Portrait Drawing: Practice, Practice, Practice

March 8, 2011 in Figure Drawing by joanvienot

Plane Man: Graphite, vine charcoal, pressed charcoal

Craftsmanship is different from art.  Craftsmanship is a familiarity and skill with subject and media.  I do a lot of work to try to improve my craftsmanship.  I think the craft of drawing is really an exercise in seeing.  By practicing, of course I am practicing with various media and subject matter or poses, but what I really am doing is learning to see better.   Today I started a 5-week, 3-hours per week, portrait workshop taught by Charlotte Arnold in Destin, Florida.  I’m not actually interested in drawing portraits, which is fortunate given that symmetry escapes me, but I would like a better understanding of how to draw the head for my figurative works.

Plane Man: Graphite

Charlotte referenced the 10,000 Hour Rule, which says in essence that if you practice anything for 10,000 hours, you are bound to get better at it.  She suggested we keep a sketchbook with us at all times, and to practice all the time, drawing ellipses if not actually representational subjects.

She brought in a life-sized plaster cast called Plane Man and set a floodlight on it, for us to draw from various angles.  I’d never actually seen Plane Man before, except in art supply magazines.  I probably should have picked it up and touched the various planes, to learn a little more about it before I started drawing it, but I just drew whatever I could see.  Some of the planes were indistinguishable from the adjacent planes because of the lighting, and the rest were much more obvious in the white plaster than they are in a person’s face.  Charlotte said that if we learn the angles on the Plane Man, we will know what to look for when attempting a portrait.

One half of Plane Man’s face was made of very angular planes, and on the other half the angles were more subtle, with maybe a hint of a curve here and there.  I drew on manilla paper, not intending to keep them except for a before-and-after reference that I can look at when the course is over.

Portrait workshop instructor Charlotte Arnold recently moved back to the area after being gone for nearly 8 years. She has spent the last 4 years in the Chicago area studying and working in the open studios at The Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Art in Chicago where she is an Artist Member. She is also a member of the Oil Painters of America, Portrait Society of America, Portrait Society of Florida, Women Artists of the Southeast, and Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. www.charlottearnoldfineart.com