I have been making portraits in pencil for quite a long time. In fact, I have lost count of how many of them I have made till now. With every portrait, there is something to learn, not just about the skill, but about the facial features of humans. Laypersons mostly comment on the model or the subject I am portraying. For example, once it happened that incidentally I made portraits of Kareena to gift to two different friends. The general opinion spread that Kareena is my favourite actress! I receive the same comment particularly when the subject is a female model or an actress. Here I would like to tell you that for artists the subject is not that important as is generally believed. You might have heard it from artists and photographers that they found a particular face ‘interesting’. However, it simply means just that and doesn’t necessarily mean that the artist is in any way attached to the model. In general, artists do not see face, eyes, nose, lips, hair and so on; instead, all they see is geometrical figures. Yes, you read it correct — all they see in front of them is cones, pyramids, rectangles, cubes, cuboid, spheres, and lines. And it is the amusing combination and interplay of these geometrical figures in any face or figure is what makes it appealing and attractive to them. But I am not mathematically inclined; I am a physicist. So however hard do I try, I am not able to accurately analyse any figure in terms of its geometrical components. Instead, I take the alternative path shown by physics — optics to be precise. As I told you in another post, I am mainly attracted to the interplay of light and shade, how shadows form, the various patterns formed by light, and in the case of portraits, how this symphony of light and dark brings out the volume, shape and characteristics of any figure.
Coming to today’s figure, this is Laetitia Casta, French actress and model. She was one of the sweethearts of youth in the 90s and is probably so even today. I had intended to make this portrait ever since I started making portraits. However, somehow it never happened mainly because of the enormous amount of dark shades required. Few days back I made another portrait of my beautiful niece in the same style, but on paper. The result was not as per my expectations. I put the blame on the paper and said that it was not durable enough — a plain excuse given that the paper was 200 GSM! Then the idea struck me to make it on canvas. The problem was: I hadn’t ever made any figure in pencil on canvas. So I didn’t have any idea of the various do’s and don’ts. To make things worse, I was too lazy to explore it on the web. Still, I wanted to give it a try. Somehow I felt that rubbing pencil on canvas is more difficult that on paper. Also, fine highlight features like hair are enormously difficult to draw on canvas. All my tricks to get around the problem failed, including using white pencils. May be next time I will try using colours. Still, overall, I am satisfied with the outcome given that this was my first attempt on an unfamiliar turf. I am practising further, as in spite of all difficulties, canvas does have its own characteristic charm and glamour. In any case, there is always something new to learn, and one should not miss any opportunity.