Subject Counts and Wife Solo Portraits
Since getting back into drawing in 2017, I’ve generally been under the impression that most of my artwork has been of my family. I also had a feeling that the most frequent subject was probably my wife. Because data is fun, I decided there was no point in just assuming or guessing – better to crunch the numbers and find out for sure! I copied some data from my site anniversary spreadsheet, added information for more recent posts, and generated entries for every subject of my artwork. The idea was include a tally each time someone appears in artwork, whether as part of a group in one sketch or appearing in separate drawings. I also added some broader categories (like “actors” and “athletes”).
I was actually sort of surprised by the results. When looking at subjects individually, my oldest daughter was the top subject appearing in 20 drawings, with her little sister coming in second at 16. The big surprise was that my wife wasn’t even third – I was, appearing in 13 sketches. My wife came in fourth with 12! No other individual subject was close (my mom was actually next, appearing in only four drawings). When grouped into categories, naturally the Amdalls (me, my wife, and the kids) completely outpaced everything else. I also tried grouping the smaller-numbered subjects, while keeping the larger tallies (like my wife and the kids) as individual counts. It’s sort of an inconsistent way to look at it, but I found the counts interesting:
I was legitimately surprised by how many actors I’ve drawn. I mean, no individual actor has more than one (other than Patrick Stewart), but that’s still more than I would have guessed. Another fact I realized is that, aside from the marriage proposal drawing of her, I haven’t actually drawn my wife by herself! That marriage proposal sketch is a few years old too – otherwise it’s been together with our girls, me, and/or other family.
So, there you have it! The data speaks, and has suggested a great idea for my next sketch (actually, sketches). I decided to do a couple of solo sketches of my wife – no kiddos, no husband. And I think they turned out pretty well! I’ll post the first, some discussion about the process, then the second, followed by more discussion, ending with a progression .gif.
This first drawing I think turned out the best. It looks the most like her, and of the two, it’s the one she said she liked the most. The features all look right to me, and fit together correctly. Naturally, I see my wife all the time, so it’s important that a sketch of her passes the “at a quick glance” test. In other words, if I briefly look at it without examining closely, do I come away with the impression that it looks right? In this case, the answer is yes.
I did a good job of capturing her nose and eye shapes. I even managed to accurately portray her lips here, which I’m not always able to do. I feel really good about this one, and when I look at the sketch, I feel like I’m looking at my wife. I think this looks more like her than any of the previous dozen or so times I’ve drawn her! If any area needs improvement from a technical standpoint, it’s probably the teeth. They look fine, but I was afraid to try for more detail for fear of messing it up. I already felt good about the rest of it, and didn’t want to get into a messy erasing cycle.
The next drawing also turned out pretty good, but doesn’t pass the “at a quick glance” test quite as well as the first. Here, I wanted to try something a little different, with her not looking directly forward. From a technical standpoint, I did a good job on the shapes (eyes, nose, mouth). But some of the shading and coloration isn’t quite where it should be – it’s close, but feels a bit off. Also, I’m not certain about how I placed the pupils…when I look closely, they seem fine, but a browsing glance makes me think they aren’t looking at the same spot by a hair.
I also didn’t really do a great job on the book or her shirt. I wish I could have a do-over especially for that shirt, because I didn’t select a good color or shading technique. I’m also not sure about the facial shape; it’s definitely close, but not as spot-on as the first sketch. From my wife’s perspective, she says this one makes her look tired. I wasn’t aiming for that, and I don’t get that impression when I look at it, but who knows how she looks better than the lady herself? I did mention the shading wasn’t my best work, so possibly I did too much under her eyes.
Here are the progression .gifs – hopefully they came out okay. I wanted to get them on the same line without being too small.
I really should draw this beautiful lady more often! I think if I reach the 20 drawing mark with her, I can continue to get better at capturing her overall look. It seems like I became more comfortable drawing our oldest kiddo when I approached that mark – as I’ve discussed before, I definitely notice improvement with practice.