The Series that Helped Me Break Through Creative Block

I always loved drawing, but I wasn't one of those kids who could create imaginary worlds. I drew things I could see. Early on, I copied a lot of what I saw in books. Later, when I was taught some drawing techniques, I enjoyed rendering objects like old boots or gothic architecture. Perhaps I'm too pragmatic to have a wild imagination.

So when I started to make art again (which you can read about here), it was drawing that held my attention. I've written about that first project and how it began (here) but since most of those portraits are not currently on my website, I thought I would share them in a blog post.

The portraits were drawn from candid photographs I took in towns and cities as close as my own neighborhood and as far away as Hong Kong and Paris.

I used standard graphite pencils (7b and 8b) and a smooth white paper given to me by a commercial printer. Each drawing is 20 x 26 inches.

The examples shown below came after a couple of dozen smaller portraits that I started in 2011 when I began to draw again. The first portraits were 11 x 14 inches.

I worked exclusively on portraits nearly every day for two to three years.

Eventually, I began painting portraits in watercolor and acrylic paint. I'll share those in another post.

I have included the Artist Statement I wrote about the series below. You can see a selection of the drawings here.

Artist Statement: Portrait Drawings 2012-2014

Everything about us tells a story, and, we give a story to everything we see. Through portraiture, I explore the expressions, gestures and appearances that tell those stories. I draw and paint portraits from photographs I take in public places, concealing the camera in an effort to capture people while they are unaware of being photographed. The portraits convey an emotion or reaction, which may be recognizable but cannot necessarily be named. Are these expressions universally recognized? Do they give cues as to who we are, where we’re from, and what we’re feeling?

I’m also interested in the commonality and differences between people of varying ages, genders and cultures. We draw conclusions about a person based upon what we see, who we are, and our own experiences. In drawing, the artist chooses what information is shared and what is lost. In much of my work the background is stripped away along with many visual cues focusing attention on the face and details that I find interesting. What assumptions will the viewer make with this limited information? The title of each work reintroduces some of the original context, which will either confirm or influence the viewer’s ideas.

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