Tag Archives: Drawing

Time Lapse Portrait Sketches

Alan Reed

Charcoal Pencil Sketch

There are no short cuts to achieving sound drawing skills. Regular practise at drawing from observation will pay off in most visual disciplines in art, whether it’s painting, sculpture, graphic design or even photography. Before working on a commission or a painting for exhibition I will often warm up for 10 to 20 minutes with a charcoal pencil sketch of a John Singer Sargent portrait. I’ve drawn dozens over the last few years, particularly as I’ve been receiving more portrait commissions.

I’ve recently started to make time lapse videos of my portrait sketches so that one can see the process on how I draw a face from the start. If you watch the video which is only 24 seconds long, you will see that I draw a faint outline for the shape of the face.

I then make a mark halfway down to indicate where the eyes are to go. I then make another mark in between the eye line and the chin for the tip of the nose. Finally I do one last guideline for the mouth, usually slightly higher than halfway between the tip of the nose and the chin.

Once these are in place, I then start to draw in with greater care the details for the eyes, working my way down the face for all the other features. After that, it’s simply a matter of shading in the hair and drawing in the neck and shoulders. You will see that I’m drawing with a charcoal pencil which gives you a lovely dark, rich tone. I’m  also a big fan of the Moleskine sketchbooks which come in a good range of sizes.

Time lapse videos are quite easy to do and it’s a great way to show folk the drawing process without it taking up too much time.

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Drawing

Sargent Studies

Charcoal Studies of Sargent Portraits drawn at The National Portrait Gallery

A few weeks ago I was asked to write an article for the website of a new initiative here in the North East called Drawing?

Drawing? is a 6 month long, region wide programme of exhibitions and events which aims to explore drawing in art and culture and also in other areas such as science, design and technology. The project is a partnership between The Customs House, Sunderland University, Newcastle University, Northumbria University and mima (Teesside University) and is being co-curated by Esen Kaya and Mike Collier.

Below is the article which I wrote describing the reasons why I draw but it’s well worth visiting the Drawing? website to find out more from other artists too.

Drawing is and always will be the main foundation of my creative process. Many visual artists and painters do rely heavily on photography to pull together the material from which they paint from. There’s nothing wrong in that, however I do feel that the discipline of drawing and observing from life is a valuable tool that can enrich the flow of creativity.

For me, one of the main uses of drawing is research. If I’m going to an exhibition, I am armed with a moleskine sketchbook and some charcoal pencils. A good recent example would be the John Singer Sargent “Portraits of Artist’s and Friends” at the National Portrait Gallery. I will typically spend several hours sketching the portraits on display as a means of achieving a deeper appreciation of Sargent’s use of tone, lighting and his characterisation of his sitters. The studies and techniques that I record in this kind of research are then translated from charcoal pencil on paper to a brush loaded with oil paint on to canvas when I come to do my own portrait paintings. I strive to keep the brush strokes as lively, free and expressive as those rendered from observation.

Likewise, if I’m painting a landscape or cityscape I will often paint the scene on location “en plein air”. This time however, the drawing element is achieved by using a brush, drawing directly with watercolour paint on to the paper. I rarely pre-draw the scene in pencil. This very spontaneous, direct approach means I can produce a very fluid and loose “drawing” that can prove to be invaluable when it comes to creating a larger studio painting where I may also harness the use of photography for topographical accuracy. The observational studies will help to prevent any slavish copying of the photographs that could result in a more sterile, static painting.

I also draw simply for the “fun of it”. Regular drawing helps my hand to eye co-ordination and enables me to be more visually selective when painting in the studio. It’s much easier to focus on the main point of interest when you’re drawing from life. This “focus” can be realised by using stronger, more direct lines on the areas that are really important. Conversely, the use of less fussy, more simplistic line work on background areas helps to create a composition that has more visual impact. Again, this can translate well when it comes to painting. I’ve been painting professionally for over 30 years and I’m drawing more now than I ever have done, not just to maintain my technical skills as a draughtsman, but to stay connected in a deeper flowing stream of creativity.

One of the links on this post is an affiliate link to a product which I personally use, available from Amazon. If you click on the link and buy the product then I will receive a small percentage of the sale from Amazon at no extra cost to yourself.

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Sargent – A Daily sketch

Charcoal Sketches

Studies of John Singer Sargent Drawings

Every so often I like to set some kind of painting/drawing discipline to keep on top of my game. Good habits are hard to form and easy to break and sadly the converse of that statement is also true!

I tend to find that my regular sketching habit falls by the wayside, particularly if I’m busy with commissions or working towards an exhibition. However, despite being very busy at the moment working on a series of portraits in oils of City Church, Newcastle members, I’ve decide to set myself the goal of doing some kind of sketchbook study every day for about 10-30 minutes.

The two charcoal sketches above were drawn in my Moleskine Sketchbook and are studies of John Singer Sargent’s Portrait drawings. Making studies of this kind is a great way to develop your own drawing technique, particularly if you are unable to find a willing model to sit for you.

To see my daily (hopefully) sketches, you can follow my twitter accounts @artistalanreed and @adailysketch

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Drawing Camels

Drawing from Observation

Drawing of Camels

I thought I’d begin my first blog post of 2013 featuring Drawing Camels by wishing you all God’s blessings for 2013 and by sharing one of my favourite quotes from the American artist John Singer Sargent:

“You can’t do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh”.

It’s a statement which every artist will benefit from if applied on a regular basis. Varying the subject matter (sketch everything) gives you a deeper appreciation of shape, form, line composition and tone. Drawing from observation not only helps one’s hand to eye co-ordination, but also helps to increase one’s visual awareness in a way which taking photographs or simply “just looking” does not.

Last year some friends gave a present of two rather unusual sculptured camels, made from what seems to be leather. Over the last few evenings I’ve taken to Drawing Camels in my moleskine sketchbook. These amazing creatures have been beautifully crafted in leather. I’ve used a fibre tip italic pen to draw with which has enabled me to vary the thickness of the line.

You can see that I’ve started off with a very light, delicate thin line to get the basic outline and then intensified it when I’ve been happy with the overall shape and shadow areas. I’ve painted  a more finished watercolour of camels which has also been published as a limited edition print.

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Grainger Street

Grainger Street

Grainger Street

The popularity of my limited edition prints is partially down to the fact that I usually include figures in the paintings which bring the painting to life. Over the years I spent considerable time observing people going about their daily business in cities like Newcastle upon Tyne, Edinburgh, Venice, Florence and New York. I’ve developed a kind of shorthand for drawing them on the move in my sketchbook which I can refer to when I come to do a studio painting. I will of course take photographs as it’s impossible to draw people in detail walking about the streets unless they are deliberately modelling for you.

It’s the figures in this painting which are the dominant point of interest. Folk have often commented that they love the old man shuffling along with his newspaper sticking out of his back pocket, the two old ladies nattering away with their shopping bags and the road sweeper who has stopped to light up a fag. The original painting sold many years ago but the limited edition print titled Grainger Street is still available online or from my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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Portrait in Charcoal

Dominic- Charcoal

Dominic in Charcoal

I’m currently undertaking a number of portrait commissions at the moment, mostly in oils but some in charcoal. Dominic was commissioned as a present for his 50th birthday in December 2011. I managed only one afternoon sitting with Dominic, however that was sufficient to capture a very good likeness of a man who ticks all the boxes of being tall, dark and handsome. After the sitting I was able to check all the aspects of his features for size, proportions and positioning from the reference photographs I took of him next to the drawing. I made a few minor changes and refined the marks I made during the sitting with my stump.

A stump is an artists tool, usually made of soft paper, (but can be made of leather or felt), that is tightly wound into a stick and sanded to a point at both ends. It is used to blend drawing marks made with charcoal, conte crayon, pencil and similar media. By moving it carefully over drawing marks, gradations and half tones can be produced. I like my charcoal drawings to look like drawings, rather than being too photographic, so I kept the use of the stump to a minimum.

I’m pleased to say that Dominic is delighted with his portrait and it is now framed and hanging proudly in their family room.

 

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Watercolour Paint

TIP 8 Don’t use too many colours!

Alan Reed's watercolor paints

Alan Reed’s Watercolour Paints

There are at least 96 colours in Winsor and Newton’s Artists’ watercolour range. I use about a dozen regularly which is enough for me. Spend some time finding out which ones you really like and experiment.

The arrangement of different paints you can see on my drawing board is fairly typical  for me when working in the studio. I often squeeze colour from large tubes (which are better value than the smaller ones) into saucers which I then use for mixing colours. I find the large ceramic pans are also handy but then I also dip in to my two metal painting boxes which I use mainly on location.  The smaller of the two is great for carrying about as it’s small, you can mix colours in the inside part of the lid and it has it’s own water reservoir.

These are the colours I tend to use the most and which I carry on location: Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, Scarlet Lake, Rose Madder, Ultramarine Violet, French Ultramarine, Manganese Blue Hue, Cobalt Turquoise Light, Windsor Green, Burnt Umber, Vandyke Brown, Payne’s Grey, Lamp Black and Chinese White.

Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue, Winsor Yellow and Cadmium Orange are also colours which I might also use when working in the studio. Remember, you can mix colours, either in your mixing palettes or through laying one wash of colour on top of another when it’s dry. I hope this is of some help. Have fun experimenting folks.

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Top Sketch Book Tips

Tip 4

Try drawing with a brush and paint with one colour or a limited palette instead of using a pencil. You will achieve a quality of line that will vary in thickness which should look more interesting. You will also become more confident about handling a brush which should help you with your studio paintings.

Central Station, Newcastle upon Tyne

Central Station, Newcastle upon Tyne

I recommend a small travelling brush for sketchbook work, or a size 20 Stratford & York for studio paintings. The study above was painted in about 30 minutes with a travelling brush using a limited palette. As with all my watercolour sketch book work, no pencil was used.

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