Thursday, March 9, 2023

Roz on Portraiture Likeness


2/28/23 watercolors in Hahnemuhle sketchbook

Roz Stendahl, whose blog I have been following since Day 1 (or before) of my sketching journey, enjoys sketching portraits, often from still images from TV shows and lately from Earthsworld’s reference photos. Feeling frustrated recently about my ongoing need to achieve likeness in my portraiture practice, I wrote this comment on her blog:

Ever since Inktober last year (so almost daily for almost 5 months), I’ve been making portraits based on Earthsworld’s photos. I had never seriously practiced portraiture before October. Initially my goal was to improve resemblance, but because I knew I could always eventually get to a good likeness if I took enough time, a secondary goal was to spend no more than about 15-30 minutes each. Now that I’ve made about 150, I can see definite improvements in resemblance, but now my goal is to be a little looser and fresher and not so “tight.” When I’m “tight,” I have a better chance of getting a likeness, but as soon as I become more expressive, it’s at the expense of resemblance. If you want to see what I’m doing, here’s a Flickr album where I’m putting all the portraits: Gallery. Of course, I don’t show the reference photos, so you won’t be able to see whether I achieved a good resemblance, but I suppose that’s not important for this discussion. Here’s what I’m really getting at:

It bothers me that I am so hung up about likeness — I know it’s not the most important thing about portraiture — but I can’t seem to let it go. I feel like if I don’t at least try for resemblance, then I might as well be drawing faces from imagination. Any advice or thoughts on this?

A few days later, Roz devoted an entire blog post responding to my comment, which I deeply appreciate. She has given me much to ponder as I “take a breath.”

2/23/23 Watercolor pencils in Uglybook

2/24/23 Pastel pencils in Uglybook

Meanwhile, I’ve been using Earthsworld’s vast collection to gear up for One Week 100 People (ongoing this week): Although most of his images are of portraits, some can be used to practice figures as gestures. I try not to spend more than the length of time a person standing in the distance would typically give me before moving or walking away. I made these last week, so they don’t count toward my 100, but they are all good practice. Bonus: When people are at this distance, capturing resemblance is never a concern.

3/1/23 Water-soluble crayons in Hahnemuhle sketchbook

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