Observation Journal: Project reviews for silhouettes and portraits

Two more project-review pages of the observation journal.

For previous examples see the project review category, and for a list of questions I ask, see Questions for Project Reviews.

The first was for my silhouettes for Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare (the process post about those illustrations is here: Art Process — Chain of Iron).

Mind-map style project review re Chain of Iron illustrations

I identified two important lessons on this project:

  • I really like links within projects, physical and metaphorical, final effect and process. I’ve written about this previously — see, for example, On Silhouettes and Further Points of Connection, and The Key to All Mythologies — cultivating spurious links.
  • Tools need to be good and in good condition. The difference between newly sharp and poorly resharpened blades is the difference between cutting butter with a hot knife and gnawing through a branch with your teeth. But so is the difference between two different manufacturer’s blades.
Silhouette portrait of a man tipping a hat, with an oval frame surrounded by flowering vines, a spear, a newspaper, a dagger, and a bottle

The next review is for the portraits I did for the Queensland Literary Awards. My interview about those is up on the SLQ website: A Conversation with Kathleen Jennings.

Mind-map style project review re literary award portraits

A few key lessons from this:

  • Build panic into my planning — it’s part of the process.
  • Plan to do multiple versions/”throwaway” versions — permission to throw a piece out it makes me loosen up a lot and occasionally removes the need to.
  • Price originals before finding out if people want them. (Thank you Gavin Grant for lessons around this!)
  • The difficulty I have with portrait work from photos (static reference, some degree of likeness required) can be offset to a degree by requesting photos with pets in them (adds life to the pose, adds movement/character, distracts the viewer).
  • The need to practice aspects (e.g. skin tones) in advance, when working with limited materials and colours. Usually with the sketchbook and markers I’m relying a lot more on strong light and context hints than I can for static portraiture, even in a sketchy style.
  • While I get tense about portrait work, I love and miss documentary sketching — it’s reminded me to steer more towards the latter, and suggest it vs traditional portraits. In fact, the next job I did for the State Library was documentary sketching: Next Library.
Kathleen Jennings's portraits of Queensland Literary Award winners Yen-Rong Wong, Tabitha Bird, and Joey Bui
Portraits of Queensland Literary Award winners Yen-Rong Wong, Tabitha Bird, and Joey Bui

I also learned a few lessons about project reviews generally:

  • I retain end-of-project lessons better than day-to-day ones (I have theories), which makes these reviews very useful.
  • Many of the small details help me usefully answer those tricky little questions in bios, etc, (what do you find difficult to draw?) as well as giving direction for specific projects and techniques in future (the original point).
  • A project review can itself become the basis for an article, whether about a specific piece (e.g. A Conversation with Kathleen Jennings) or more generally. For example, I’m starting to think about a piece on my experience portraiture, and aspects of both these project reviews (fictional silhouette portraits, stylised portraits of real people) will get into it.
  • Highlighting the most important notes (in the moment) is very helpful.

For other posts about project reviews, see the project review category, and for a list of questions I ask, see Questions for Project Reviews.

reading on the sofa

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1 thought on “Observation Journal: Project reviews for silhouettes and portraits

  1. Pingback: August 2022 — round-up of posts | Kathleen Jennings

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