This particular project not only blew my mind by its authenticity of the technique and demand for time and accuracy, but also taught me how to recognize value in different shapes through manipulation of shades of light, and how important it is to be observant, patient, and open to feedback. These two and a half weeks of close observation of my own face turned out to be an excellent learning experience and a lot of fun.
As I mentioned earlier, the technique in this specific project is very distinct. When I was telling my friends about blackenning the paper and then erasing the shapes of our faces, they all look puzzled and amazed. So was I in the beginning. The rule of no lines was so hard to carve in my brain. My hands automatically wanted to start erasing even and symmetric lines – rational symbolization of familiarity. The first class was especially hard. I just couldn’t overcome the dull wall of refusal to go outside of my comfort zone filled with lines. Eventually, though, with some more patience and professor’s help I managed to get tuned into the melody of shading. Once I figured the best way to create shapes by using different shades of black and white, I knew where I was going with my self-portrait. As awful as it seems, I felt 100% ready for the project once I was done with it. Therefore, my ears that I finished in the last place are my favorite parts of the portrait.
Another feature of the project that belongs to the technique is translating the 3-D object onto the flat paper. The manipulation of lights comes in again as an important tool to accomplish the translation, which was especially difficult and demanding since we were responsible for drawing our own faces and there was no room for slack and inaccuracy. Even though in this project there were no particular guidelines to the technique, we were stranded by the reality: we had to draw what we saw. Thus, the level of freedom we used to have for other projects was slightly lower. Although, Hala and Larkin managed to go out of the boundaries and create their own charismatic portraits.
This whole process of shading enabled me to see differences in shapes through creating value and contrast between lights and darks. When I first put down that lightest light on my nose and then went on drawing my nose and lips, I realized that slightest changes in shapes create less or more value. I wish I had used lighter shade for my skin overall in the beginning as I look at my face now. That way I would be able to emphasize different values more.
Similarly, applying charcoal directly on the paper helped achieve maximum contrast making the portrait brighter and livelier. The most contrasted parts on my face are my black nostrils and the white blemish in my nose. To me, they look natural and add up to the whole architecture of the face. Another contrast point of my face is my eyebrows. In the beginning, I simply left my eyebrows very dark above my eyes. Professor’s comment on their artificial attachment to the face was true. Therefore, I tried to dissolve my eyebrows more into my skin. I tried to depict the way the hair grows and lies leaving specific lights and darks. Doing so made my eyebrows blend in with my face and still left the initial contrast. Coming back to the portrait once again, I am happy I fixed my eyebrows, but if I had given my skin a lighter tone, the contrast points would be stronger. This is a definitely good lesson to remember for the future work.
Furthermore, the studio experience taught me to closely observe what I see in the mirror. Professor’s number-one rule of drawing what we see required constant attention to what we were observing. This rule helped me notice more details and pay more attention to what I was about to draw. Likewise, the project taught me to be patient with myself. Coming back to the drawing after some time appeared very helpful in reevaluating the portrait. Everyone in our class would agree with me on that point. The other day, I was skyping with my brother and I looked at myself in the camera. That day I actually saw a little bit more than what I was seeing in class. Therefore, coming back to my work occurred to be an important tip for the successful studio experience. One of the other major components of the excellent studio work was, of course, feedback from my peers. Just walking around and sharing what each of us was missing in our portraits and what needed to be done cleared up a lot of confusion. In-process critiques were very beneficial as well, because everyone could get neutral and valuable comments on their work.
Overall, this project was very enjoyable and educational. It is definitely a signature of the class. I don’t think the project needs more time, because then it would be unfair to our other works and it would become more routinized and boring. I do think it needs some alterations. The main technique of creating values through different lights and darks certainly should stay as the core. However, the project does not have to be about a self-depiction. Drawing still-lives pricked by students would be engaging and fun. I would also like to try drawing our super animals. That way one project would blend into another. But these are just the suggestions that do not need to be strictly followed. In the end, the level of professor’s creativity proved to be amusingly high, so I trust her in coming up with similarly awesome projects.