Tuesday, March 30, 2010

portrait progress

Building a charcoal portrait is a bit like sculpting in reverse. The added material is very thin but layer by layer it gets built up, forming and shaping an image. Resemblance is built by fractions of millimeters. Humans are so hard wired to read those fractions that not only do we recognize people we know, we recognize people we've only seen once or twice.

The artist learns to look for shapes, not just of major features like eyes and nose, but in the fine shadows of the face.

The joy and trial of charcoal is the ease with which it smudges. I use a piece of tracing paper to cover the sections I'm not working on to keep them clean, the transparency of the tracing paper means I can 'see' the whole piece which helps me to keep things balanced.

I work top to bottom left to right moving a couple of inches at a time. My favourite tool is a smudging squib, which on the semi smooth surface of the illustration board gives me good control in creating those fine shadows.

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