Professor Ruby instructed us to start by using the kneaded eraser to erase the lightest highlight and scaling to the darkest black in our portraits. In most cases that would be the shine on one’s nose and the darkness of the nostril, but for me it’s the reflection on the edge of the right lens of my glasses and the dark matte plastic of my frames. I tried erasing those first, but it didn’t really work well. I switched to working on my nose fairly soon.
We’re using the string technique again, but I’ve noticed that I’m getting better at sighting without using a tool. Don’t get me wrong: the string is still very helpful, and having a physical reminder to check my proportions is invaluable, but I started in by mentally noting proportions and only rechecked them with the string when reminded later. To my surprise, I wasn’t very far off at all. This is one of the surest signs I’ve seen that I’m progressing as an artist.
I kept struggling with when and how to draw my freckles, and I had a smudge of charcoal on my face that was impairing my ability to see the shapes of highlights on one side of my nose. I was also constantly worried that I was drawing things too large. However, when I started planning this project, I decided that my most distinctive features are my hairline (especially the curl on my right temple), the asymmetry of my nose, the shape of my lips, and the chicken pox scar above my left eyebrow. I think I’ll be able to fit everything important onto the page, at any rate.
When this technique is working well, it feels like I’m just revealing the image that was underneath the charcoal all along. It’s less like conventional drawing than it is like polishing silver or removing makeup. It’s been years since I’d seen this Dermablend ad, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it in class.
(Note: the end result of this video is a little grotesque. I doubt most people would be bothered, but skip it if a man tattooed to look like a grayscale “visible man”-style zombie sounds disturbing to you.)
I only spent about 20 minutes working on this after class, but it was very intense work for me. I don’t think I stopped being frustrated and realized that it was a good thing if I couldn’t erase everything until I looked at this photo and realized that the dark spots look like pores.