On our second night of our black and white art class, which also happened to be Valentine’s Day, Patrick and I were assigned portraiture, and chose each other as subjects.  We didn’t realize just how challenging and meaningful the assignment would be.
Portraiture is something I’ve enjoyed since I began taking art classes.  I guess it’s because I love people.  I’m amazed by the way no two faces are exactly the same.  Even identical twins bear slight differences.  Our faces are what make us ourselves.
Initially, I wanted to draw our boys, but children’s faces are notoriously difficult.  It’s a matter of proportions.  Their eyes are big, their mouths are small, and they grow so quickly. 
Adults’ faces change with time, too.  The nose and the ears continue to increase in size as we age, and of course, there are the wrinkles.
“Never draw the lines under the eyes on a lady,” our teacher, Rob May said.  “And don’t shade too much under the chin or she’ll have a beard.”
After explaining and illustrating facial structure, proportions and other tips, Rob encouraged us to do basic sketches, which would then be shaded with tiny dots.  It seemed simple enough, but our pencil erasers quickly disagreed. 
One eye was bigger than the other.  The nose was crooked.  The lips were thin.  The chin was too sharp.
When recreating each other on the page, we sought perfection.  Once we relaxed our standards, we began to have fun. 
“This looks nothing like you,” Patrick said, as he erased and redrew my iris for the fifteenth time.
Patrick’s portrait of Robyn
“That’s okay,” I said.  “It’s your first portrait.”
Patrick hadn’t drawn a person since elementary school, but he practiced all that he learned to create a version of me.  He had more patience for the dot shading than I did.
I’m pleased for the most part with how my portrait of Patrick turned out, though I should have spent more time on the hair and made less of an outline around the nose.  I also wished I could have shown the twinkle of light in his eyes, but that’s one of the limitations of the second dimension. 
Robyn’s portrait of Patrick
The trick to creating a good portrait of someone is to try to capture the person, flaws and all, as God made him or her at that moment.  It helps to know that you’ll never be one hundred percent accurate.  God alone is the master portrait painter.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.