Tonight is the 91st Academy Awards ceremony. As I have stated before, as a movie nerd, the Oscars are like my Superbowl. For the past couple of years, I have illustrated the nominees in the acting categories in my Art Journal. I usually don’t attempt to draw real life people so it serves as a useful annual reminder that I am absolutely, most definitely, not a portraitist. Capturing people’s likenesses apparently eludes me. Still, it’s a fun exercise and a good way to record the evening’s entertainment in my journal.
In 2017, I did a sort of blind contour mugshots sort of thing. That was fun but you really would not have been able to identify any of the people I had drawn. Last year, I decided to draw each actor in full figure and in character. This was a regretful decision. This year, therefore, I went back to just heads and revisited the kind-of-mugshot idea but without using blind contour as my starting point. This resulted in better quality drawings but definitely not much in the way of improvement when it comes to likenesses. A few of these people are ones I have drawn before and yet I still cannot get their faces right. Just as well I prefer drawing faces from my imagination instead then!
Apologies, incidentally, for the awful shadows on these photos. Aside from the gloomy winter light, I have no access right now to the spot where I usually photograph my artwork.
I don’t have a dog in this fight since I have seen literally zero of the movies for which these performances have been recognised. While we go as a family to the cinema to see the odd blockbuster or animated movie, Mr Pict and I have to wait for movies to appear on the small screen before we can view them. I have no punditry to offer, therefore, and no predictions to make except that I guarantee all these people will look so much better – and more human – on the night than they appear in my drawings.
I am a movie enthusiast and that has been passed on to a couple of my kids. The Academy Awards, therefore, are a big deal event in our house. I know that some people throw Oscars parties and they get dressed up all glam and drink elegant cocktails while nibbling on pretty canapes. However, in our house, we get all comfy in our jammies, I make nachos, and we play Oscars Bingo while watching the ceremony. Last year I initiated another tradition which was to draw the nominees from the four acting categories. The results were very mixed and the likenesses were …. questionable but I had a lot of fun drawing them over the course of a few evenings so I decided I would do the same this year.
Last year, I attempted a sort of semi-blind-contour, mug shot approach. This year I decided to draw full length figures and to draw each actor in the role for which they were nominated. Again the results were mixed. I think it is fair to say that I have made zero progress in the field of portraiture since this time last year but it is also the fact that I have not tried to develop or hone my skills in this regard. I don’t think anyone is going to sue me because the way I have drawn their face makes it look as if they melted on a hot radiator. My kids had a fun idea. What if my illustrations were prophetic, like studying the innards of geese and sheep, and could predict who would win in each category? What if the best (or least worst) drawing on each page was auguring the winner?
First up are the best actress nominees. I have not seen a single one of the movies for which they are nominated – though I am eager to see them all – but on the basis of my drawings, poor Margot Robbie stands no chance. That really is an awful drawing as it looks absolutely nothing like her to the point of being insulting. My kids unanimously agreed that the best of the bunch is Sally Hawkins so let’s see if the prediction proves true on Sunday night.
Next up are the best actor nominees. This page was when I realised the flaw in my plan of drawing each actor in the role for which they were nominated because I had to draw latex Churchill instead of Gary Oldman. I think Timothee Chalamet and Daniel Kaluuya are the best drawings on the page so, according to the prophecy, one of them ought to win. I shall plump for the latter since I have actually seen ‘Get Out’. I think that and ‘Coco’ might be the only nominated movies I have seen this year.
Of the best supporting actress nominees, the only one whose nominated performance I have seen is Mary J Blige and I actually didn’t much enjoy the movie, though she was pretty good. All of the women in this category had interesting faces that I enjoyed drawing. I think Alison Janney is the best drawing so let’s see if she takes home the golden baldie.
Lastly, the best supporting actors, looking a bit like a police station line-up since they all look a bit shifty the way I have drawn them. The likenesses are terrible but the best illustrations are probably those of Richard Jenkins or Christopher Plummer.
This Sunday the 89th Academy Awards Ceremony will be held in Hollywood. As a movie nerd, the Oscars are a big deal to me. I rarely manage to catch any of the other movie awards ceremonies but I do my level best to watch the Oscars each year and now my movie nerd kids are old enough to stay up for at least part of the ceremony too. Of course, by virtue of having kids and only making it to the cinema once or twice a year without them, these days I have rarely seen any of the movies in contention prior to awards season but I still enjoy the whole thing nevertheless.
A few weeks ago I had a lot of fun with an art journal page filled with illustrations of vintage mug shots. I was keen to repeat that experiment and thought the Oscars posed the perfect opportunity to try out the not-quite-blind-contour approach once more. Obviously once I had the basic outline and interior shapes mapped out in pencil through sideways glances, I refined and modified the sketches but only a little because I wanted to retain the looseness of my initital mark making. The results were entirely mixed when the outcome is considered – and the likenesses are actually woeful – but I had a whole lot of fun drawing these and that is actually what is more important. These were also relaxing to draw because I could work on them, using pencil and fountain pens, while tucked up on the sofa watching a movie.
Initially I was intending to work through all the nominees in all the major awards categories. However, I realised I was over-extending myself so I limited myself to the four acting categories only. The text accompanying each portrait indicates who the portraits depict – or who they are supposed to depict since the likenesses are not exactly accurate. Some are better than others, of course, but some bear no resemblance whatsoever to the actual person. I don’t think Natalie Portman or Denzel Washington are about to sue me for insulting their faces and I am not a portraitist so that’s OK .
I was very happy when I read that this week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “Mug Shots”. I am into the history of photography and am also a family historian so I instantly thought of all those characterful vintage mug shots of criminals and workhouse inmates. I decided, therefore, to use those as my inspiration but almost as soon as I started pootling around on google images I decided to use some of the images not just as vague inspiration, a jumping off point, but as direct inspiration, scaffolding for a group of portrait sketches. Now, I am not a portraitist. I do not possess the degree of accuracy required plus I am actually not that interested in verisimilitude. I, therefore, had no intention of even attempting to create faithful likenesses to the individuals captured in the vintage mug shots. I just wanted to capture some essence of them, some details, and go from there.
Deciding to challenge myself a little, I undertook to draw these in an “almost blind contour” approach. I did not completely cover the page or my drawing hand, which would have made it properly blind contour, but I kept my art journal and hand off to one side and tried not to look very often while I focused on observing the details on the computer screen. That approach meant the drawings did not go completely wonky but the proportions did go skew-wiff enough to add some interest and character in my drawings. I initially drew in pencil – just in case – but then tried my best to stay true to the original line work when going over it with my trusty fountain pen (a Lamy Al Star with a Fine nib and filled with Noodler’s Bulletproof). I added a few more details and some shading using another pen filled with Lexington Grey ink. I used that same grey ink in a wash for some areas of the drawings.
In the top left is my depiction of Walter Smith. According to a blog entry, Smith was a burglar in New South Wales sentenced to 6 months hard labour in 1924. I chose his photo as I liked the defeated slouch. Top right is Dorothy Mort who, in 1920, shot dead the chap who she was having an affair with. I chose her photo because of her interesting profile and her sad sack stance. Bottom right is a mugger named Charles Money. There was something about his calmly defiant facial expression and relaxed pose that appealed to me. Finally, in the bottom left, is my drawing of one Lamar Warter whose mug shot came courtesy of a drink driving rap. When I saw that image, I knew I had to draw that profile with that really prominent adam’s apple.