Developing a new portrait style during lockdown

I’ve spent years making self-portraits, convinced that I would just offend people if I drew their faces in my wonky abstract art style.

Here’s an example of my wonky self-portrait art style, in pencil and ink on card.

I hadn’t planned on drawing other people’s portraits – ever.

I had fully convinced myself that no-one would want to see their face in my weird art style, but after seeing this self portrait in a new style, my art buddy Lakota Meyer initiated a portrait swap to let me practice on a face other than my own.

In the comments on the Instagram post that I made about this portrait, you can read the convo between @lakota2688 and about essentially buying art with art.

With much trepidation I drew Lakota and sent him the result.

He liked it! So much so that he shared it to his social media too!

Next thing I knew I was offering free portraits in return for letting me practice the style on people’s faces. I realized that it was a way for me to connect with people during lockdown, and it would give people something to look forward to and share with their friends and family.

Overnight my phone kept waking me up

It turns out that people were quite keen to get their face under my pen. Overnight I had close to a dozen people asking for portraits and sending me their pics.

It was a good opportunity to practice my communication skills with people, in a way that could be useful to me in the future if I decide to start charging for portraits. What kind of photo do I prefer to work from? If I ask them to send me a different photo or let me choose a different picture of them from their social media, do people respond well to that?

I initially drew the portraits in my doodle book because I wasn’t taking it terribly seriously at this point.

On to bigger things!

In the gallery above you can see the first few abstract portraits that I drew in my doodle book. Soon I grew tired of the small page size and I realized that I wanted to be able to scan the portraits in and send them to people, something that’s tricky to get right with a book.

So I pulled out my drawing board. I have a literal drawing board. I love it not just because it lights up and it’s great for drawing and tracing, but also because it is a literal drawing board. When I draw something that I don’t like, I can scrunch it up and throw it away and declare, “Back to the drawing board!”

Posted by Catherine Nessworthy on Saturday, 25 April 2020
With more room to breathe, I could focus on creating the portrait instead of focusing on dodging the edges of the book’s pages.
My beautiful Luxembourgian @drawitalone was the first person that I drew on an A4 sheet of paper, and I was so pleased with the result. ❤️

My portrait style development project continues… Updates to come soon.