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.