This past June, I traveled to Toronto for a work conference, and used my time there to sketch a couple of colleagues-turned-friends. My "Millennial" theme turns out to be the most easily accessible one, as this is the life I live, and these are the people in my proximity.
I met up with Kim in the Trinity Bellwood's park, where a hot sunny day turned the weekday atmosphere into a festival one. Hundreds of people covered all the grass area, all immersed in their picnics and games. We sat under a tree and I've sketched Kim in graphite.
Drawing bespectacled faces is quite a struggle for me. Some artists say glasses can serve as a nice reference pint, a kind of a map for the face, but to me they are an unwelcome man-made symmetry among the natural uniqueness of a person's face. This is precisely why I need to practice drawing them.
Sunglasses in particular are a hard one. However, as the daylight shined on us from all sides, the lovely backlit on her half-portrait added a nice characteristic line. I've decided to use the same angle in the final piece.
Blonde hair also used to be my struggle, but I remember when I was 15 years old and drew my blonde sister, I came to the mind-blowing, albeit over-simplified realisation that I should draw "not the hair, but the space between the hairs!". I now employ a similar approach but of course, know better than to draw each individual hair on a person's head.
As I took photos for later reference, I noticed how beautiful the combination of her light figure looks sprawled over and surrounded by the deep greens, and decided to make a figurative portrait instead. As I was in sunglasses myself, the bright colours were vivid in my memory of the moment and I let myself be inspired by Matisse's use of color in The Dancers and in The Green Line and more modern painters like Felicia Forte and AYRZ.
I've started with a quick wax pastel sketch, the only colour medium which I don't try to bend to my will and end up over-detailing. The purpose was to test out a palette of brightest colours anyway.
When i started with the acrylics, I've used a wide brush to map out the figure, and then quickly did the same for the background. As I've added warm tones for highlights and cold for shadows, the general idea was forming but i was still struggling with the background.
I loved how the figure looked both bright and worryingly burned. This is exactly how our generation feels while balancing our nature-depleted lives on weekends: relaxed and worried. While basking in nature, we think of the enviromnment, of sunburns and of plastic left behind us.
The second purpose of the bright figure is just how I feel her company: bold, bright, with an aura of confidence I envy all kids who grew up in a western country. Being almost a decade apart, I am in awe of how accomplished these young Millennials are in their twenties and perpetually get inspired by them.
By leaving the painting overnight, the next day I've decided with fresh eyes to take the same boldness into the background. I've used palette knives to show the early summer play of the tree canopy and the sky. Encouraged by the speed and the effect of the technique, I've dome the same for the interplaying patches of burnt and fresh grass. The end result is unlike anything I'd normally do, which is a progress in my book.