For this project, I worked to create a self-portrait by erasing from a charcoal background. I estimate that I spent a total of about 25 hours, both inside and outside of class, working on this project. I began this project by using charkol (a dark, soft, rich chalk) to black out a large piece of paper. I rubbed the charkol against a piece of paper that served as a palette. This created a fine dust, which I applied to my large sheet of paper by gently rubbing it on in circles using tissue. Unfortunately, the background did not get quite as dark as I would have liked.
I began by creating the lightest spot on my face, which is on the tip of my nose. Then, I built out from this spot. I tried to see and render shapes created by the light hitting my face, not lines. In order to represent the right proportions I used string to take measurements, in the method described here: https://hkpart.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/a-quick-update-about-the-chair-drawing/. I frequently used the right nostril as a unit of measurement to compare other structures against. Using this process, I moved on to create the philtrum and then the lips. I really enjoyed creating the rounded and soft forms of the lips. I began with the upper lip, which is darker because it does not protrude out into space as much as the lower lip. I then made the lighter lower lip. Then I created the skin in the general facial area around the nose and lips. However, upon further inspection and measurement, I found it necessary to narrow the bottom lip.
Next, I moved on to the eyes. I was worried about drawing my glasses, so I decided to tackle the eyes first. I worked outward from the nose, first creating the white area and then the iris and pupil. I made a ruler out of a small piece of paper to ensure that my pupil and iris were perfectly round. Next, I created the eyelid. Later, I moved the eyelid down a small amount to give myself a less shocked expression. I also rounded the bottom part of my eye. Now, I felt ready to approach the glasses. By carefully looking at areas of light and dark, I was able to create reasonably realistic glasses. Using a ruler, like the one that I made for the eyes, helped me even out the shape of my glasses. I also went back to make the area of my glasses near the side of my nose more round. Throughout the project, I found it helpful to step several feet away from my work station and look at my self-portrait from a distance. This allowed me to better see how certain details fit within the entire self-portrait. This was especially helpful when working on the glasses.
Finally, I was ready to draw directly on the paper with the charkol in order to add and emphasize small details. I did this by making a mark with the edge of the chalk and then smoothing it out with the tissue or my fingers. I used this method to create the line between my lips, to darken my nostrils, and to darken and create a more defined edge for my glasses. Another thing I did to refine my piece is to smooth out my marks in order to make a more skin-like texture. This is much more natural than blocky shapes. I did this by gently rubbing with my fingers as well as with the tissue. I also gently erased some in the horizontal direction, because many of my original marks were vertical.
One particularly insightful moment from the critique arose when a student asked why we drew our self-portraits while looking in the mirror, rather than while looking at a photograph. Professor Ruby responded by stating that looking in the mirror leads to a more authentic representation with more personality. Photographs are often posed. Professor Ruby said, “It’s not meant to show you as a poser, it’s meant to show you as you.” This insight made me feel a deeper connection with my self-portrait. One thing I learned by doing this project is the importance of looking. By carefully studying areas of light and dark, I was able to conquer even the most challenging areas of my self-portrait, such as the glasses. Careful looking is key to successfully completing this project.
In this course overall, I gained a better understanding of how works of art are created by making them myself. This also increases my understanding of art history because I now have a greater awareness of the processes involved in making art. This course encouraged me to focus more on process, rather than a perfect final product. This is different from my typical approach, so this increased my flexibility and adaptability. One of the essential steps in the creation of art is looking. This purposeful seeing affects the way I think because I absorb more details. I also understand what tools (elements and principles of design) are employed in order for an image to communicate a certain message. This makes me a more discerning consumer of information.