Annunciation of Ustyug, Novgorod, 12th Century
Hello icon friends,
It is one thing hearing how to do something and another altogether applying it via the end of a brush or pencil. I set out to try another upper body monochrome of the Archangel Gabriel from the beautiful image of the Annunciation above and in the course of this I have befriended a whole group of mistakes – let me introduce a few!
I lightly sketched out the image ready to paint over but saw immediately that I had run into difficulties. First of all, I didn’t get the overall composition right.
Preliminary sketch of Gabriel
I had set out the upper body study on A3 paper but in doing so found I had cut off the hand. This seemed to lose the whole point as the hands are so expressive of the whole message that the image contains. Looking at it now, for this exercise I should have zoomed in and concentrated on the face and upper arm, but I had started so I carried on.
Sketch comparisons, finding the centret to identify where I am going adrift
Secondly, I couldn’t get the face, in particular the eyes, quite right. I did a cross check between the original and my drawing by forming a simple square to enclose the head, then joined the diagonals to find the centre point of reference. I was pleased to see that the point landed in exactly the same spot on my drawing, but it showed immediately where the rest of the face had gone astray. The nose leant too far over and the eyebrows had fallen down.
Adjusting the features but there is still something not right – the eye on the right and the tilt of the head?
After a few days away from this drawing, I still couldn’t quite see where they were going adrift so I traced over the original eyes to clarify their shape and laid them over my drawing.
Tracing the profile of the original eyes to identify where I am going wrong
One slight move of of one feature has repercussions elsewhere so the brows, nose, mouth, cheek profile all got adjusted and brought into alignment. I suppose that speaks on another level too, to always go back to the source to bring something of ourselves that is out of step back into alignment.
The eyes on the left after being adjusted.
Sketch of Gabriel near completion
With all the rubbing out and rearranging I had made quite a mess of my paper. I thought hard about all that I had learnt and decided that I would take a bit of a leap and redo the whole image again but on larger paper. So, next time I will tell you about how I made a fresh crop of mistakes as I move onto A2 paper. Thanks for reading!