Michael Britton

Portrait Drawing Lessons - Learn to draw portraits

Drawing Isabella
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Applying black chalk onto red is a tricky business. There is little room neither for second guessing nor timid rendering. Using a very sharp ‘B’ black conté and a delicate touch I carved out the forms of the cheek with cross-hatching. Rubens’s used cross-hatching like a chisel to describe the pushed up Malaris and Zygomaticus Major muscles.

The eye is delicately chiseled with cross-hatching. If you have a soft touch the black conte can be softened, even rendered semi-translucent, by using a small stump and the more subtle passages brought to life with assured spotting with a kneaded eraser.

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For me the challenge was capturing Isabella’s expression. The dilemma, however, was that to merely copy the expression would be like trying to forge someone’s signature – it would result in the emotional flatness that all counterfeits exhibit.

My approach was somewhat like method acting. I envisioned myself as Rubens enjoying a wonderful day drawing amongst a happy family. Rubens was an incredibly busy artist. He was, at times, overwhelmed by the number of ongoing commissions in his workshop (‘factory’ is a more accurate description) yet in his private hours he drew and painted for the sheer love of it. Even if Rubens had never made a Gulden he would still have created art all of his life. It was the centre of his being. Something to consider in these difficult times when many people are giving up their art.

Spending the time to build up the facial forms with sanguine conte paid dividends when it came to hatching, stumping and spotting with the black conte. You will also find that having a good knowledge of facial anatomy will carry you a good distance.

Use the white chalk (I used 2B white conte) sparingly. It is an enhancer of light and not a corrective medium.

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At this final juncture of the drawing there should be little need for correction but should you need to correct an angle use the sanguine conte instead of the black.

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