Here’s the final portrait, in conte crayon on A4 coloured Ingres paper. I more or less completed this exercise in a single two-hour session with the model, so I’m pleased to have been able to create a reasonable likeness and a fairly good outcome while working fast (for me!). There are many many faults in accuracy and modelling of the firm of the head, but at least I think it looks solid. If I did anything more to it now, I would probably try to articulate the background a bit more.
Staying with friends during the week I’d scheduled for this exercise, I had planned ahead and taken some Ingres coloured paper and coloured conte crayons with me, as well as some drawing media. A friend came to play in their band, and his black shirt and coloured hat caught my eye. He agreed to wear the same outfit and sit for me a couple of days later.
We only had a couple of hours, so he sat by the window in a comfy chair, and I first made a charcoal study, feeling rather shy of my friends having the odd crafty peek as I worked. I included more than just head and shoulders – I wanted to include the hands, as the pain and disability they manifest are an important part – but not all – of his life.
Keeping up the pace, I started my ‘painting’, using the conte on another sheet of textured Ingres. He was an exemplary sitter, taking his responsibilities seriously, and I made sure we had rest breaks every 10 minutes.
When time ran out I took some photos, so I’d have the chance to carry on with this when I returned home – or start a new painting in another media.
I’m happy with my initial painting. My sitter said he understood the point of the exercise wasn’t to make a perfect likeness, but to learn from the experience. He thought I’d turned his mouth down a bit too much. To me, it shows my sitter’s seriousness, and his courage and stoicism – as well as portraying his lighter, fun loving artistic side in the choice of clothes. There are errors and omissions, but at least it’s fresh and not overworked. One day, given a chance, I’d like to make his portrait again, in paint, but I don’t want to do it now from photos – I’m afraid I’d lose his spirit! I content myself with making some changes to better model the head, and adding the shoulders.