Knowing the Known

We dedicated 1 hour for 4 days of the week on Visual and spatial representation exercise. The VSR made us aware of our sense of being in the present, by the simple act of sketching undisturbed for an hour by observation or imagination. The first month’s brief included portraits, self-portraits and body studies.

Week 1

We had to make portraits of our family members or co-habitants through observation. Although I love making still life drawings, I have always been a bit hesitant in making portraits. However, for the VSR as I finally sat down, undisturbed for an hour, solely focusing on my sketching, intensely focused on capturing the essence and character of my very fidgety younger brother’s face, I surprised myself. I had somewhat managed to capture his facial features quite decently.

Week 2

Making portraits is tougher than still life, one of the main reasons being, the image or person I’m trying to capture is not still. It requires even more focus and attention. I have been making still lives for almost eight years now. It’s almost like your one eye is at the object while one is at the drawing. You forget everything and just sketch what you see.

I realised eyebrows and eyes hold the main essence of the expression and character of the face, you get the eyes and eyebrows correct, even if the rest of the features of the face are generic, the face will still be recognisable. Nailing the eyes brings life to the portrait.

Character lines are another important aspect. Identifying them makes composition easier. Visual expressions are mostly governed by change in these character lines. The mood of a person can be shown effectively by capturing these character lines.

Colored portraits are tougher than plain black-and-white sketch. Layering of colors are required if we’re aiming for realism. Not to mention the hard to get skin-tone with the right amount of shade and shadow. Making portraits made me aware of unique facial characters I didn’t realize my family members had (even though I have been seeing them since forever).

Week 3

We had to make ourselves by looking at the mirror and also abstract self-portraits – impression of how we see ourselves and how the world sees us. Self-portraits were definitely harder than making a portrait of someone sitting right in front of you. It was hard to let go of the preconceived notion of how I looked versus how I actually looked in the mirror. But it was different than making portraits of others in the sense that I was seeing myself in 2D in the mirror (same reason why we look different in the mirror than to someone else viewing us directly).

For the abstract portraits, I drew a pen sketch of myself and used soft pastels to shade all over it to depict various shades of my personality (it reflected back to my collage of the first exercise). The other was a one line drawing of myself to show my tendency to try to simplify all the complex things in the world surrounding me, even the abstract ones – although never really succeeding in the true sense. 

Week 4

In body studies we had to draw our family members or cohabitants in diverse gestures, postures, stances and bodily dispositions while engaged in daily routines and activities. It mainly helped us understand how a person inhabits space. This required us to look as an outsider only at the outer forms of the body postures and character and focus on the form, structure, tension and relaxation in the body and its parts and how they express work and emotions. This proved harder than imagined. It was hard not to get involved with the details of the body and only focus on the form and character.

Using different medium to make same kinds of drawings (in this case portraits and body sketches) makes one realise the strength and weaknesses of each medium. That 1 hour of sketching really gets you invested in that moment, where your thoughts constantly revolve in the present around what you can do to make your sketch better. I had thought that I knew how the people around me looked like, even how I looked like, but was I wrong. This sketching exercise made me look at everything afresh. I now noticed body gestures and postures, the manner of inhabiting a space, I had never really paid attention to much before.

Although the images of people cohabiting gets etched in our memory but we seldom analyse or observe their body line or character lines. It also enabled me to realise what different features are and how they give that special character to the face or body in general.

Sketching portraits on a dark background, regretfully, didn’t occur to me. It would have created some dramatic portraits. The entire procedure would have been different- marking the highlights instead of the shade as is the case with a light background. I would definitely try it out in the future.

One thought on “Knowing the Known

  1. Indeed, “…eyebrows and eyes hold the main essence of the expression and character of the face..” and what a strange luck that over the past year we’ve largely engaged with others through these…
    “Nailing the eyes…” is a painful image! I understand what you mean, but it still hurts…

    “It was hard to let go of the preconceived notion of how I looked versus how I actually looked in the mirror.” It actually is very difficult… I am always surprised to se myself in the mirror and almost always hate to see myself in photographs.

    “But it was different than making portraits of others in the sense that I was seeing myself in 2D in the mirror…” I am not sure if the plain mirror makes our image 2D. Perhaps it has more to do with the upfront view, which we seldom have of others or others have of us, excepts for the short eternities in love…

    “…my tendency to try to simplify all the complex things in the world surrounding me, even the abstract ones – although never really succeeding in the true sense.” I feel it’s a good tendency to have, provided that we arrive at simplification through negotiation and resolutions rather than ignorance and indifference.

    “This proved harder than imagined.” Considering your level of skill, it’s difficult to believe that any of this was hard for you.

    Like

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