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  • Writer's pictureKate Hopkins-Searle

In the meantime...

While I haven't been in my (currently beautifully tidy) studio creating shoes I have, at least, been attending an art class in portrait drawing. It's something I've always had a great interest in; particularly trying to capture a likeness of a person. We had a model each week so that we could draw from life. Over the term I definitely felt that I improved and that the process became easier. I would have liked for us to have longer poses but our teacher frequently asked us to do 5-minute sketches. The lighting in the art room was not particularly interesting or flattering, it being harsh fluorescent tubes so on the whole I stuck to line drawings. Some of my fellow attendees felt that they would much prefer to draw a portrait from a photograph, but I feel there is something quite different about trying to get a recognisable face from real life. A drawing from a photograph invariably looks like a drawing from a photograph - which is fine, but there are plenty of photo apps you can get on your phone that will do a superior job of creating a drawing from a photograph so why bother to do it yourself?

The drawing on the left is using a charcoal layer over the paper, then removing the highlights of the portrait with an eraser and adding in further shading and lines with charcoal and a charcoal pencil. We attempted this one when our model was sitting next to a window while there was daylight on his face. The model on the right had the most incredible hair, but I wished we'd had more time to spend on this drawing so that I could have done her face justice. Again, the light was very poor, creating harsh shadows on her face, so I wanted to leave that part as line.

To the left is my friend Ruth, who, being a former life model, very kindly offered to sit for me at home so that I could actually get in a bit of homework practice. It's hard to find the time to do this outside of the class hours.

Hands...notoriously difficult but surely not that necessary if you're doing a portrait drawing class? But we were instructed to do so one time. Our teacher maintained that David Hockney was excellent at both faces and hands...but I beg to differ (much as I love him as an artist). At the most recent show I went to, I had the distinct impression that hands were not his favourite element of a portrait and really he couldn't quite be bothered to get them right a lot of the time.

Will I carry on drawing if I'm not attending a day time class? I would hope so but it remains to be seen! I have had two offers from friends to sit as models so perhaps I will be doing some, plus I've been promising my husband for years that I'll draw his portrait.

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