I have not drawn a graphite portrait in some time, and so was very pleased when a far away friend wanted a portrait of his sister for her birthday. He wanted me to draw it so he would include it in a movie he was making as a birthday present for her. What a thoughtful thing to do!
Anyway, here’s the portrait
I forgot how pleasant it is draw in graphite and how relaxing – just values, no color.
The bottom line – I want a brother like that!!
It is too dark to paint in the evenings… I gave up on painting in artificial light because when I look at what I painted in the morning the color temperature always needs to be corrected. So I thought of getting back into sketching during these long and dark winter evenings. I haven’t done any drawing, except drawing for a painting, since I finished The Sketchbook Project.
Just sketching – for the sake of the process – without being too attached to the result – is very satisfying. I keep my timing to an hour or less, and any piece of old junk is a perfect subject. I am trying different materials – micron pen, conte, pastels. I am thinking of getting a fountain pen, have always been curious about drawing with a fountain pen. If you have a favorite model – please share.
I am finishing up the book. Again. I already finished it in the last post having drawn the last portrait. Then I finished it up the second time by going over every page, cleaning up, restoring lost contrast, applying fixatif, and in some cases doing some serious revamping. Like I completely changed the original self portrait on the intro page to this one. Several other earlier portraits got changed fairly dramatically as well. Then I finished the book for the third time writing titles for each portrait, signing and dating everything. I have significantly underestimated the amount of finishing work I had to do. Besides I am a little tired of the whole thing by now – it is time to really finish it one of these days. Now the only thing left to do is the cover. I hope to have the book sent off to the Art House by the end of the week.
Meet my husband Lou!
None of this would have been possible if it weren’t for my husband. There would be no project, no 40 portraits, no sketchbook. For four and a half months my husband supported me, cheers me on, left me alone, reminded me to bring my camera when we went someplace, admired my half-finished productions, and was saintly patient.
He shopped for groceries and cooked chicken korma, and I drew.
He cleaned bathrooms, and I drew.
Laundry would only get done when we literally ran out of things to wear, and I drew.
Dust-bunnies grew bigger than the cat, and I drew.
General life was postponed until after the sun-down so I could draw.
I could speak of nothing else, but references, bone structures, face modeling, expressions, skin tone, paper quality and lack of daylight – and he listened.
This was very much a team effort. He even wrote my artist’s bio for me to accompany the sketchbook. So it is only fair that his name should appear in the book. I dedicate this book to Lou, my husband. I love you!
And so, boys and girls, this is the last page, #40 of 40. The project is complete.
Oh, there are still a few things: the cover, the table of contents, cleaning smudges, restoring contrast on several pages, applying fixative… but all this is post-production.
I was making up a missed class in George’s Drawing Workshop and was there on Monday which is not my regular day. That’s when I met Tim, another student. The moment I saw the amazing planes and bone structure of his head and face, the Burne Hogarth’s drama of his posture I knew I had to draw him.
Tim kindly agreed to be photographed. As I was seating him at his drawing horse (Tim is too tall for me to photograph him standing) I heard commotion, giggles and noise behind me, and George was calling “Be careful, Alex! Be careful!” I only had about 10 minutes between classes and wasn’t going to get distracted to figure out what the ruckus was about. So I proceeded with taking pictures. Then the class started again, and I never figured out the mystery… Although I have some ideas.
#39 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook
In other news…
This blog was named among the top 50 Drawing Blogs by the Guide to Art Schools – 50 Best Drawing Blogs list. Pencil Scribbles is number 3! Right after Rob Carey’s Kunst-by-Rob – Rob is an inspiration and a friend/blogger. The write-up they did on me is embarrassingly nice:
Pencil Scribbles: This self-taught artist started drawing in 2009 and is already inspiring with her realistic, detailed pencil portraits. Zonis already achieves in her work what the true expressive artist strives for: the subject in all its glory infused with a little bit of herself.
- Our favorite post! Geb 1-27-10
I am surprised and honored. How did they possibly find me in my backwater of the blogosphere? Who knows, but they did. And I can now display this badge
My father pointed out to me that I have more men than women in my book. So I set out to look for women to draw. Where can I find a diverse group of women sympathetic to my cause? In the WomanMade Gallery, of course! The WomanMade Gallery was founded by Beate Minkowsky in 1992 to promote and support women artists. Once a month the gallery hosts an art group, called aptly Her Group, where women artists can get together, show and share their art, and talk. I even facilitated this group for about a year in 2002. That’s where I headed.
Just as I expected, my sisters in art showed me great support and understanding, I got an overarching permission to shoot away as much as I wanted. The meeting yielded a lot of good references.
Henny DuBois is an art photographer. She makes photo collages surrealistic in nature and exquisite in execution. Photographing a photographer is a challenge, I could see Henny calculating my shot – note the way she looks at me. In the split second before the shutter went off she had probably assessed light conditions, angles, shutter speed, aperture and depth and found them questionable. And I agree – the light, the staging, the quality of the camera, the photographer’s skills – all of that was far from optimal. But the expression was priceless.
#38 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook
Dan is Shelly’s friend and schoolmate. Dan is a third year student in Loyola University, he majors in Computer Science and plays classical violin. To put it shortly, everybody knows – Dan is brilliant. And being a sweetheart that he is, he agrees. “I has brilliance,” he stated in reply to my daughter on Facebook.
#37 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook
Alicia is another one of the wonderful strangers I met in my neighborhood. Back on a beautiful Sunday in October my husband and I went for a walk and having reached the farthest point were sitting on our favorite bench. A family of three was walking towards us, probably returning from a church – all dressed up and looking very proper. The woman looked remarkably interesting, but even though I had my camera with me I felt too shy somehow to do something about it.
But I must have been still staring, because to my surprise the woman walked up to me and gave me her card. “You look like nice people,” she said, “here’s my number if you need your house cleaned or any other help.” At this point I had no excuse. “Would you let me take your picture for a portrait?” I asked and proceeded to explain this whole business of 40 portraits. The entire family was greatly entertained. “Mama – the art model!” the son was laughing. Alicia herself was so amused by this concept that she doubled over in laughter, my first shot showed a nice brick building behind her. But we all pulled ourselves together and managed to take a few more shots, now with Alicia in them.
Time and again during these months of collecting faces for portraits I have seen this happening. The amazing, wonderful, remarkable people I see cannot comprehend why anyone would want to do their portraits. Is it because they do not realize how beautiful they are? Is it because they are not movie stars, but instead clean houses or work in garages? At my vet’s clinic there is a receptionist who has eyes of St. Frances, but she declined a portrait. “Nobody wants my mug shot,” she told me with conviction. Well, I do! But I couldn’t persuade her.
Alicia and I had a hug and parted friends. I haven’t seen her since, except for this portrait, but I may still. We live in the same neighborhood.
#36 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook
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