Seeing: Making Portraits, by Wendy DeRaud

My handsome son Michael






“It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see.” Henry David Thoreau 




Drawing is all about seeing.


The more I see, the more I can draw something in more precise detail. It takes intense concentration and focus, to penetrate with my eyes into whatever form I am trying to translate into a drawing.

I have always been obsessed with getting an accurate representation. In doing portraits, I had to make it look like the person, and usually took some license to make it the best and most beautiful interpretation of what I saw. I would work and work until it came together at last. Yes, I've found the real you.

I used to do portraits at craft fairs which was great training for me. Drawing portraits while people were waiting in line was a challenge, but it caused me to work more intensely. I didn't have time to think about what I was doing, I had to be in the moment and bring in my intuition, which eventually captured the essence of my model. 

It usually starts with the eyes. The eyes carry the soul of a person, for as they see out, I can then see in. If they don't make eye contact they are hiding something. If they do look straight at me with a shy smile, they reveal themselves and I am given the opportunity to know them, with the eyes of my heart.  It can happen in a second. I don't even have to ask questions. First impressions count.

I had face after face come before me, young eager faces wanting to be seen. They wanted to know what they looked like to me and to the world, and if they saw their friend or their brother with a portrait that captured them, they wanted one too. My portrait business grew by word of mouth and the lines got longer. I got to make people happy by showing that they were beautiful with my pencil. Even if it wasn't a complete picture, one part of it would explain that person's true being somehow.






Portrait of Gigi (done from a photo, not from life)





“Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.” Andy Warhol 



That's why portraits from life are the best. I get to sit with people, experiencing their discomfort, their hope, their anticipation. But even when I work from a photograph, I have been trained to look beyond what I see on the surface. Their histories are on their faces, and they are telling me that they wanted to be explained, to be understood, to be loved. I am grateful I am able to do that, to take that special moment in time in order to mirror someone's true beauty to the world through a portrait.


Check out the link to my portraits here.