As promised a few weeks ago here is a bit of a step by step guide as to how I draw eyes. Everyone has a different process and this is just mine. Hopefully someone finds something useful in it! Apologies if it’s a bit long!
I feel like I am getting a good handle on drawing graphite portraits at the moment. I have completed a couple of successful (in my mind anyway) drawings in a row now. There is something to be said for sticking to a theme until you (almost) perfect it! What’s that theory… 10,000 hours to become an expert? I have such squirrel tendencies it’s impossible for me to stay focused on any one thing for an extended period!
Last week I had finished the graphite part of this drawing. You can read about the process and see some work in progress photos here. I could have left it at that but I have been doing so many graphite pieces of late I really felt like adding a bit of colour. I decided to break out the gouache paints as I like the opaque, flat almost ‘poster paint’ nature of them. None of that pesky, uncontrollable watercolour behaviour! I don’t feel particularly confident with any kind of painting so putting paint to paper is always a bit scary for me There is always a high risk that I am going to stuff it up royally. Hence it was quite a few days before I dived in but I am so glad I did. I am really happy with the end result.
I SUCK …S-U-C-K-!
Everything I do is shit…. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G
I CANT DRAW!!
Ahhhh these are the wailings of a tantrumy (I made that word up obviously) four-year old AND of a frustrated, perhaps every so slightly insecure, forty something year old artist. My darling husband puts up with this shit about once every six weeks or so. He’s such a champion and always responds patiently (and somewhat robotically?) with;
No you don’t
No it’s not.
And.. yes you can
I know I CAN draw pretty good but sometimes things just don’t turn out the way I have them planned in my head and it can get pretty damn annoying. The more frustrated I get the more I tend to over think and jump from one idea to the next and from one piece of work to another in the hope that somehow I will have a “break through” and something will work! Consequently I end up with a LOT of unfinished pieces of crap! I recently had a clear out of all these pieces out and pretty much filled an entire wheelie bin! Anyway, all this rushing around in my head, and on paper, has meant that I haven’t really taken my time with something for ages. So time to stop, slow down, go back to basics.
I wanted to go back to the basic graphite pencil skills I had learnt over the last decade and that I had somehow forgotten in the rush of getting stuff done/trying to create a masterpiece. Step one was finding a reference picture that I liked. I came across this amazing image by Kyle La Mere. (If anyone actually reads my blog they might be going hang on a minute, wasn’t she banging on about NOT using reference images last week and something about a potato?!). Yes I was. And, yes, I am not a huge fan of using reference images directly, but when your confidence is shot to shit and all your creativity has been sucked out of you, it’s time to go right back to basics. Using a good reference image is a great way for me to practice my skills and to get my confidence back and simply rediscover my love for drawing. (And before anyone gets their knickers in a knot about “copying”; I am practicing, not creating something for sale and I am giving credit to the amazing photographer who took this photo, twice now! I’d give credit to the model too but I don’t know who she is.)
I think I’ve made it clear before that I struggle with hair and for that reason I purposely chose a model without much hair. I honestly did not realise until I started that she didn’t have eyebrows though! I often think my eyebrows (not my ACTUAL eyebrows but the eyebrows I draw) look at bit ‘stuck on’ and not part of the face. I wasn’t purposely avoiding eyebrows in this instance it just worked out that way.
For this drawing I used the back side of some Daler Rowney Smooth Heavyweight (220gm) paper that I had. I figure maybe I brought it overseas, or a million years ago, as it has a price tag of $29.80 which seems VERY reasonable! It doesn’t say how many sheets of paper it is, but there are 16 left which make it even more reasonable! I’ve run out of Arches and when I want to my local art store and couldn’t find any the owner informed me that a new company owns it and they have put the price up $15 and reduced the number of sheets in a pad! CORPORATE BASTARDS!!!!! Plus she only had 300gsm. I brought one pad at $83 which my husband reliably pointed out is $6-$7 a sheet, so “I better not stuff it up”. Thanks. Perhaps I should go dumpster diving in to that wheelie bin full of drawing fails and see what paper I can salvage
I actually quite like this Daler Rowney paper. It definitely has more of a distinctive texture than the Arches paper. It give a bit of texture to the skin that I like, particularly around the eyes and eyelids. It naturally gives that crepe-y look that skin has (or at least older skin). The down side is that the texture is fairly uniform and distinctly horizontal which can look a bit unnatural. In some areas where the skin is quite firm and taut across the bone like the cheeks or the forehead, it is more difficult to achieve the necessary smooth look with this paper.
I agonised over how to draw her hair (I told you I was an over-thinker). My philosophy is always to draw what you SEE rather than what you THINK you see or what you think you know. Our brains are pretty adept at translating what our eyes see so that we understand it better. When we see an eyeball we know it to be a sphere so we draw a circle. But if you really look at it, the top part of they eye is concealed by the eyelid, so really, what you are often seeing, is the bottom three-quarter of a circle. My point being draw what you see in front of you (three-quarters of a circle) not what you know it to be (a complete circle). Anyway once again I digress and once again .. am going to contradict myself.
With the hair I did the opposite. My brain could just not compute what my eyes were seeing. So I kind of ignored what I saw and thought it’s shaven hair and shaven hair is just short little strokes. So that’s what I did… lots of short little strokes bit different grades of graphite. Again the Daler Rowney paper was actually good for this as it added to that sense of texture and roughness.
I didn’t want to have just a head floating in space so I added the neck using a combination of Tombow Mono 4B and 6B graphite and 6B Staedtler Mars Lumograph black pencils I have probably mentioned these Lumograph blacks before but they are my charcoal “substitute”. I just can’t deal with charcoal! It’s messy, impossible to sharpen, and ahhhgg sends a control freak like me in to a tail spin. Lumographs contain a higher proportion of carbon in the lead than graphite pencils. The carbon creates a matt black finish. I tend to only use the 6B and the 8B versions as the 2B and 4B aren’t particularly dark. They are also smudge-able (again not a real word I know) as you can see around the collar of her top. In truth they are probably not as matt black or as smudge-able as charcoal but for me they are a perfect alternative.
So I am pretty happy with the end result. I feel like I am back in the groove. Maybe I should just stick to what I know and stop mucking around with those colour pencils!!
Remember as a kid how you could draw anything you wanted completely from imagination? I was particularly fond of drawing five eyed green martins and weird dragon like creatures. I didn’t need reference images. It all came from imagination and probably looked nothing like a “real” martian or a “real” dragon but at seven years old I couldn’t have cared less. As I got older my attention turned to fashionable ladies in exotic gowns and horses… lots of horses. Again I didn’t need ‘inspiration’ or reference images to work from. I just let my imagination do all the work.
Somewhere along the way I lost that ability to ‘imagine’ things. These days I am fairly dependent upon having some kind of reference image or scene in front of me. Maybe it’s because I’m less creative as an adult or maybe I just want my portraits to look like real people not aliens.
Or maybe this need for reference material is just be an elaborate rouse for me to justify spending hours browsing the internet. Pinterest is of course my main source of inspiration and reference photos. I must have thousands of images stored in there! A few other places I like to go are:
- www.vogue.com – best place for runway images, especially detailed shots.
- www.theimpression.com – features the best backstage runway photographs. (I think now they are starting to charge a membership fee to access some stuff)
- www.models.com – I kind of stalk the new faces section for pictures of beautiful boys and girls (I’m very creepy I know).
- www.zara.com – the Zara app has recently become one of my favourite places to search for interesting faces and fashion poses. Their photos are generally on a white background and they use different angles and cropping. While all their models are of course ‘beautiful’ they do have a range of faces it’s not always a sour- faced-pouty-lipped-blonde-Caucasian-20-year-olds (yawn).
I am not entirely comfortable with directly “copying” an image. Sometimes I do this if I want to practice a particular skill or technique and don’t want the bother of coming up with my own image. More often I try to create my own compositions by pulling different elements from different images and my own photographs together. For example, for a face, I might take a nose from one image, eyes from another and a mouth from another for example. I might change things or add things like longer eyelashes, freckles, makeup, jewellery or clothing, or maybe add extra ’embellishments’ like flowers, bugs, etc. I put them together roughly in Photoshop and voila I have a “new” face. I liken it to playing an advanced game of Mr Potato Head.
But just like in Mr Potato head I’ve managed to create some weird, messed up, looking faces!
This odd-looking creature was a mash-up of one girl’s eyes, another’s nose, someone elses hair, someone’s ears and yet another’s mouth, all on a beautiful pearl collared jumper that I originally spied on Zara.
When I sketched it out I thought it looked fine. I thought I had everything nicely placed. Foolishly I started with the collar as that was the part I was most excited to draw. It took absolutely forever but turned out great!
Then I did the rest of her features. I can’t remember at what point I realised there was something weird about her face. And yes I certainly believe the most beautiful faces are those that have something off kilter about them. Like eyes to big or lips too large. This lady is, however, a bit too far off kilter. There is something eerie about her that I like but then something a bit wrong too.
Her nose is too big and off centre. Her ears are too big. Her eyes maybe too big and her mouth too small? Her forehead is too narrow and short. Actually I think the right eye is smaller than the left? Is the light source coming from the left or straight on? Ahhhgg
Turban girl is also a “Mr Potato head” with different bits and pieces collected from different reference images. This one worked a lot better and she looks much more natural.
I realise I am such a hypocrite, nay, more a liar liar pants on fire. “I will never draw another smiley lady in a hat”… remember that! Ha, ha, so what’s the first thing I choose to draw of my own free will… a chick in a hat! To be fair it is a turban not a hat and I am utterly obsessed with turbans. I’ve actually been asked to judge Fashions on the Field next month,(I know I can’t believe no one has figured out I don’t know anything about fashion yet either!) and it is expected that one wears a hat to such occasions. I cannot justify the expense of buying a bit of pointless fluff to wear on my head that I will wear once and only once. Turbans on the other hand really float my boat. Turbans are a trend I can really get behind because with a turban I don’t even have to do my hair … did you hear me? I DONT HAVE TO DO MY HAIR! In fact I can see myself wearing a turban every single day.
So I have been searching obsessively online for a turban and they are everywhere and they are all so beautiful I decide I had to draw one. A beautiful, bright, colour pencil one.
(WARNING: Expect to see plenty of work in progress photos this week. I got me one of those fancy new Samsung phones with the top-notch camera in it. To be fair, I don’t know exactly how to USE any of the fancy stuff but it is nice and I feel like a proper blogger.)
(Let me just start by apologising profusely for last weeks train wreck of a blog post. This is what happens when you ask your husband to proof read something .. he just takes over and writes mean shit about people!)
I’m taking a bit of a break after all that Fashions on the Field business so thought I would share some things I did earlier this year. These were graphite and colour pencil illustrations based on a some images from Zara. I had planned to do a whole series of them but other stuff keeps coming up!
Both are available as prints (terribly unimaginative titles I know but I’m no good at naming my art!)
“Blue Socks” – Graphite and colour pencil illustration
“Red Shoes” – Graphite and colour pencil illustration
So you think YOU are sick of those Fashions on the Field drawings I am freakin’ bored witless! It has taken every ounce of mental discipline to finish this last one. To be fair, discipline, focus, being task oriented etc, are all traits that I seriously lack. Anyway now it is finally finished and no one need read another blog post (at least from me) about fascinators, millinery, or whatever the fuck that shit they put on their head is called. (husband here: she doesn’t really mean that)
This last one nearly killed me. I have to admit I hated every second of it! I feel a bit bad owning up to that. It feels a bit like artistic blasphemy. Everything should be created with love, passion etc etc … In all honesty this one came from a place of frustration and desperation … JUST GET IT DONE.
Here she is; Courtney Moore the winner of the 2016 Myer Fashions on the Field event, completed in graphite, colour pencil and digital colouring.
…and here are all the rest. These 11 drawings are part of bigger plan / collaboration project. Only time will tell what happens with that project. If I never speak of them again you will know that it amounted to nothing and I wasted six months drawing smiling women in silly hats! Never again! (husband here: she really does love the hats and the smiling women)
So which one is my favourite? Certainly Chloe Moo – 2013, was the crowd favourite, smashing my Instagram account. I think I am most chuffed with Kristy Magillivary – 2008, the all black one, only because I could not fathom how to draw an all black outfit (nor how an all black outfit actually won) (husband here: she likes black! she wears loads of black I swear!). I did a lot of it in Photoshop and it turned out exactly as I planned.
As my personal favourite, I am torn between Emily Hunter – 2015, and Angela Menz – 2011 (aka – vagina head). (husband here again: it was me who said it looked like a vagina. It’s not her fault). For both of these I ventured a lot further with colour pencil than I have previously and was pretty happy with the results. It has definitely inspired me to pursue colour pencils a bit more (oh and to buy $100 worth of new fancy Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils.)
For all my wanting to be a real/ professional artist at the beginning of the year this project was a stark reality check. Maybe it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. Maybe I don’t want to be a REAL artist after all and I am truly okay with that. I just want to draw what I want to draw, how and when I want to draw it, with no external or internal pressure.
Creativity is something deep within me that I just have to get out (I’m sure my husband is going to read that and say …what like a giant 💩.. ewwww), It doesn’t have to have a purpose or a meaning, it doesn’t have to “get likes”, it doesn’t even have to be that good at the end of the day I just have to do it.
(Husband here: she really is a nice person, sometimes she just lets shit come out that should remain in her head. I guess that’s why I love her. I apologise to anyone who has been offended)
Ha ha.. he hijacked my blog post and the fact that I spent $100 on colour pencils didn’t even raise an eyebrow!!
This is Jackson. He is super cute and my most recent pet portrait commission. By some odd karmic coincidence this request arrived a few days after we had to put our own dog down. Dusty has made an appearance a couple of times in this blog so you might be familiar with him. We got Dusty whilst living in Abu Dhabi. He and his eight siblings had been found abandoned in a flooded building site as tiny, very cute, pups. After three years in the UAE he made the long trip (💰💰💰) back to Australia and enjoyed another three years with us here. Dusty was the best-worst dog you could ever have. Those who knew him will know what that means! 😢
Anyway I had loads of fun doing this commission of Jackson. I haven’t drawn anything but people for such a long time I’d forgotten animals are a whole different kettle of fish (so to speak). In some ways they are a little easier as you don’t need to worry about creating a smooth surface like you do with human skin but the flip side is you have to be super careful about inadvertent ‘blending’ (aka smudges). All that work to create tiny little individual lines of hair only to lose them by smudge them all together …ahhhgg!
The number one thing I re-learned doing this piece was the importance of figuring out the direction of travel of the fur BEFORE you start each area you are working on. You might start thinking the hair goes one direction only to discover it is actually a different direction and it is not always as instinctive as you think!. It can end up looking a bit unnatural if the hair is going the wrong way or you change it part way through and create an odd looking transition.
fact? thing: where the hair changes direction is called a hair whorl. It’s claimed there is a correlation between the location, number, or type of whorls and behaviour or temperament in horses and other species. Apparently the Bedouins believe different whorls mean different things. A whorl between the horse’s ears is a sign of swiftness and a whorl on the chest means prosperity! But beware the horse with a whorl above its eyes, it’s master is going to die of a head injury… (that is a fairly specific way to die so it must be true!)
But I digress…. Sometimes it can be quite hard to tell the direction of the hair from a photograph. Just a quick tip; I find it helpful to actually draw directional arrows on my reference drawing before I actually start.
I don’t know much about Jackson but I like to think that maybe he and Dusty are having a great time playing together wherever it is that dogs go after they leave this world.
RIP little man xx
If you are interested in a pet portrait of your bestie please check out my Etsy store. AUD $60 (an absolute bargin!) for an A3 portrait plus postage.