Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nazimova Portrait

I've been drawing a portrait today, of silent film star Nazimova. There are two things I like about painting silent film stars. Firstly, the images are out of copyright, and secondly they have an unusual property in that the rich black eye makeup that was in fashion at the time conceals the expression, often giving the paintings the emotional reflective quality that the Mona Lisa possesses; the face reflects how you the observer is feeling and changes from day to day.

I've painted a few of these "normal" portraits in the past but this is the first in two years because these don't display much creativity. I aim to paint two variations anyway, one more imaginative than the other, like I did with Anna Q. Nilsson last time.

There are a few key things I do when drawing. First I never (and have never!) traced or gridded. Tracing is boring and unskilled and gridding often makes drawing more difficult because it's too easy to see the drawing as little squares. For artists that regularly grid I recommend drawing twice, once with, once without and seeing for themselves which is better.

Gridding is useful for getting the scale and placement of things right though, and for complex compositions with lots of elements the exact size and placement of each object is important. It's all too easy to make an object a tiny bit too large or too small which will upset the whole look of the picture. To fix this I often draw a crosshair, circle with cross through as a guide. You can see this feintly in the picture. A plain circle will do just as well, and easy to scale up or down.

I also cut and prepared the panel for this today. Tick tick!


Kathy said...

I applaud your artistry! Avoiding the tricks of tracing/gridding make this a wonderful interpretation that reflects something about the subject but even more about the artist. Wonderful!

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark, I like the lines and shapes of your drawing; fun to see your work at this stage. I had not seen a circle used in this manner. It seems most effective!

Robin said...

your technical skills are amazing, everything is properly proportioned, and she has a beautifully drawn face. I look forward to seeing the painting.