I recently came home to the latest issue of The Artist’s Magazine waiting on my doorstep, which means I can finally show this sketch.
I have this background project – each year around October I’ll do a portrait of Edgar Allen Poe. This year I did it early, on request from the magazine, so it might come out in the October issue.
This is the second Mr. Poe watercolor. I’d done a few before in pencil. Perhaps next year I’ll be ready to do one in oil. I hope this will be a way of checking in with myself. To measure how my approach to painting is evolving.
Here’s 2013’s PoeTrait.
Attentive readers will know, around this time last year I was working more deliberately. Starting with a pencil drawing below the watercolor. Using the line as a guide, mapping out what was light, and what was shadow. I often found myself telling people “it’s like drawing yourself a coloring-book”. But I was never very comfortable with that analogy. It certainly works – and I still recommend it for beginners. But can you imagine trying to explain that to Mr. Sargent when you show up in artist heaven? The whole “coloring book” thing was always something I’ve been embarrassed about. Even while I was using it to make some of my personal favorite pieces.
The point is – these days I’m just going straight in. Simply drawing shapes with the brush on a blank white page without any planning beyond *looking*.
I’m really not sure if this is a great idea. It’s certainly the high risk approach. Perhaps I’m just an adrenaline junky.
You can see that in the first few minutes the portrait is already there. Bing Bang Boom, a few planes of the head, a few dark eyebrows, and it’s Mr. Poe. If the likeness had not worked out in the first few strokes, I’d have had to tear it up and start again.
I feel like I got lucky with this one. I got away with a reckless charge that might have left me muttering about wasting good paper. But these days, it’s the ones like this that get me excited.