Lets Get Real! Really!
I have been really trying to push my drawing skills to create more realistic portraits. Learning to draw freckles, pimples, wrinkles, scars, facial hair and so on has been a challenge for me but one I have really enjoyed exploring. Although I sometimes get asked to, I’ve always avoided drawing friends, family, work colleagues etc for fear of… well… failure I suppose (What if it looks nothing like subject! What if they hate it! What if I don’t /can’t finish it!). As a consequence I pretty much exclusively draw fashion models. While there has been a rise in models with more ‘interesting’ faces (sans facial hair surprisingly) at the end of the day they are still models and still fit within fairly confined and traditional standards of beauty, which can get a little boring!
As well as being an artist, I own and operate a hot yoga studio on the south coast of Australia. It’s a fairly small community which keeps my yoga business pretty modest but on the plus side I get to know all my students really well. We’ve kind of become a little community of odds and sods that like to get hot and sweaty together.
Kirsten has been one of my students from the very beginning. Kirsten is one of those great people who always has a smile on her face no matter what is happening in her life. I knew she was up for anything and would be more than willing to pose for me. She was a perfect first choice as she had no expectations and was happy to be captured “warts and all”. There’d be no pressure from Kirsten to produce anything and whatever I did produce she would still be smiling.
“Don’t let fear or insecurity stop you from trying new things. Believe in yourself. Do what you love. And most importantly, be kind to others, even if you don’t like them” – Stacy London
Extraordinary is the New Ordinary
I wanted to combine my love of fashion with “ordinary” non-models The idea to put everyday people in designer fashion is not a unique one of course, everybody’s doing it (Gucci, Chromat, J Crew, Eckhaus Latta, Rebecca Minkoff – oh but not Victoria’s Secret – clearly they did not listen to a word I said last week!)
I also wanted to create ‘alter egos’ for my subjects. Or, if not alter egos, extensions of their current personas (.. extra egos? extended egos?). Kirsten is very much a pink and purple person. I would never describe her as “princessy” but sometimes I think if she had an excuse to be a princess for a day she would embrace it wholeheartedly!
When I saw John Galliano’s Spring 2018 collection, with its pretty pink embellished dresses, disheveled hair, drunken eyeliner and slightly askew tiaras I knew I had found my quirky, not quite perfectly pink princess.
The best intentions
What seems like a BRILLIANT idea in my head doesn’t always translate so well to paper. It takes a certain quality to pull off a tiara made essentially of pipe cleaners and not look like a crazy cat lady. Unfortunately as soon as I stuck the tiara on my sketch of Kirsten she looked bat-shit-crazy not super-model-chic.
I certainly have a greater appreciation of what models actually do other than act as a coat hanger with a pretty face. I had plenty of photos of Kirsten posing in a very cool and pouty modelesque way but truth be told they just didn’t represent the Kirsten I know. Kirsten has the most amazing smile that lights up her face. Somehow I had to “keep the Kirsten” without turning her into a caricature. (Then again it wouldn’t be a John Galliano show if the models didn’t look just a bit crackers).
I wanted to take a little bit of liberty and create kind of what Kirsten these ladies (and hopefully gents) would look like if they were actually made up to strut the catwalk rather than just being unexpectantly ambushed before their yoga class and railroaded in to having their photo taken makeup free in gym sweats! I wanted to find a balance between retaining the true nature of their character while adding a bit of glamour! So glossy lips, long thick lashes, hair extensions were required. The Galliano collection has some fantastic slightly wonky winged eyeliner looks that I also wanted to include. The difficulty was striking a balance between the reality and fantasy.
Photo credits: The Impression
I must say it is a tonne of fun to be drawing someone who is smiling back at you! It’s such a fantastic change from having a slightly surly looking chick giving you stink eye all day long. You can’t help smiling yourself when the person you are drawing has an ear to ear grin!
Once upon a time I lived the life of a kept Western housewife in the Middle East (before my brain exploded / imploded? from boredom). I know we’re going off on a tangent but stay with me, there is a point to this. I passed my days doing yoga, getting my nails done and occasionally attended art class. During these art classes I met a lady who admired my graphite work and told me it was/ I was good because I didn’t do any blending. Apparently blending was strictly forbidden in her classes and considered the domain of cheaters, slackers, lazy shits who couldn’t be bothered taking the time to apply layer upon layer of crosshatching. Prior to this I’d never really thought an awful lot about the merits, or not, of blending. I simply chose not to do it because… well I sucked at it! I figure if it works for you do it; if doesn’t don’t.
Of late I have been getting increasingly frustrated with trying to render large areas of skin. My current method is to use graphite pencils layering them in a cross hatching fashion or in a circular motion. Circular seems to give me a better finish. Still I noticed particularly with this piece I am not getting a smooth enough finish for my likings. I’ve played on the fringes of blending with a couple of pieces but never really committed to it.
I was not really not happy with the way Kirsten’s neck was looking. What to do? What to do? I consulted JD Hillberry – aka “the Godfather of Graphite”. In his book JD recommends using a 3B and F graphite pencil for the large value areas and then smoothing the strokes with a tortillon.
I bit the bullet and did it. Now I know why I don’t like blending! I worked so had to get graduations of tone and I feel like blending, yes it smooths everything out, but I loose those graduations. I also feel like you loose any sense of texture from the paper. And yes I understand that ‘smoothing’ by definition probably means removing texture! My blending just ends up looking smudgy and very uniform in tone … blah.
Before and after. Now these photos are awful, awful, awful! I know (the Instagram goddesses are cringing – at least chuck some filters on it sweetheart). The top is original bottom and the bottom is blended (the area between her necklace and dress). Interestingly I can’t tell much difference in these close up photos but to the naked eye you can definitely see a difference between the two areas.
From this long shot you can see a little better the blended area in comparison to the non blended. You can see how much darker the blended area has gotten without me adding any more graphite.
I persevered and finished off the rest of it with a H pencil and blended with the tortillon. I was so unhappy with the finished result – it looks too dark and really rough. I went over it lightly with a 2H and 5H just to try to bring a bit to text back. I think this looks pretty rubbish actually. If anyone has any suggestions how to fix it let me hear ’em.
I’m still a bit nervous of how this is going to turn out. I want to add colour and glitter to the tiara and dress I but I fear the more “external embellishment” I add I risk the end result looking quite “crafty”. Nothing screams crazy nutter lady like a hot glue gun and a bedazzler. Maybe simple is better. Then again maybe the bigger the glitter bomb I throw at it the better I can distract the eye from the shitty graphite work! (As the saying goes – you can’t polish a turd but you can roll it in glitter!)
Well I will keep you posted! Maybe I can salvage something from this!