In my last blog post, Developing a new portrait style during lockdown, I wrote only about developing a line art portrait style. Since then, I’ve been experimenting with adding colour to my portrait art works.
I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa; an area of the world in which people wear colourful clothes, they plant colourful flowers in their gardens and they paint their walls in vibrant colours. Growing up, I was surrounded by all of this colour and it has influenced my art style immensely. I love playing with colour, whether it is paint pastel, or pencil or pen.
Using my favourite colour pencils I began experimenting with adding colour to my abstract African portraits
Because my abstract drawing style created these wonderful geometric shapes, I could immediately see how easily I could add colour to my portraits by simply colouring in the shapes in different colours. The challenge arrived when I had fetched all my colour pencils and drawn a line-art portrait, ready for colouring.
The challenge was deciding which colour to put where.
The game of colour picking amuses me immensely. I have more than 500 individual colour pencils (my husband spoils me terribly with art supplies), each of which has its own shade and texture. A Derwent pencil might have a very similar shade to a Holbein pencil, but the texture of each pencil will differ because of the ratios of oils, pigments and waxes that the pencil manufacturer has used. I feel like after working with all of these pencils, they now each have an individual “personality” to me, and I choose which pencil to colour with based on this personality of shade, hue and texture.
I decided early on that I preferred to colour the irises of people’s eyes in different colours, and colours other than their own, and I decided to apply this technique when colouring my abstract pet portraits.
One day it struck me that some parts of the portraits could be left uncoloured.
What I have enjoyed most about this portrait style development project is the numerous surprises that I’ve had along the way. One of these surprises happened when I had finished colouring the face and realized that the art work was finished, even though I hadn’t started colouring the hair yet.
Being surrounded by African patterns as a child instilled in me a love of all things zig zag, striped, swirly and dotted. I have so much fun drawing my patterns and so much fun colouring them in. Every portrait that I draw in this style is a fun experience.
Animals look seriously cool in my colourful style
I so enjoyed drawing and colouring the pictures of cats and dogs that people sent me, that I’ve decided to draw a bunch of other animals too. Maybe I’ll sell prints of these drawings, maybe I’ll have them printed on some stuff and sell it around my island of Gozo. I dunno what I’ll do with them, but I can guarantee that you’ll be seeing more pet and animal portraits out of me, in my new, colourful, abstract, African-influenced style.