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  • Writer's pictureSarah Moncrieff

Stanford in the Vale Art Group

Updated: May 24, 2018

I enjoyed my evening at Stanford in the Vale Art Group last week. I had been invited by the group to do a workshop on portrait drawing. I'm keen on teaching this as portrait and life drawing can be extremely challenging. It therefore offers great potential for practice and development. We all think we know how a face looks, but if you don't pay attention to some basic proportional rules you might find when drawing that you place the eyes at the top of the head. However, even more importantly is my advice to my students to ensure that you look at and draw the model that is in front of you and draw their eyes, their nose, and their mouth and not the eyes, nose and mouth that you think you see.

I offer a couple of suggestions to help with basic proportional rules. In the first place, ensure that the eyes are placed halfway down the face and that when drawing the eye, the iris is not drawn as a full circle but has the top lid running through it at some point. Mouths can be difficult too, but I find it is always easier to draw a mouth by starting with the line that you see between the lips. These and other techniques can really help when drawing portrait.

Stanford in the Vale Art Group responded really well to these tips and members spent some time drawing each other and then working on a self-portrait. Self-portrait is a difficult and demanding process and can be extremely revealing as Van Gogh’s haunting self-portraits reveal.

I paint the occasional portrait when I can find someone willing to sit for me as my father, Martin, did some years ago. This was a paint sketch which means I did it in one sitting and didn't work on it afterwards. Sometimes this is a great way to work as it allows me to just capture a moment. He was sitting very still and I captured his dignified and serene manner and his fantastic head of white hair which he still has to this day.

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