My friend Jan sent me a photo of her two daughters to draw last week, and after printing the picture I realized that it was too small for me to work with. I told Jan that I couldn’t draw it and asked for a larger photo. When I first saw the picture on my computer screen I thought that it would be large enough, yet even after cropping I could barely see the edge of Olivia’s nose or the shape of her teeth. I liked the photo, however, and I really wanted to draw the picture that Jan had chosen.
I recently read “Jane Eyre” and in the book the main character is a governess that likes to draw portraits. And although she was a fictional character, I was jealous of her ability to draw a likeness of her friends without them sitting for her. How does one draw a portrait of someone who is not before them?- I had just told Jan that I couldn’t draw the image of her daughters when I had a photograph, albeit not a clear one. I realized then that was something that I needed to learn how to do.
So, today I decided to challenge myself and see what I could do with the image that I had. I used pencil to outline Olivia’s features and afterward started to shade her face in with graphite. I became frustrated because it did not look like her and I could not see enough of the image to see what was wrong. I decided to stop worrying whether or not it looked like Olivia or not, and decided just to use pen and practice adding tone on the skin. I thought that if the portrait did not end up looking like Olivia, it wouldn’t be a total loss if I learned some new pen techniques.
As I worked the skin tone, I started to recall more of Olivia’s features from memory and I added them as I remembered them. This is the result, which is Olivia-esque and I am happy with the fact that I drew something that I thought I couldn’t. It is amazing how much your mind can limit yourself, if you don’t push through the negativity.


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