About Face

Monday, 10th January 2005
Wild West Yorkshire nature diary

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my copy of Samuel Palmer self-portrait

I'm carrying on with the exercises in Betty Edwards' Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain with this copy of a self-portrait by Samuel Palmer (1805-1881). Although Palmer is best known for his mystical Shoreham landscapes I find this self-portrait (drawn in 1828, when he was aged 23) one of his most haunting images. When I was drawing it I had a strange feeling that he could have been someone I'd known: for example, one of the students I worked alongside at art college. He's got an unworldly intensity about him with that unkempt and rather unhealthy look that art students get if they get carried away with their work.

It's difficult copying someone else's drawing because you're torn between trying to draw the subject - as if you were making a map of it - and trying to record the way it is drawn. You should try for both, I expect. The original is a painting, by the way.

I've elongated this drawing. I don't know why. Did I get too interested in the eyes? - something I should avoid in right-sided drawing as everything in the portrait should be given equal attention - or was it the angle I was holding my drawing board at?

LeonardoI think I'd rather have met Palmer than Leonardo, who seems to be just too awesomely talented.

Taking the point that when drawing in a right-sided way you should draw exactly what you see without too much analysis, I felt that I should draw the iron staining on the paper, even though it looks like a rash on the young woman's cheek. I'm recording the surface of a piece of paper, rather than trying to work in the manner of Leonardo.

All done by mirrors

To judge by the self-portraits of myself below I wouldn't want to meet me! For this exercise from Right Side you need to set up two mirrors so that you can see yourself in three-quarters view in a strong sidelight. With a narrow field of view of myself I found I kept disappearing out of the edge of the mirror and when I turned my attention to different parts of the face my reflection moved too.

I abandoned the first attempt because I couldn't get the individual parts of the face to relate to each other. In the second I started off in full view then mysteriously slumped until my chin was hidden.

No wonder I look grumpy! And do you think there's a Palmeresque unkemptness there too? Next Page

Richard Bell, richard@willowisland.co.uk

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