09 June 2013

In the mirror: blind contour

At my library this summer, we are running a Self Portrait Contest for the teens. They can submit a photograph, a drawing, a painting, or a collage. After one too many comments that "I don't know what to do" or "I would like to do this but I can't draw," we decided to run a little workshop to get the uncertain or undecided people started, and I've been madly preparing to teach it. I have created a short powerpoint about self portraits, and then I am going to give a small tutorial on contour line drawing, and Anarda (my teen librarian colleague) is going to talk about various ways to do collage.

We asked them all to bring a freestanding or hand mirror with them, plus some reference photos of themselves, so I decided today to do a couple of examples of contour line drawing in the mirror. I thought it was an excellent idea to teach them contour drawing while they are just starting out--I know it would have made all the difference to me had someone given me instruction in this as a teen. Instead, I learned the traditional method of making a bunch of geometric shapes and lines and trying to fit my drawing into them, with the result that for years I sought to make a perfect drawing without really looking at my subject! Contour has really opened things up for me, and while I am by no means expert at it, the liveliness of the line and the quirkiness of the results appeal to me, even though they aren't "perfect."

So, first I did a completely blind contour in the mirror:

which is to say, I drew this without looking at the paper, and without lifting my pen. Well, I might have lifted it once or twice, but no more. Strangely, although the eyes are cockeyed, the nose misshapen, and the mouth kinda weird, it does look like me!

Then I did a continuous line contour and allowed myself to look down a few times, with more or less the same results--the mirror looks better, but me? not so much...still wonky-eyed.

Next, I decided to show them what you could do with contour when you DID allow yourself to lift the pen occasionally, and you DID look at the paper, while working from a photograph. I didn't have a photograph of myself to work from, so I pulled this off the computer--he's a German model, and he looks just like a character in a book I recently read, so I saved him for a fan fiction painting I want to make; this being good practice for that. I decided to try sepia instead of black, and then use watercolor to define just the shadows. I was pretty pleased with the result, except that I had a weird jog out too far on one cheek at the jawline. This took me about 30 minutes, and I wanted to illustrate what you could do fairly quickly with just a contour drawing and one color. I'm not sure I would do so much delineating of shadow patterns with the pen next time, as it creates too much of an outline effect, but...this is an experiment!

I can't wait to see all the self portraits that the teens turn in this summer. I will be posting them on our teen blog, so when some are up, I'll link it from here if anyone wants to see them.

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