When I was working on one of the commissioned pictures I alluded to earlier, I made numerous studies of individual parts; and in the process of drawing and redrawing the face of one of the figures I was painting, I began more and more to identify with her. She became for me like a character in a story. As a novelist learns to watch the people in her fictional world, I began to “watch” this woman I was drawing, and I tried to figure her out. Or, like an actress learning a part, I tried to learn who she was merely by prolonged peering into her face.
I had a group of photographs to work from, and one photo was the pivotal one. I redrew this photo several times. And each drawing was a little different from the others. Sometimes artists worry about the differences between what they are seeing and what they produce in their drawing. But I liked and sought subtle differences from the photo.
The photographic image never changed, but my drawings did. Even though they captured the general likeness of the photo, the act of drawing brought out various little bits of expression and emotion and thought. For me, it animated her photograph. I felt like I had drawn the woman herself — from life — rather than having just copied something static. Looking at this, I don’t think anyone could tell she wasn’t there in front of me though she had died a decade earlier.
[Top of the post: Study for a Portrait, by Aletha Kuschan, pencil drawing]