The Creative Journey of the Portrait

One of the things I like about being an artist is that, at least for me, creativity knows no bounds. One idea leads to the next and it’s often hard to put limits on where they go.

Putting limits is important as otherwise I’d just be bouncing all over the place like a madwoman, trying this and that and getting nowhere. Wait, I actually do bounce all over the place! I like to think that I get somewhere, though. As an artist I believe it’s important to explore ideas and move forward in new directions. I also believe that it’s important to not get side-tracked too often. In other words, explore that new idea and really get to know it, then move on.

In view of that, my latest interest (obsession) is with female portraiture. I’m not sure where this came from. I haven’t drawn the human form in many, many years (note that I’m not saying how many!). I drew from life in art college and later drew children in illustrations for book publishing, but never pursued it beyond that. So why did I all of a sudden get this urge to draw women’s faces? Who knows, but one thing I’ve learned is that when the muse strikes I must respond or it keeps bothering me. So I’ve embarked on a series of women in various guises, from nymphs and goddesses with flowers in their hair, to imaginary characters with stories to tell.


I paint women with soulful expressions or flowers in their hair, women with stories to tell…

It became clear to me from the start that I was a bit rusty on drawing humans. Therefore, I did my usual thing when starting something new, and that was to educate myself. Living in a small town without access to a lot of art classes or tutoring, the Internet became my teacher. I began to use photographic reference found online to practice drawing faces and details such as eyes and noses. I also researched portrait drawing lessons and online workshops, eventually settling on a couple I found useful. Note that there are scads of sites with lots of information, many of them free. These were just the ones I chose to purchase.

The Art Academy with Michael Britton offers free drawing newsletters plus more detailed and comprehensive downloadable tutorials. I bought “The Portrait Drawing Mastery Studio” and spent some time using the materials to improve my drawing skills. I found his detailed information very helpful and useful.

Michael R. Britton tutorials

Michael R. Britton’s Art Academy tutorials include downloadable pdfs and comprehensive videos.

I also purchased a few of Cuong Nguyen’s portrait e-books. While not as comprehensive for learning to draw, there was interesting information on colour and underpainting.

Congo Nguyen's ebook

Cuong Nguyen’s ebook demonstrates his technique for underpainting and realistic flesh tones.

And last month I became aware of an artist in my community who was organizing life-drawing sessions with live, nude models. Thank you, universe! I immediately joined and have been spending my Sunday afternoons in a garret-like space over a coffee shop, drawing from life. I feel like I’m going back in time to my student days! It’s so refreshing to pull out all the old stops—the newsprint, the charcoal, gesture drawings, long poses, remember that anatomy! There are five sessions in all and I can already tell I’ll be disappointed when they’re over.

Gesture drawings

These were gesture drawings of a couple minutes each.

15-minute pose

This was a 15-minute pose done in conte crayon.

So that’s where I’m at right now, and that’s why you’re seeing women pop up in my art for the time being. I’ve still got many ideas in my head to explore so I’ll continue to follow this muse as long as there are thoughts that need to get out.

That’s why I call it a journey!

, , , , , ,

Comments are closed.