1.3 Self-portrait

  • Make a self-portrait
  • Use a variety of pencils in the H-B range
  • Use a variety of marks

A daunting task. During my morning sketches in the train I found that my faces look more lifelike if I try not to draw lines but rather areas of shadow and light. So that is what I did for my self-portrait. In order to get nicely defined shadows I put a light to the left and slightly to the front of me. After two very quick sketches and a drawing in my sketchbook I decided on a pose and began.

I started with a very rough application of shadow areas with a 4H pencil. I worked this until I felt that the pencil caught on something to substantiate – the right eye brow. From there I let myself be led to other shadow areas until I had a very delicate picture of my face. It felt a bit like sculpting. I then intensified some of the shadows and stepped the pen up to a 3B and finally a 7B. With these I could define the eyes and nose and fill in the dark areas of my hair. At the same time I worked with the putty eraser to correct mistakes. I also worked in highlights with the putty eraser or a pen-eraser for the very small highlights. Only now I drew in a few lines around the eyes, nostrils and lips. For the hair I used some more energetic marks I had found during the first exercises of this course.

I used the strongest contrasts and most defined lines around the eyes to make them the focal point. I also decided to draw face and hands as realistically as I can and be looser with the clothes to strengthen focus on the face.

Self-portrait, pencil on paper, A3

Mark making from Ex. 1-2

For the hair I used some bolder marks and lift-out from exercise 1. The linework for the clothes and the hands was similar to contour drawing – I had my pen on the paper and my eyes on the subject. Only I drew lines inside the shapes as well.

Even if I did not use many of the marks from the previous exercises I feel that my approach and way of working has changed: how I hold the pen (different ways depending on what I do), how I use erasers, where my eyes are when I draw. This last point I noticed very distinctly when I drew my drawing hand. Due to the hand moving I was obliged to keep my eyes on the paper for longer stretches and draw from memory. This felt odd – when earlier it was the other way round.

It would be interesting to do portraits in other media and use more of my marks, e.g. in ink.


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