Learning to See

To be straightforward, I never thought I will ever make a self portrait, or even portrait for that matter. And certainly not in an hour of time. I never really found it that interesting, although I appreciated people who could actually make good portraits. I always found a low lying expectation with the word portrait, we expect it to look as real as the person. I was slightly worried when I read the brief and wondered how it would go. The first VSR assignment was to be submitted before the first class and I was certain it would take me more than one hour and that’s why I decided to do it the night before. It took me 75 mins. I made a self portrait sitting in front of a mirror. After 75 of looking at my own face and drawing, I certainly thought it was good as first attempt. Next morning I looked at it again, and it felt like I drew a zombie avatar of myself.

I used pencil as a medium for first two sketches. But within the first week, I realised I could do better with micron or charcoal. Now, I was feeling better about making portraits. I liked working with different mediums. It was relieving to know that the portrait need not be a perfectly drawn sketch. It also took my mind off the hundred other things going on my head. While I am observing someone’s face, it’s hard to think about other things. While sketching, observations came to me in layers. When I was drawing the base, I noticed the form. Then I began to identify the mounts and valleys on the face. And the light and shade that was there. And when hairs and clothes come in, it creates the whole image.

For the entire second week, I did body studies. It was mostly because people around me, were not patient enough to sit idle for an hour. This is also the reason I had make portrait of my brother while he was sleeping in my last sketch for VSR. I observed my mom and dad and captured their postures. It was just one body study for a day at first, but then I had to make more than one. My mom has a morning prayer routine, which I captured in three quick sketches. It felt nice to document that routine.

While there were days on which I enjoyed VSR, it became difficult to get it done with another deadline coming up. Those were the days when it was difficult not to break the streak of VSR submissions. But I found myself compromising with the effort I put in them. It was during the third week when the motivation and quality of drawings were touching the ground. It was this week when I made a horrible self portrait highly faulty proportions.

The fourth week began and I missed the first VSR of the week because I completely forgot about that in order of getting ready for the Peer Review. But I had to do it later, so I finished it over the weekend. This week I explored coloured portraits through soft pastels. It was satisfying to blend and layer different tones of colours and watch them come together. I had never used soft pastels for sketching, but now I find them fun. Mostly because I love working with charcoal, and this feels like working with colourful charcoal.

Upon reflecting, I realise I did not attempt making self portrait showing what I think of myself. I guess I was delaying it because I am still not clear about what I would draw in it. The module was fun as a whole. I observed the faces and people I see everyday. I made their portraits and heard them cry about how ugly it was. Now I am left with curiosity about what the next VSR module would be about.

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