Creative Process is a series where artists offer a little behind the scenes peek into their art-making. Lima-born, Barcelona-based artist Daniela Carvalho (previously featured here) is particularly committed to pencil and paper — pen and ink — believing analogue work has a way of creating a truer register of human nature. Although Carvalho’s insistence on creating by hand in a post-digital era, isn’t necessarily about rejecting or negating new technologies, but rather, reinterpreting modes of digital distortion.
Most of the time I work based on a photo with good resolution, which I modify in Photoshop, or print it and cut it into pieces and play with the composition. I like to use photos with natural light and natural gestures. It gives me the feeling that I’m starting with the essence of the person, and I’m the one in charge to discover another side of them, in the way I understand them.
The next step is to draw the contours and place the proportions on the cardboard (usually 300gr cardboard with medium grain). I mostly work with big formats because it lets me focus more on the details, and it’s easier to get the realistic look I want.
I do not like tracing or using a projector to transfer the proportions on the paper. I like to practice my drawing skills and give myself opportunity to make mistakes and the line to have a free and natural feeling.
So I do a basic grid with the pencil, on the picture (printed on paper) and the same one on the big cardboard. Then I use the kneaded rubber to make the grid as subtle as possible. I usually divide it in 4 (high and wide). Then I just draw basic contours, with a hard pencil (hb or 2h), and for the geometric shapes I use curve templates, rulers and a compass.
I do not draw the contours of everything at once. For me it is easier to perceive the proportions when I start the shading. So I work by parts, by blocks, helped with the grid. I also like white spaces in the final composition, so working block by block helps me to notice where its better to put them.
I go from light to dark, because it’s always easier to get darker and darker, rather than use the eraser to make it lighter. I use pencils from 9h to 9B, and with different thicknesses.
For the final lights, I do it with the kneaded rubber, specially the hair lights. You can shape its thickness as you need, and it’s really gentle with the cardboard.
I do not use blending tools, I like to see my line and the scratch of the pencil. I don’t do crosshatch, I do kind of tiny round moves with the pencil. When everything is finished, I clean the white parts with the eraser and then I use a normal charcoal fixative.
For the shading, I usually start with the eyes , they are the essence of the portrait, they give me the proportion and the personality of the drawing. Also, from the very beginning, I like to perceive that it is a person that I’m drawing, and not just shades and shapes.
I try to draw it from left to right, this way I dont make so much of a mess with my hand ( I’m right handed). But when it’s not possible, I cover the parts I have already shaded , in order not to blur them by accident, with acetate — it protects it more than paper and its transparent.
In the end, the result is never like my initial sketch, during the process I discover new compositions and new shapes. My drawing style is in some way realistic, but not in a perfect way — I like it when you can feel my line, my mistakes and my interpretation, but in a very subliminal way.
One thing I still haven’t figured out yet is the best way to capture the final drawing to show it in digital platforms. Either I scan it in pieces and put the pieces together in Photoshop (but it’s a really slow process) or I just take a photo of it with good resolution. The problem with the photo is that not every detail is going to be in focus. Or, at least, I can not get that with my camera.