Typographic Portrait WIP

This morning I’ve been working on my typographic portrait of Aneurin Bevan. This portrait is the third iteration. I’m learning as I go along, trying out ideas as they occur to me.

I started with the photograph Nye Bevan and used the posterise tool in Affinity Photo to create areas of contrast. Then, I added colour to these areas to help me differentiate ‘twixt them. I completed this task in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.

The next stage was to draw lines around these areas of colour, smoothing them out somewhat, and using artistic interpretation where necessary. These are the green lines that delineate the areas for different weights of text. I’ve decided to leave the white areas blank.

The green guidelines have been changed and edited as I work the portrait.

The area that was vexing me most were the fingers. However, I had an idea to use tiny lettering to add some deep shadow. I’m sure I’ll work out how to add some lighter shadow areas later on (my mind is already ticking over that issue) to give more volume to the fingers.

They typography is hand drawn and I’m having to come to terms with the struggle I’m having with my perfectionist side. This isn’t to do with the shapes of the letters, but the weight of them and making sure that they are consistent. As I’m hand-drawing the letters, then they are going to be imperfect, and I need to learn to accept when they are good enough.

Also, those imperfections and style of lettering are personal to me, and that is what will differentiate my work from others.

I’m also struggling with letting go of the desire to be as photographically accurate with the portrait as I can be. This is where learning to simplify the shapes of the different areas of contrast comes in, and recognising they don’t have to be a perfect copy of the photo in order for the resulting portrait to be recognisable as Aneurin Bevan.

One other thing I’ve done is to let go of trying to use full quotes in the portrait. I’m using repetitions of words and short phrases that represent Nye – personally, politically and in terms of achievements. I’ve realised the portrait doesn’t have to be a grammatically correct biography! I will, however, be using quotes to fill in his jacket.

I’m not sure what to do with his shirt and tie yet. It will fall into place soon enough I’m sure.

Working digitally helps me in so many ways. It takes away the frustration of starting over again if I make a mistake, and also minor frustrations. I gain a confidence to try things out, knowing that if they don’t work out I’ve not screwed up the rest of the work I’m happy with.

Working digitally, for me, is like working with pen and pencil on paper. I use a digital pen on the screen of my Surface Studio, just as I would pen on paper. It’s easy to undo and edit changes made. It removes from me the pressure to be perfect first time and helps me to persevere when things aren’t working as I’d like them to.

All the skills I’m learning digitally, in terms of the hand-drawn typography and being more patient with myself and allowing my work to be ‘perfectly imperfect’ is transferable to the work I do with traditional media too.

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