Project Six – Exercise 2: Portrait from memory or the imagination

Before starting this exercise I was wondering how I will tackle it. Than during a tram ride I’ve seen en elderly woman with her daughter?/her caretaker? getting on the tram at one station. The woman seemed very fragile, moving in slow steps and need to hold on a handrail at the door. One the one hand I was wondering how the woman felt, what she was thinking. It was a calm siutation, the other woman took really care of her. The next station they already got off the tram. I didn’t took my sketchbook out, I was observing. It was so fascinating, especially the specific line on the face from the eye down the chin, her eyes looking through her glasses. I didn’t grap so much else from her total figure. When I was home and rethinking about this exercise, I was sure that that was the portrait I want to do. Just from memory, focusing on the unique points that kept my attention as well as to capture my thoughts along with my observation and my feelings. By that I think I already identified for myself the answer on the question ‘What is a portrait?’ in not showing only the figure as it could be observed but going one step further in showing other elements alongside with focus and simplification.

Stefan513593 - project 6 - exercise 3

Stefan513593 – project 6 – exercise 3

As it was still vague and volatile I had to do several sketches and studies to identify first the composition but also my markings, media, and concept. I looked around what could support the stage of an elderly woman in strong need for care. I decided on a partly collage and used newpaper cut-outs (letters of a puzzle, in isolation making no sense at all), death notices (as a reference to the stage of life of that woman).

Stefan513593 - project 6 - exercise 3 - sketchbook

Stefan513593 – project 6 – exercise 3 – sketchbook

After being satisfied and knowing what I want to get across I worked quite rapidly on A3 paper (not larger as I found that this scale matches the format of the newspaper cut-outs as well as conveying better the fragility of the portrait). As media I decided for graphite with white gouache and charcoal marks for deeper black marks (softer to the paper media compared to Conté crayon that are harder). While working I experienced that drawing on the glued on cut-outs was also a fragile act (with a simple glue stick). In some areas I scraped a bit off the newspapers (some parts were not perfectly glued onto the support paper). First I found this annoying but than realised that this really mirrored my idea of fragility and vulnerability.


  • After going though the previous exercises, intense studies of facial features and understanding markings, I didn’t feel it as difficult to get this portrait done.
  • Capturing the unique features and characteristics of a person rather than scanning the whole figure is more helpful to draw from memory. By that it takes less time and my observations skills are more focused.
  • Thinking more about what a portrait is and what I want to say helps to find the right approach.

Next time:
– Understanding better newspaper cut outs and gluing techniques perhaps alongside with protecting  media.

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