Today I completed my second portrait in the ‘Pencil On Canvas’ series. The image depicts actress Angelina Jolie in a glamorous pose. In nearly all her photographs, Angelina is easily recognisable by her eyes and lips and this image is not an exception. Though it has a simple appearance at first glance, making this portrait was a bit complicated task primarily on account of very fine and distinct shades. At few places, I resorted to watercolor paint for bringing highlight to her hair. Hope you like it.
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.
Scientists tell us that life on Earth was possible only because it is at an ‘optimum’ distance from the Sun. This energy — a combination of light and heat — was behind the creation and sustenance of all flora and fauna on Earth. But it did not stop there. In my personal opinion, light played the most crucial part in our scientific quest and discoveries. Optics is the foundation of human civilisation. Only by light are we able to see the natural world and its treasures. We looked up at the source of daylight, viz., the Sun, and the innumerable stars dotting the night sky. We were curious, and tried to make sense of it all and have an explanation of it — first from mythological stories, then by logic and analysis. Who are we, where did we come from, who created these celestial and terrestrial objects? And what does it all mean?
The branch of Physics which deals with the study of light and various phenomena associated with it is called Optics. In Geometrical Optics (or Ray Optics) we assume that light travels in a straight line in the form of rays. This model is useful for studying the formation of images by lenses and mirrors. On the other hand, in Physical Optics (or Wave Optics) light is assumed to be a wave. Various phenomena such as interference, diffraction and polarization, which cannot be explained by Ray Optics, are studied under Wave Optics.
My mentor Prof. Amitabh Sengupta used to say, “Fine Arts is 60% observation and 40% skill. Or I’d rather go so far as to say that it is 80% observation and 20% skill”. He encouraged me to move away from the type of portraits that I had been making till then, and instead invest my skills into practising realism. At first it was difficult for me to break old habits. But the lockdown period last year offered me an opportunity to take a closer look at the objects around me, particularly those scattered around in my house. This sketch of the bathroom shower knob was the first drawing in realism that I made during lockdown last year.