Drawing Basics: Kitty Teerling pencil portraits

watercolor magazine looking at watercolorsKitty Teerling's pencil draiwng, Connie David Kassan comments on Kitty Teerling's Louisa and Connie.

Kitty Teerling's pencil draiwng, Connie Kitty Teerling's pencil draiwng, Louisa
by Kitty Teerling, 2007, pencil drawing, 4½ x 5½.
by Kitty Teerling, 2007, pencil drawing, 4 x 5.

by David Jon Kassan

These portrait drawings by Kitty Teerling were done in graphite in a Moleskine sketchbook with off-white pages. They are observational value studies that serve to train and speed up the artist's hand for painting in oil.  Although they are quick tonal exercises, they stand on their own as compelling individual portraits that record the artist's impression of the model. Although only four inches high, these immediate studies capture the rhythm of the subjects' features and bearing well.

Teerling presents the viewer with intimate vignettes that offer insight into each model's character and emotion. For her, how to draw people is a matter of sophisticated simplicity and effective organization of light and dark shapes. In these pieces the artist is employing a painterly concept to the dry medium of drawing. Lines are grouped together so that they serve as tonal patches, not as linear edges, and each drawing is built up in multiple layers, with Teerling laying a grouping of linework over another grouping to create the desired value for each shape. When drawing people, this approach is excellent for value modulation and underscores the importance of how these large masses are linked together based on their value hierarchy. 

Another great attribute of this technique is that you can still see much of the artist's process. Teerling starts out with light values and builds up the composition with progressively darker values that define the figure as it emerges from the picture plane. The strong quality of linework creates a patchwork of horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines, lending the drawings a deep, rich texture, as well as suggesting a mood and describing the models' character. Some drawings still show the construction planes used to create the overall form and anatomy of each subject. These "memories" of the drawing process ghost the final composition and tie together the exaggerated patterns of light and dark.

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