I love Kenny! Ever since I came up with this idea of a sketchbook full of portraits, back then when I drew Jeff, I was thinking that I must draw Kenny. Kenny is a neighbor, he lives on the same floor with his wife and Pebbles the dog. So I bump into him often. And even though I don’t always understand what he is saying, our conversations are always delightful and I am looking forward to them. I do get it that Kenny likes people in general and me in particular. Kenny is happy, expressive, unabashed, genuine and very real. A breath of fresh air.
#35 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook
Terri is my neighbor from 7E. I was riding an elevator with Terri one day and suddenly had realized that Terri was a solution to my problem. As I am getting closer to the finish line of my project I became conscious that I don’t have a single black female in my sketchbook. Otherwise the book is nicely balanced – a real little slice of an American big city, except for this unfortunate omission. It’s not that I don’t know any black women, I have collected a number of references, but there’s always something not quite right with them – mostly my photography skills.
I shared all this with Terri right there in the elevator. “But I need to wash my hair!!!” Terri exclaimed in reply. Of course! A girl must wash her hair before being photographed, even if it is perfect already – everybody knows that.
When we got together for a photoshoot, several minutes into it, I discovered that Terri was a natural model. I asked her not to pose, but to do things she needed to do while I would try to catch a natural expression. So she was washing dishes, repotting a plant, but amazingly at the exact moment of my shutter going off her eyes would be on me. Just like that, naturally. I had not a single bad shot! (Except for the one where my flash reflected from a mirror behind…) I even asked if Terri had modeled before, and it came out that she had – she was familiar with a runway and has shown hair fashions.
Oh, and Terri is not a mechanic, she works for an airline, this is just a shirt she wears at home. I thought it went well with her sassy expression.
#34 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook
Meet Eddie Jr.!
Eddie Jr. is a son of Eddie Sr. I was excited to have an opportunity to draw both the father and the son. When I did portraits of my family – Aunt Marie and her 3 children – I discovered that I can feel a family resemblance with my pencil: the lines, curves, dips and rises kept repeating themselves from portrait to portrait in a way that fascinated me. Having Eddie Sr. and Eddie Jr. both working in our garage and agreeing to be my models was a great chance to see if this would happen again.
Eddie Jr. was a great model. Wonderfully photogenic, handsome and good natured he followed my suggestions quickly and gracefully. His only concern was that he should’ve worn a nicer shirt for the portrait. I assured him that shirt matters very little, it is the face that I am after. Then I said that I could take the shirt off in the drawing. For a moment Eddie’s eyes grew big :shock:, then he got it that I was joking and we had a nice chuckle together.
When drawing Eddie Jr. I did experience a family resemblance effect I hoped to see. The lines and marks for eye sockets, brow bones, a bridge of a nose and cheek bones felt familiar from drawing the portrait of his father.
#29 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook
Meet Eddie Sr.!
Eddie Sr. works in a garage under our building. We have a team of hikers who park and bring up cars in the garage because the space is too small and tight to let amateur drivers, like yours truly, do that. We need professionals. Eddie Sr. parks and delivers my car for me for more than 10 years. It is amazing to see tiny spaces and angles he can fit through. In reverse! I have always liked Eddie. I think he has a wonderful face. Which brings me to an interesting thought.
A few days back a fellow artist Nicola of PointyPix left a comment on this blog. She wrote that I must be living in a very interesting place where I get to meet all these great characters.
I don’t think I live in a very interesting place – it is your regular boring place. Or at least it was until I started this project and began looking for faces to draw. The more I looked – the more interesting people became. I found that if you really look, then you find them – amazingly in the same place where they have been all along.
On the other hand I have to confess to applying a selection to my models. Yes, they are regular people from my regular life, but I realized that I am selecting my subject based on an emotional connection I may feel to him or her, even if they are a stranger. If I don’t have that connection, I am too bored to do a portrait. So it isn’t just anyone.
How do you find and choose your subject? This question is not portrait specific – any subject…
#28 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook
Stacy is my neighbor from 15B. Stacy is a happy person, cheerful, earnest and expressive. She was very pleased to model for me, and we spend some time visiting, chatting and snapping pictures. She is an experienced model. We have another artist in our building, Michael, an art photographer – Stacy sat for him in the past, and so knew what to expect and what to do.
As a result I had a great selection of references: happy Stacy, posing Stacy, glamorous Stacy, Stacy being clever or amused or coy, she is such an actress – so many expressions. But this Stacy the Drama Queen is my favorite. Here Stacy is distressed over the state of Illinois politics. How do you choose between a thief, a liar and a clinically insane? – she asked me rhetorically. Tough choice indeed. When I brought this question to my husband, he chose a thief. Personally I prefer clinically insane, they all are just that to be in politics. But I am getting to be way too cynical here, and we have voted already anyway.
Stacy’s shirt deserves a word. Usually I am quite loose about drawing clothes in my portraits. I change colors and designs, inverse lights and darks, and use clothes to support what is going in the face without a second thought. Last week however we had a little discussion on WetCanvas about taking artistic license to sitter’s clothes. A little factoid came out: one of the very few commissioned portraits by Modigliani – the Amazon – was refused by the sitter, baroness Marguerite de Hasse de Villiers, not because of the “distorted” likeness, but because Modigliani painted her jacket yellow instead of red. I was so bewildered by this that I took pains to draw Stacy’s blouse exactly. The psychedelic pattern quickly cured me of my temporary insanity.
#27 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook
Seferino Solis is a part of a construction crew that is working on replacing heat risers in our building. A few weeks ago I brought home some groceries, and as I dragged them to the elevator the elevator’s door started to close. Figures! But for a few moments I still could see the construction team and their equipment, and there in the far corner of the elevator – an aged Zorro. Of course, I had to have his face for the series. I set out on a quest to find him, but it was useless, it is a big building. I was riding elevators and climbing stairs, looking everywhere and listening for power tools – nothing.
So I found Tello. Always get Tello when you have a problem! Tello knew where they were, he took me into the basement and translated for me – Seferino and I have no language in common. Seferino was even more beautiful close than I briefly saw in the elevator. He was also very shy, not used to being treated as a model for art. He kept gesturing that I should take photos of the other young men of the team, and I did – be polite. But their young unlined and shiny faces stood no comparison to his – old and wise and lived in, probably having had a hard life. I can only imagine.
#26 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook
Meet Mr. Walden!
Willie Walden from 4D is my neighbor. If there is one person in our building that makes you think “Sunshine!” every time you run into him in the elevator – it’s Mr. Walden! With his ever ready smile it seems like he is always happy to see you. Note the signature Fedora. I don’t believe I have ever seen Mr. Walden without one. I even asked once – how come the hat? That’s to greet ladies, he said. Indeed. Mr. Walden always tips his hat to ladies. With his old world charm and manners, opening doors for you, offering to help carry your bags to the elevator, always a gentleman style greeting, always a smile, – Mr. Walden makes my heart melt.
#24 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook
Tello is an original Mr. Fixit! There’s no better way to describe him. Tello is a building engineer for our 20 story high-rise building. He lives here and for the last 20 years he has been taking care of everything that makes a building: boilers the size of a large truck, miles of windows, acres of floors and walls, an endless maze of pipes, wiring and plumbing, industrial washers and dryers. And a myriad small things: you lost your key – Tello will cut you a new one, your faucet it dripping – Tello will tighten it. If we need something fixed, we go find Tello – it is as good as done. Like replacing a dishwasher that went senile (hear! hear! :D)
I live here since 1994. I watched Tello’s daughters grow up, move away, get married and have children of their own. I saw Tello’s beard turn white over the years. But his clever way of fixing anything and everything, making sure that this building is a home for 90 families has never changed.
When I took this shot Tello was fixing AC piping in our unit. Unknown to us our AC was leaking into the unit downstairs. Tello took care of that. I am sure he also repaired a ruined ceiling in the unit below. This building is our village. And Tello is our handyman. The best!
#23 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook