Portraits are often a challenge because the faces of our family members and friends are some of the most familiar images we've encountered. This familiarity makes the viewer sensitive to incongruities between the person they see and the drawing of the person. This can be a problem because a picture's goodness or level of success is often measured or discussed in terms of correspondence to the original.
When I draw a family portrait, it is usually from a photo or group of photos, as was the case in the one above, which is my older brother's family. I begin by doing individual sketches of each family member, which can then be re-positioned and taped down for the final composition. I either trace or redraw from the sketches onto higher quality drawing paper for the final drawing.
The biggest technical challenge is scaling up the pictures from the original while maintaining the original proportions. Symmetrical faces are more pleasing than asymmetrical ones, and there are many symmetries to be considered in any portrait.
I think people are drawn to non-photographed portraiture because it gives them an opportunity to have a picture composed the way they want, in a form/medium not possessed by many others. The owners of a pencil, charcoal or painted portrait are a select few. Historically portraiture was reserved for the rich, as the process is time consuming and presents certain material/technical challenges.
I made this portrait (framed in walnut incidentally) for my brother and surprised him with it on his birthday.
J0hn Hunter Speier
Recent work, and explorations of techniques, aesthetics and poetics.