Cover art: Libby Klein
We were the first of our social group to move back to North America from Yerushalayim. I had one little baby at the time, and I wasn’t working, so I was able to utilize a lot of the time she was napping to revisit my high school love of portrait drawing. I painted a lot.
I think I must have felt a little displaced, in a twilight zone. On the one hand, I was home, back in the neighborhood where I’d grown up. On the other hand, my friends were still pushing strollers in Arzei park together, while my siblings who lived near me were already deeply settled into their multi-child routines – and I was perfecting the uniformity of pumpkin muffins with their sticky-smooth maple glaze, in a different time zone than my friends and on a different schedule than my siblings.
Time moved quickly, as it does. The easel got folded up, the brushes cleaned and dried, we moved, and moved again. It’s been eight years or so since I’ve really invested energy into painting. However, I’ll often doodle with my girls after school, and, aghast that this skill was lying dormant, they were the ones who motivated me to whip out the canvas again.
I’m doing a series of gedolim now — simple techniques, pencil on a sketchpad. My brain filters shadows and facial features into microscopic shapes; the brim of a hat and the veins on a hand are dissected into hundreds of little triangles of varied depth, size, and texture.
I believe in the importance of having a hobby of your own, or some pull towards creativity. I know — usually that feels like a pipe dream. But I think that as adults, being able to access the ingenuity and imaginative thinking we utilized as kids is exactly what will make us patient and empathetic partners, colleagues, parents, and children. Find a moment in your day to cultivate your creativity.
If you’re interested in becoming a sketch-head like I am, here are the products I use:
Editor, Family Room
Black pencils in varied thicknesses create depth of shadow beyond graphite pencils.
Staedtler Mars Lumograph Black Pencils, gwartzmans.com
A fluffy brush of any kind makes blending an easy process. The result is completely streak-free.
Marseille Golden Camel Mop by Artist’s Loft, michaels.com
I’ll never sketch with another pencil. (I’m not high maintenance at all!)
Sketching Pencil Set by Artist’s Loft, michaels.com
A micro eraser works beyond cleaning up edges; it can create light ripples of shadow when used like an “eraser pen.”
Tombow Mono Zero Eraser Pen, deserres.ca
White gel pens provide the finishing dimension for portraiture — all those small details in hair and eyes come to life.
Gelly Roll Pens, deserres.ca
I love this for blending and somewhat intentionally messy blending. It’s a staple.
Tombow Mono Zero Eraser Pen, michaels.com
(Originally featured in Family Room, Issue 28)
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