Drawing of New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern

This post is mostly going to be about a portrait I did of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, but I’ll also take a detour to talk about some other things. I actually worked on this drawing sort of a while ago, towards the end of June or beginning of July. But that just happened to be right as my family and I were preparing to move to Texas! It’s a move we found out about around six months ago and have been looking forward to since then. And really, we’ve been hoping for the opportunity to move back here for years, so it feels like a huge goal to accomplish. We finally got to see that dream become reality, so it’s an awesome feeling.

Naturally moving is fairly time consuming, so it’s taken me away from art and posting on this site. We’ve still got to finish selling our old house and buying a new one, but once we’ve done that, we can slowly start finding our new routines. And hopefully I can find some time for more portraits again. That getting into a new house situation is a tough one though. We have been away from North Texas for like a decade and, in that time, the area has changed a lot…and homes have become more expensive. This is something I’ve actually written about before – the cost of waiting, and how savings don’t always keep pace with home prices. Despite buying a home in Louisiana, home prices there did not at all keep pace with larger cities in Texas, so we effectively lost buying power while we were away. I think we’ll be able to figure it all out, but it makes the entire situation more challenging.

Anyhow, that’s our situation. Maybe by fall or winter, I’ll be drawing something in our new place (fingers crossed). Getting back to this drawing, as with so many things, it was sparked by something fairly random. I made this portrait after seeing New Zealand Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern’s reaction to an earthquake that occurred during a television interview. Her response was great: “We’re just having a bit of an earthquake here, Ryan…quite a decent shake.” I based the artwork on a BBC video, which is worth watching just to see PM Ardern’s cool and calm reaction:

I didn’t know a ton about her, but had previously read about her government’s impressive handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and other major issues. As I’ve said before, I tend to avoid the political on this blog, but I’ll at least say she seems very capable from what I’ve seen. Adding in this funny reaction to an earthquake is a solid addition to that reputation. Regardless of politics, I just had a random thought to draw from the BBC scene so I just went into it. In contrast to my usual need for planning, my artwork subject selection can often be quite spur-of-the-moment and impulsive like that. So, here is another pulled from a random thing I happened to come across!

I did actually make a video of the process to share to my much-neglected YouTube channel as well. I’ll pop the video at the end to show progression (instead of the old style .gif I used to post), but let’s start with the finished product:

What went well and what didn’t here? Well, for starters I have to mention I am still learning how to effectively take video for progressions of these drawings. Because I’m still trying to figure out how all that works, there are some challenges that I think are reflected in the final product. One is that I can’t figure out where to place the tripod! It’s pretty much always in my way at this point. And I’m realizing now that for certain phases of drawing, particularly detail-intensive areas like the eyes and mouth, I get really close to the page. That’s a problem when you’re filming, because my big old head ends up right in frame. I had that struggle with this one – I couldn’t get close enough for my comfort.

Some of the weaker aspects of this drawing fall under the shadows and shading realm. There just isn’t a ton of contrast in my portrait, which is very noticeable when you watch the video and see how the colors should be a bit more punchy and dynamic. My color palette by comparison is a bit bland. And the shadows have very little depth, which is often a problem for me. And I mentioned being stifled from getting closer to the page by the camera; I blame that for the less-than-accurate nose and mouth.

As for the good, I do think there is a strong resemblance to the subject at least. It seems like a modest thing, but it is actually always a huge win. I try not to take that for granted, because it is a success for an amateur like me. Overall, it is a decent enough piece and I think it turned out just fine. I almost wish I could have a do-over though, because there are some things I would perhaps take a different approach with. The tripod placement and lighting situation are two big ones. But, as I said, taking the broad view this one is a solid effort.

Here is the progression video done at eight times normal speed:

Although I do like the drawing, honestly one of my favorite things about this video is the music. I’ve been using a royalty free/creative commons music site called “Free Music Archive” for these videos and this is one of my favorites I’ve found there. I do have another completed portrait, this time of tech reviewer Marques Brownlee. But I’m not sure how quickly I’m going to be able to write a post for it. Hopefully soon, as daily life allows!

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