Thursday, October 2, 2008

Kitchen Table Portraits

One of the first people I met in Bourcoiran was Diego, a neighbor who helps to fix things around the house for our host Eliane. When he came in and sat at the kitchen table, I was so struck by his interesting sun-weathered face, that I asked his permission draw his portrait.

I knew I only had about 15 minutes to work with, and I asked him just to keep talking, not to pose. In a situation like this you don’t want to haul out a lot of oil paints or watercolor equipment, so it’s convenient to have a set of watercolor pencils and a water brush. I used the Caran d’Ache Supracolor II pencils because they work nicely both with and without water.

The four colors you need for portraits are umber, russet, black and brown. I use two water brushes, one with plain water and one with a pre-mixed sepia color.

The paper is a Derwent sketchbook, like a Moleskine drawing book, with thick, smooth paper. It’s not really made for water, but it holds up OK.

Here’s another portrait, drawn the next day from a gentleman named Bluc Fouchaud, while he and his wife prepared supper for us.

You have to practice a lot with these pencils first to get used to what happens when you run water over your pencil work. Normally you’ll want to get the portrait half finished first to establish some tone before starting in with the water.

If you brush water over a full-toned drawing, it will get too dark right away. In the portrait of Mr Fouchaud, I established the light skin tone across the face quite early, and saved small details and accents for last.

4 comments:

Erik Bongers said...

Last week my sister happened to mention inbetween something else that she was attending a figure drawing group, something I had been wanting to start doing again, but never...y'know. I also wondered why she hadn't mentioned this before. Maybe this was a "me and my friend but without my older brother" thing...

Who cares ! I immediately jumped on the train and have already bougth some gray paper for my to be impressive pressed-charcoal-with-white-Conte-crayons-highlighted masterpieces.

Maybe it's my slight arrogant tendenciess that put her off...

Ok then, I will not make the 'pressed charcoal etc...' masterpieces.

I will make 'Caran d'Ache supracolor II with water-saber' drawings.

This way, if the result isn't that masterly nor piecefully, I can blame it on 'that guy on the internet that said this works great for portraits'.

Kyle Cooper said...

Very impressive portraits Mr. Gurney! I am amazed at how well you can capture the essence of a person, not just their facial features. I should try out those watercolor pencils sometime...
Keep up the good work!

Andrew Wales said...

Amazing sketches! I've been inspired to try to draw more from life. I recently took my sketchbook to a wedding and drew during the ceremony.

My results are much more wonkier!

Anthony VanArsdale said...

These portraits are Beautiful!!! and THAT'S how you keep the paintings from being overly dark! I had always brushed over a full-toned sketch in the past... this is very helpful

and by the way, have you seen that new dinosaur Pachyrhinosaur lakustai discovered in Alberta, Canada?