Face Time

portrait-4 portrait-3

Finding ourselves without a model in yesterday’s life drawing class, we decided to draw each other. Our teacher warned us at the outset that drawing portraits from life was difficult: it’s certainly very different to drawing someone from a photograph (Jenny Saville, for example, will only paint from photographs, finding the presence of the model a distraction).


I can only be glad that none of you, probably, know the three gentlemen pictured here. You might pick them out of a police line-up using these ten minute sketches but I doubt if their loved ones would want them framed and hanging on their walls. It’s interesting to consider how close a resemblence needs to be: an artist I admire enormously, Tom Phillips, has painted the Monty Python team which – to me – fails to capture any of them. As Tom Phillips is a remarkable and innovative artist, I don’t feel quite so self-conscious about posting my three portraits.

On the subject of the importance of a likeness, Lucian Freud, in his only artist’s statement, written for the Venice Biennale in 1954, wrote:

The artist who serves nature is only an executive artist. And since the model he so faithfully copies is not going to be hung up next to the picture, since the picture is going to be there on its own, it is of no interest whether it is an accurate copy of the model. Whether it will convince or not depends entirely what it is in itself, what is there to be seen. The model should only serve the very private function for the painter of providing the starting point for his excitement.

For some other interesting takes on the art of portriature, see Rosie Scribblah‘s collection of baby boomers and Laura’s stylistic experiments over on Pict Ink. My three are all A3, drawn in charcoal or pencil.


19 thoughts on “Face Time

  1. I like them and I think all three look like persons with something interesting to say. I think you have captured personality, even if I don’t know if it is true to them or not, but I like looking at these faces and speculating…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think all these portraits are fantastic. Each engages and I think the range of mark making in each is glorious. They don’t have to be accurate portraits. It’s enough that they have interest and character and personality of their own.

    PS Thank you for the mention of my blog. That was kind of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Once again you have inspired me Michael. I love the quote you included by Lucian Freud “The model …serve(s) the very private function … of providing the starting point for his excitement.” I so needed to hear that. I am taking a watercolor class and having no drawing or art background I struggle with each piece but with the freedom to let my subject be “the starting point for (my) excitement” is, just exciting. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks LuAnne. It’s a useful quote, isn’t it? Good luck with your painting class – watercolour is notoriously difficult but I’m sure you’ll master it. You should also take a look at Kate Osborne’s lovely demos. She has a blog on WP and they can also be found on Instagram. Those will really inspire you!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have no idea if you had captured the exact likeness but definitely the essence of the person is there. And your use of line is expressive and precise.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. First off: ❤
    "the starting point for his excitement"
    Nice portraits. When I was a very young artist (teens and twenties) I used to like to sit in shopping malls and other places where many people stop and sit briefly and I would sketch people for hours. It really improved my skills and they never knew it happened! I don't really like drawing life-like portraits and when people see a picture of themselves in crazy colors with lightening bolts and flowers they would prefer it if bore no resemblance to themselves. Now I love to draw birds and flowers and mandalas full of patterns. But I like your sketches of people. You seem to be exploring this theme and maybe a mall is calling your name.

    Liked by 1 person

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