Alan a la Houdini

Not for sale

Alan is a good sport about being my model on request. Back in college I made a stop-motion kind of watercolor that resulted in a group of people recognizing him first and foremost as that shaving guy. A couple of months ago I wanted to get some practice with portraiture, and took a bunch of photos in the somewhat dramatic lighting near the drawing table. At one point he was twisting his hands and I got this shot, which immediately reminded me of Houdini in this poster and publicity photo.

I’ve always liked drawing in pencil or charcoal, and reading The Arrival inspired me to dig ’em out. In hindsight, I wish I’d started this on smooth bristol board instead of cheapo recycled sketchbook paper to get smoother blending, but so be it. In the past I’d usually use my fingers to blend the pencil, which gives a lot of control but is also pretty messy. This time I used a smudger made out of paper. While it’s much cleaner, I’ll probably go back to the finger-smudging approach. The sound and feel of dry shredded paper scratching across dry paper is not a pleasant one.

I rediscovered my love of those utterly miraculous gray erasers that get clean just by kneading and stretching them. They are far more forgiving of natural finger oils than either gum or standard erasers which leave absolutely unremovable nasty smudges under the same circumstances.

From working on this, I am again humbled and amazed by the human eye’s ability to see what rings true. This sketch improved by leaps and bounds after I did the trick of looking at it in reverse, and upside down, and checking symmetry. It almost makes it look like I have a deep understanding of anatomy. Persistence pays off. I’m quite happy with it, especially the little uncertain “am I going to regret this?” smirk.

Total time: maybe 6 hours, mostly while we caught up on True Blood.  The original is 5″ x 6.5″.

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1 Comment

  1. Am I going to regret this?

    Man, I have to work out more:

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