Back in the 90’s my main media was color pencil. I have done portraits since I was a teen. My main focus was understanding expression, if I could feel what the person in front of me was communicating through microexpressions, gesture, the way they glanced at things, the assymetry of the face -that is a result of a recurrent emotion-… the face would become a story that unveils in front of one’s eyes.
The story speaks about a fire inside, a flame, the longing for something. When a person smiles often, the emotion becomes imprinted even when they are not smiling. In youth, this fire is intense and it glows. In adulthood, the most common emotions have created distinct marks, cues, a wrinkle here and there.
Every face has it’s beauty, as it has the spark of life in it. One’s role is find the “constellation” which is basically the process of understanding what makes it unique, distinct. It’s not exactly making a replica of it but to find the “points” that can be exaggerated to achieve the likeness. The funny thing is that if you look at the specific eye or nose or hair strand you realize it’s just enough close to the original subject but it’s not a visual replica, yet it has the effect of the sum of the parts.
That is exactly my goal, that is not a photographic likeness but it is a likeness to the “real” feel of that person. One that they recognize and say “yes, I see myself in this portrait”
For the portrait of N the intent was to attain the expression, yet also to practice blending and bring back my old medium (prismacolor); 20 years of portraiture in different mediums. Going back to my basics feels like when you have taken a long journey and then revisit your hometown remembering places, and you find yourself walking and recalling more and more… your memories come back, muscle memory as well. How to blend, how to use the tooth of the paper and the direction of the grain, how to hold the pencil and do layering.
For this portrait I used the Stillman and Birn beta series. The texture is rough, which allows me to create texture to the skin, what would be an equivalent to pores. As this is a 9″ x 12″ sketchbook the effect is more visible. For a full scale realistic portrait I would use the art paper 22″ x 30″ working in bigger dimension woul bring the pores effect to a more realistic scale. This drawing is more of a study to see how it takes the layering proces and I see the potential to take more abuse without breaking the grain or tearing. Erasing ocassionally and recoloring could cause that if the paper is too thin. I got impatient with this sketch, I spent significant time on the eyes area and less on the hair and neck but I see the possibilities now. I got over excited to finish it. On the next one I’ll put in more time.
I Welcome back my old boxes of colors, that have kept very well by the way. I have a complete set of Spectracolors which is a brand that doesn’t exist anymore, they complement my prismacolors in range. The Spectracolors had the property of being dust free and become more vibrant with more pressure in the paper. It has a satin feel to it. It’s time to get out of that box after being dormant for so long, let’s get to work! I think after many years I must have learn a thing or two that I can do different today to make it better, and to perhaps achieve the elusive goal of “perfect portrait” one day…Not yet…!