Yearbook Photos Call to Me Once Again
I have begun experimenting with toned paper; all the portraits in this post are created in a spiral-bound Strathmore Toned Tan sketchbook. The paper isn't as heavy as I usually prefer but I remind myself that I am just playing around and try to overlook the slight warp that occurs when I use wet media. And in truth, a short time under a few heavy books is all that's needed to flatten the pages back out again.
Toned paper is lovely in that it allows you to begin in the middle of values. Instead of starting with a stark white background and having to save the highlights and build endlessly up to the dark values, toned paper (in various shades of tan and gray) gives you a head start. I add layers of white to build into the lightest values and conversely, build up my dark values from the middle tone provided by the paper.
In this sketchbook, I am just fooling around with a wide variety of portrait techniques: scribbled pencil, pen & ink (water-soluble or not,) quickie renderings and characters more carefully developed. As I share these drawings, you'll note lots of out-of-proportion features; I seem to have particular difficulty with chins and if teeth are showing....well, things can get a bit awkward. I love them all. I used to be so uptight about drawing people but since I've been working from vintage yearbook photos, I have fallen deeply in love with my portraits and I embrace every crooked tooth and uneven eyeball. You can see more of my yearbook portrait work here, here, and here. Looking through my posts, I can see that this is a subject that is withstanding the test of time. I can also see that whenever I am feeling at loose ends - creatively or physically - these characters from the past are on standby, waiting patiently for their day in the studio and their debut in my art.
Note: I used a photo found on Pinterest for that first drawing of a cute blonde with purple glasses and while I like her, she just doesn't have the same appeal to me as the drawings done from old yearbooks. I think those old black and white pictures allow for much more interpretation and creativity than modern photos. I get to pick the skin tone, patterning and coloring of the clothes, and I feel more inspired to modify hairstyles, poses, and facial features. After I completed that first drawing, I went back to my voluminous stack of yearbook photos and felt back at home with old friends almost immediately.