I want to be more than just a portrait artist. This feeling especially hits me this time of year. I’ve finished 7 portraits and have 3 more to go before Christmas. I get burnt out on drawing them, I couldn’t keep this kind of pace up year round. That itch to do more and find out what kind of artist I am other than a portrait artist gets stronger and stronger. I have these images I want to create so badly, images that I hope invoke the same feelings they give me when I look at other’s work. Its the same feeling I get when listening to good music (listening to Tyler Childers while I write). The same feeling I get when I’m in the mountains or at the beach. You can’t describe it but something washes over you like I’m both at peace and want to get to work at the same time. However this week I’ve been in a rut, both with my work and just in life in general. My faith has been shook. One of those times when you have more questions than answers and its hard to stay focused when your brain is going in a million different directions.
What I’ve come to realize in the very short time I’ve been writing on this blog is that some weeks won’t pan out the way I want them to and thats ok. I’ve also learned inspiration doesn’t come to you while you are browsing the internet looking for it, it finds you when you are working. A good friend recommended doing something creative everyday, whether it is good or not, just do it and eventually after you’ve done this hundreds of times you can look back and see that progress and you’ll be better for it. I’ve probably done close to 70+ portraits, not quite in the hundreds yet, but I am still learning and still improving. I decided to stick with what I know this week while I’m sorting through the rest. I thought it would also provide a good opportunity to show you my portrait drawing process.
I usually start with a client sending me photographs. Not all photographs make good portraits. Its also good to have several different pictures of the subject so I can get a better idea of how they look. I probably took 2 dozen of myself to get the perfect light and angle. Next I use a projector to project the image onto my paper so I can do a quick sketch for sizing. This step has saved me so much time. I use to agonize on the size of the subject and in the end wishing I’d just drawn it a half an inch smaller. So with the projector I can size the subject up and down until I find the perfect size. I leave it at a quick sketch, if you put too much detail in at this step I feel it makes the portrait less dynamic. After the quick sketch, I lay in the shadows and highlights in large sections. And from here on out its all a matter of connecting these shadows and highlights like a puzzle. This is my favorite part of the process. The final step is to pull out the highlights and add the fine details like eyelashes, stray hairs and eyebrows. The last thing I do is spray the portrait with a fixative so it doesn’t smudge. Then I wrap it up, mail it out and spend the next three days hoping the client is happy when they open it up. Every portrait is different and each has its own sets of challenges and I really do learn something new from each one. I find myself smiling as I’m drawing sometimes because I do really love drawing portraits, bringing life to a photo is one of my greatest joys. But I feel I’m meant for more.
I’m hopeful that through this blog I’m going to be able to find my voice as an artist. Through developing my work and also writing about it, I’m hoping to find who I am other than just a portrait artist. There is something else there, I just don’t know what it is yet. But if in the end being a portrait artist is all I am, I’m going to be the best one that I can be.