3S4 portraiture & figure work

self-portrait in sharpie pen and biro.

Aim of the thread on portraiture. To help with observation and the development of characterisation in a figurative setting, I’m attending a 2 day class every month for the coming year. I will record progress and learning here; and while this activity is about skill building primarily, and builds on the life room work and experimental figure work, I will keep an eye on potential integration into the ‘folk horror’ thematic. You’ll find a lot of quick exploratory sketches here, with some more resolved work.


Working in charcoal and pencil, focus structure.

Unit of measuring (ear seems good) and the head as square box seemed good ways of helping with proportions and curves. Hard for me to understand a curve that is receding in perspective.


A few portraits of Moss. Rather randomly, I worked in pencil on a premade gesso ground on (warm) brown heavy paper (sketchbook). Cool white and greys make a good oil to the warm brown; textures also seem to create a good range of differences. The softness and the absence of an ability to rub anything out was a rather interesting outcome. I’m feeling my way around how to link portraiture to Folk Horror in a way that isn’t obvious (ie the untoward resemblance of Schrenk’s Nosteratu in bottom left).

The portraiture and life drawing provide a good forum for exploring mark-making and providing a tangent to the more focused work around the augmented work for the upcoming NSA/launch exhibition (documented and reflected on in 3S6).

01//02/23 Online portrait


Throughout the week a more sustained concentration on portraiture, the aim of which is to see where it goes really. These might give the basis for body of work on figures and folk horror – a kind of portrait of folk horror – but without necessarily resorting to portraits from existing folk horror media.

This set of portraits was to explore mark-making heads without recourse to direct drawing. Using various methods to arrive at that. I have a small sketchbook in which I draw pencil heads from the TV (I don’t pause the TV but build heads across the course of a show – so that the source head isn’t ‘flattened’ and you have to observe the head more closely in the round), however they have tended to be ‘direct drawing’ so in order to get into a looser modality and a more painterly one, I sat in on an online session from Emily Ball (2 hours in the morning for 3 mornings). These are the results. More reflection on what was learned below.

Useful techniques included placing 5 different types of marks and then constructing the head from those, responding closely to what is happening with the paint rather than focusing on drawing features directing. Interesting how when using charcoal/dry media leaving gaps untouched is easier than with paint. The mark-making exercise as warm-up was also creating sheets of marks that could be borrowed from later and create one’s own library of marks. Drawing features indirectly was particularly helpful with this and very much informed that last painting. I’m now seeing a connection between the types of marks and techniques Turner used – indirect painting (glazes etc) but with much more direct and undirected mark making but without drawing with the brush in a direct way. I then took this method with me to the life class yesterday and I think that there were some changes in my approach evident – sparer with the marks and letting the marks speak more for themselves – in short less literal. (see life class 04/02/23, example below). Varying the tools and deciding on what they are to start with all useful ideas for getting this to happen. While seemingly tangential to FH theme, this is all about skill development and creating affordances for the FH-focused work. Also making the work speak more about my own curatorial eye (and hopefully getting a wider audience to help sustain my practice into the future). This work also helps to address the comment from one of the examiners last term that my daring was freer and more life-full than the painting…I SEEK TO CHANGE THIS DONALD 🙂

14/02/23 a few drawings made with live figure online. Things are getting more spontaneous at least and the paper choice helping with the application of colour/optics int he case of the last two images.

22/02/23 Results of an 2.5 hour online portrait class last night; model was in Brazil! Some of these are experiments with materials I don’t often use (gouache and ink for eg); finding that sitting down looking at the screen to draw doesn’t help with getting observational stuff right! I’m working in the office and not in the studio (heat issues!); so a few of these are exploratory rather than honing likeness in an observational sense.

Not quite sure why I signed up for so much of this stuff! it keep me looking and drawing I guess while I am busy with the project management stuff. Gathering marks etc for end of March intensive making period.


Last couple of days spent in portrait class. Light touch tuition and great couple of models sitting in the same pose all day. Really good to be spending more time on a drawing; getting to know a face. Learning

With pastels, it very much helps to work with a mid-tone paper.

Pastels need to be worked into.

Pastels make me cough (hard contes a good option therefore)

Put the softest layer/lights on last (just like Oils).

Building up tones with pencil for F to B range. I liked the layering process, so might use pencil more in online sittings.

Loved the sense of concentration that portraiture-making involves

Limited colour works best.

One of these feels very ‘classical’ and I complained a bit about that to the tutor (no style was imposed I’d add here), and they felt that was a strength in my work that I didn’t value. Interesting food for thought.I like the physical space involved in in-situ portrait making – feels more ‘real’ and I like the sense of collaboration between sitter and drawer.

These received a lot of feedback on facebook and instagram.

Somehow this week I feel that some progress has been made …savouring that!

15/03/23 Ipad experiment in the life room; all drawn using procreate on the IPad with the art pencil. Interesting maak making made possible and because everything seems reversible then it’s easier to be very much more experimental than is the case with drawing with physical materials. Seems like these drawings will be very informative because of their lively mark making for a painting (physical).

recorded mark making from image above using record feature of procreate
In comparing these drawings to the iPad ones – these are more careful, and less lively in terms of the surface although that approach did match the serene countenance of the model – almost renaissance in terms of look (or like Jeanne d’Arc in the French film from the 20s)

23/04/23 Back in the life room again after quite a hiatus. Full figure work. Getting my eye back in! All about getting the proportions right…length width ratio shouldn’t be that hard…however my measuring practice is still too weak.

40 mins pose – previous drawing rubbed back to form basis of this time. I like the foot and the shadow! – quite a good likeness

30 mins post – proportions worked better here – but only after lengthening the front leg. I like the sense of movement here and the shade connecting to the two legs.

Procreate pieces from this same session.

29/4/23 St Ives 2.5 hour session. Sense of tenderness coming through, but still some configuration issues to content with. Lilac on gold paper works very nicely.

What works here is the contact of the face with the pills – less sure about the graphical linearity of the arm here
Colour worked well & nice contrapuntal post that helps the figure positioning in space – arm hesitancy on left OK in the end with the incorrect mark remaining.
Quite a quick one some; blue worked well against the maroon and orange…white maybe too white (although her hair is bright white)
05/05/23 Portrait in charcoal (happy with this one particularly the work on the body) – gray paper
Pigment (ivory black and Tit White) and PVA Canvas Glue. some issues with likeness and I like the way that when I added the white to the, the effect was very blue – a nice contrast to the thinned IB which was warmer. White paper.

By tanyakrzywinskablog

After working in the computer industry and spending some years conducting research into cinema and digital media, I became convinced that the innovative qualities of videogames as participatory media required closer academic attention. As such I have spent most of my career championing the inclusion of games within the academy, and arguing for games as an art form, a role I continue as a Professor at Falmouth University. Alongside this, and my scholarly work on the Gothic, I also maintain, in various forms, a visual art practice. This blog comes out of enrolling on the MA Fine Art degree programme at Central Sr Martins. It is mainly a record of my reflections on the work that I have undertaken for the degree. After having written about folk horror in games and cinema as an academic, this blog will focus on folk horror as a focus for my art practice.

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