The art of portrait drawing


At the end of last year Cayman’s Visual Arts Society played host once again to one of the best instructors of realism in the art world today, Fernando Freitas, Director of the Academy of Realist Art in Toronto, for a one-week workshop entitled Mastering Portrait Drawing. Business Editor, Lindsey Turnbull reports.

Fernando Frietas is a well-known instructor on Cayman’s art circuit, having visited the island once or twice a year for a number of years, imparting his knowledge on Cayman’s eager artistic fraternity. Last November’s intensive one-week course had local artists taken through the fundamentals of portrait sketching, exploring and putting into practice the basic principles of light, shape, values and edges to achieve a true sense of form.

Participants were required to bring to the course two portrait photos lit from a single light source from which to base their drawings and worked on toned paper using a variety of drawing mediums, including graphite, charcoal, carbon, sepia and sanguine.

Around a third of the 12 person strong class were newcomers to Fernando’s art classes and in his words, along with the regular attendees, “were loving the experience”.

He says, “I take the raw ability and with guidance help the artists understand the basics of portrait drawing which allows them to create some great work, ultimately an extremely satisfying process for them. Those artists who come regular to the classes are growing all the time and have displayed tremendous improvement and are producing excellent results; however I also note a high level of ability among those who are newcomers as well, executing work to a high level.”

Fernando says his Academy of Realist Art is something of a pioneer among the new generation of artists, instilling in students the basics of drawing to give them a strong platform from which they can then create great work.

He confirms, “We get our students to all speak the same language. Once the basics of the language are appreciated only then can they go on to express themselves in different ways.”
We teach proportion, which is an absolute basic, as well as how to make a clear statement between light and dark light, using tonal values to suggest subtle shifts in light. In order to teach an appreciation of tone we have students draw a sphere or cube and delineate shades of light and dark on this simple object. The quality of the edges is a vital part of the process and the range gives atmosphere and mood.”

Light is an important principle which Fernando explores in depth with his students. He says, “I help students look at how objects are affected by a single light source, which is a helpful exercise in appreciating tone. It’s a basic concept that once mastered adds a huge amount to the drawing abilities of the student.”

For this latest course, Fernando had the artists use toned paper to add dimension to their work and says this creates the perfect base from which to begin drawing portraits. “Coloured paper is used as a mid tone which immediately adds value to a drawing. It creates a mood straight away, with the tone of the colour affecting the type of mood – cool tones provoke thought provoking images while warm tones tend to create joyful pieces.”

Dora Williams, director of the Visual Arts Society and a keen attendee of Fernando’s classes says, “Every time Fernando Freitas comes to Cayman and I get the chance to join his courses, the experience is reinvigorating. The similarity could be drawn with an athlete who undertakes a full training and then runs a better race…It’s the same for an artist: when he or she trains in a workshop it helps them prepare to create their next work, making it more powerful and stronger.”

Fernando helps Helen with her artwork

Fernando helps Helen with her artwork