I haven’t done a pastel portrait in my self taught style since the first module. I felt compelled to draw Chris Cornell this week as I am a huge fan and was very upset by his sudden death. I chose a still from the Cochise video, one of my favourites.
When I took up drawing again some 18 months ago, I only had cheap smooth paper which I used with soft pastel blocks and medium to hard pastel pencils. I enjoyed laying on quite a lot of pastel and the forgiving way it was possible to blend and achieve gentle gradients of greys. For a relatively quick (3 hour) bout of drawing when I tired after work I went back to what I was comfortable with as this was personal and for pleasure rather than for exploration.
The video itself is shot on the roof of a building with very bright spotlights and fireworks going off behind the band. Even though I was basically working off a still from the video, I wanted to capture that brightness and the way he can be at once a bundle of raw energy but also so fragile.
The consensus on forums and art websites seems to be to use a toothy paper so you can load up with pastel but when I’ve tried this with Strathmore paper I didn’t like the regularity of the grain showing through. Perhaps if I used more pastel that wouldn’t have happened so perhaps it is poor technique.
I was a little hesitant when starting this drawing, wondering whether I’d ‘forgotten’ how to work in a way that comes naturally to me after learning so much on the course. I think for where I am I have achieved a happy medium (unintentional pun!). Rather than diving straight in like I used to, I thought about the following:
- What part of the drawing do I want to draw most attention to, and so where will I concentrate most and least detail to support that?
- Are there any parts of the still that I want to achieve e.g. if over or under exposure, greater or lesser detail works against what I want to focus on?
- Where I my lightest lights and darkest darks?
- Do I want to include the whole still or just a part of it?
- Which pastels will I use for my different gradients?
As a result, I felt more in control of what I was doing. I paused to consider the fact I would have to work front to back which I wouldn’t have done previously. As a result I managed to get a relatively convincing effect on his hair whereas I have always struggled with hair before. I decided his closed eye and mouth were key so I concentrated detail there and chose not to go as dark on the right side of his face as I his cheekbones are strong and I wanted to show that too. Before finishing I used downward diagonal strokes to soften the background and give a sense of the diffused light behind him.
I’m relatively pleased with the result. I like the contrast between the soft but bright lights that bring out the spikiness of his hair. I was pleased with my choice of where to remove detail but I think his hand is poorly rendered. His nose is not convincing, something looks off about it and the form lacks depth. I always struggle with noses and should spend some time practising them from different angles.