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Tann Starr Sketchbook Chronicles: Angelina Jolie 16x20 preliminary graphite #1

Carolyn Tann Starr 2011

Tann Starr Sketchbook Chronicles: Angelina Jolie 16x20 preliminary graphite #1

I promised you guys another peek into my process of developing an Agelina Jolie portrait, so here's page 12 from my sketchbook (which is not complete and in progress).

I've been studying Angelina's eyes all afternoon (when not watching her on Netflix, macking the cell phone and ordering Chinese from New Shanghi in Kew Gardens - LOL).

I spend a lot of time studying my subject because the more I learn and memorize of her features the easier it gets to draw them on demand or at a whim. When I finally figure out how to capture that "something intangible" in Angelina's expression, doing so will make her more easily recognizable in my illustrations. It's the eyes and lips I have to master before I start the painting. Learning how to visually portray her lips as soft, pouty and kissable is mandatory if I plan to pull this off with maximum effect.

Carolyn Tann Starr 2011

Artists routinely calculate where they want viewers to concentrate their attention on, so we pick the things we like the most and play it up to the hilt. In my case, it's mastery of the eyes and lips that creates an intangible effect in an expression when one looks at one of my portraits. Think "Mona Lisa Smile" when you think of the word "intangible" and a light bulb will go off if you've ever seen the painting. I'm looking to have my version of that effect when I create the final mix media portrait of Angelina Jolie. I'm trying to discover how to create her brand of Mona Lisa smile.

I evened out the eyes a bit more on the second graphite study photograph so that it doesn't distract you as much while we concentrate on comparing the evolution of Angelina's lips. Far left the ink drawing of her lips are not as soft as the mid inked set, which is not as soft as the far right pencil (graphite) set. The more I experiment when I draw while learning AJ's features, the softer and more inviting they become. Artist trying to master their craft always go for the empathy link, trying to portray a feeling that will be shared by the viewer and elicit a response to what has been created. This process takes a lot of time and effort and will teach you unexpected things about yourself while you discover new things about your subject because how you feel about what you are creating sometimes can be visually transferred into your work.

From yesterday's Agelina drawing adventure you guys discovered I like creating pen and inks (among other things - LOL). You also discovered that I don't erase, just start over learning from my mistakes. Today we're going to chat about sketching with pencils (graphite) while comparing my techniques and latest mistakes. You don't have to be anal retentive and obsessive regarding your artistic creations like I habitually am but if you're going to get really good at your craft then stick to the rule of no erasing.

Not being able to erase makes you a more attentive artist, one that deliberates and calculates every single artistic stroke. If you are new at this, start small (with a fruit bowl or flowers) and slowly work you way up to observing and drawing more complicated subjects. I happen to love creating abstract paintings with my kids. Sometimes when people see me do that they think I can't draw (LOL). My gallery shows in SoHo are usually mad fun because more often than not people assume it's five different artists exhibiting on the wall when it's really just me doing exactly what I want when ever I want to (LOL).

I can do work similar to a number of the old masters because painting the masters was a required part of my vocational instruction under Mr. Murray Sherman. He gave great homework. I was practically living in Museums. He would buy art posters, tape them to the backboard and tell us to draw. I started buying art books, propping them on the basement table and not be seen by my family all weekend. My dad used to come home from work and discover me passed out on the floor sleeping with the paintbrush still in my hand. He would wake me up and tell me to go to bed to which my response was, "No. I'm painting," and I'd pick up where I left off as if drool wasn't crusted on my mouth (LOL).

That is how obsessive I am about creating works of art.

While in high school I won a couple of competitions and got scholarships to Saturday classes at Cooper Union and The Arts Students League. Lee's Art Shop is my fave spot to get supplies from in Manhattan. It's on 220 West 57th Street across from The Art's Students League and the Hard Rock Cafe (where I spent a good portion of my youth when not at the movies or in the martial arts gym running amok - LOL). ;-)

This is mad fun for me and sometimes I get paid to play in my paint (LOL). You know how joggers get those hormones that make them really happy when they run? I get happy like that when I create. 

If you think fruit is boring and want to try drawing a face, you can start drawing a face any way you want. I usually start with the eyes, lightly sketch in the entire face, then rotate through developing one feature at a time (in this case AJ's right eye in the first graphite photograph). Notice how the left side (right eye) pops more than the rest of the drawing? It's because during the process I pick apart little points of detail to deepen the lines slowly to express what I think I'm seeing. I will be drawing a second face on the practice page (so as not to waste canvas paper) because I always notice something new and will have an update for you guys tomorrow showing this sketch further developed. ;-)

Drawing equals creating something from nothing. Creating something from nothing requires that you place particular emphasis on the planes and angles of your subject when you draw. What ever you see, you see it because light is bouncing off the surface to reflect planes and angles back at you. You must start by teaching yourself to look for reflected light patterns because it helps to give depth and meaning to the criss crossing of your lines which represent those planes and angles you're trying to break down into simple forms. If you don't pick and choose your ridges carefully you'll lose the ability to make a specific feature stand out as more dramatic than another. That's why I recommend starting with fruits and flowers. Starting with simple, familiar shapes helps to teach you to see...



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Comment balloon 3 commentsC Tann-Starr • February 20 2011 08:01PM


You keep amazing me with your incredible talents. You learn by not erasing. You are really really good!

Is AJ aware of this project?

Sometimes when people see me do that they think I can't draw (LOL). My gallery shows in SoHo are usually mad fun because more often than not people assume it's five different artists exhibiting on the wall when it's really just me doing exactly what I want when ever I want to (LOL).

I happen think you are more than five different people!


Posted by Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400, Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome ( HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400) over 9 years ago

C- you have mad talent girl.  I can't draw stick people.  I'm looking forward to seeing what you are happy with.  Frankly I've loved everything you've shown us so far. 

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) over 9 years ago

Thank you, ladies. We'll have some more fun with this in the morning. Picked up some canvas and am starting the next stage of AJ studies. Will keep you posted. :-)

Posted by C Tann-Starr (Tann Starr & Associates, Inc.) over 9 years ago

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