Blog » Pencil Portrait Discoveries (Monday, 4 July 2016)

When our first grand baby – Payton – was born, I knocked out a pencil sketch portrait of her one day while in the waiting room for the torture chamber known as a mammogram. Sketching her was a delightful distraction from the anticipation of the squeezing and squashing and discomfort waiting through that door. Not having great faith or belief that I could even render any kind of likeness at the time, I was simply puddling around and enjoying getting absorbed in the curve of her perfect little mouth. The result was a surprisingly good likeness – so good that we framed it as her gift for her first birthday. (You can click through to that post and sketch here, if you’d like to have a look at it)  At the time, it occurred to me that it would be special to do the same for each of our grand kids as they came along. No one could know how quickly the next three would show up. In the space of fifteen months, the number grew to four! That idea to draw a pencil portrait of each of them for their first birthday has seen me with a pencil in my hand more in the past six months than in many years.

As well as being sources of endless delight and joy, these tiny humans have led me back to something long forgotten – just how much I enjoy to draw. These drawings have also held some lessons about creative fear. The discomfort of that mammogram was almost insignificant compared to the realization that I was avoiding beginning the second portrait. Avoiding it, because in some deep, unconscious place, I doubted I could do it again. But do it again I did, three times in rapid succession! Yet every time, the beginning was put off for a while. There was a cupboard that needed clearing out; a pile of ironing, untouched for six months that simply HAD to be attended to first. Anyone who knows me well will knows this is the surest indication of avoidance of a task. I loathe ironing with a passion! So many things that weren’t terribly important took on monumental urgency in the face of beginning each of these portraits.

Research and conversations with other artists has led to the understanding that I’m not alone in this. In fact, it’s not just artists. School Principals, entrepreneurs, and professionals of all kinds have said “Me too!” But here’s the thing: when you take a deep breath, dive in, and start whatever it is that you’re nervous to begin, you’ve already succeeded. It doesn’t matter if you hit it out of the park, or you make something barely fit for the bottom of the birdcage, you moved, you took action. Sometimes, you’ll make it work first go. Other times, you might have experiences like I did with Hunter’s portrait, and create something that looks like a little alien baby. Even if we had a cockatoo – it would not have wanted that drawing lining it’s cage. But you know what? The awful drawing was a wonderful limbering up exercise, and even though it ended up stuffed in the back of the sketchbook as a reminder that each work is a journey that sometimes takes a very circuitous route, without it, the final portrait would not have been as successful.

Looking into the eyes of these precious tiny souls, I am thankful for all they have taught me already, grateful to them for inspiring me to pick up a pencil and draw again, and filled with anticipation for all the wonder and awe we will share them as they grow. There will be all kinds of lessons along the way – for the little ones, as well as for the bigger ones whose task it is to guide them through this this wild and crazy life. And, just between you and me, I’m excited for the day we can all paint and draw together – without them being more interested in eating it!


"Levi" ©2015 Tracey Hewitt 30cm x 35cm. Pencil                                                                                                                                   "Hunter" ©2016 Tracey Hewitt 30cm x 35cm. Pencil


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