it will gradually this will help me get over my own reluctance to draw in public - something I'm constantly working on.

So, back to the sketch and back to what inspires me the most - faces (profiles at the moment!)and specifically the uniqueness of each and the variations in value, colour and texture of skin. I especially love to do areas of skin that have no outlines, necks, cheeks etc. There are plenty of lines in the forehead of the face on the right but what caught my eye was the coldness in the look of the man on the left. What was it that made it so cold, and could I capture that? I had fun playing with the colours and there is a lot of Lyra's Warm Slate Grey' in both faces but I tried to make the warmth of the skin glow underneath it, especially in the face on the left to bring it closer - and perhaps in contrast to that cold stare!