Dignity, charcoal

I recently came across an image of a Philippine woman that left no doubt her life was difficult in ways I couldn’t possibly imagine.

Dignity (12×9) a charcoal portrait, was a challenge for me to draw – I felt every line, the power of the pin that held the neck of her top closed, and it’s tough to draw a woman who is missing her teeth.   I wondered if she was walking with her head down because it pained her to look into others’ eyes – I don’t know, but the image of her was incredibly sad.  As a woman I felt her humility, why had life treated her so harshly.

In my drawing I wanted to bring a different side to this woman than what was shown – I didn’t illustrate her mouth sagging as much as was evident and I brought in the sun’s light from the upper-right beaming down on her one side.

Can a drawing show the dignity that this woman felt or should have felt?  I can’t answer that.   Yes, this was a difficult drawing  .   .   .

DignityThe reference photograph was in color and taken by Mike Sessions of pmp.


About Mary

Oil Pastelist
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86 Responses to Dignity, charcoal

  1. Oh Mary, what a wonderful portrait. I know I could never know this woman. You did a great job of bringing just the right amount of light into her face. Yes, you gave her dignity. Very good work.

    • Mary says:

      Hi Kerry, thank you so much for your generous words – this was a piece that continually spoke to me while drawing her. I’m so glad to read your reaction, thanks again.

  2. lesliepaints says:

    I like how you captured the light in this. It gives the portrait a dream-like quality. Beautiful!

  3. Painting for Joy says:

    Beautifully executed Mary. She looks like she could walk off the page! The contrasts between dark and light are very powerful and one can feel the warmth of the sunlight on her face. Her expression is thoughtful and makes me wonder what she’s thinking and where she’s going. Love this portrait! xoxo

  4. You absolutely did what you set out to do. She’s lovely.

  5. elisa ruland says:

    You show a delicate, yet amazingly detailed hand here, Mary. This beautiful piece looks like a photograph. Stunning!

  6. Mary, you are a phenomenal artist. Although your seascapes have always been my favorites, I will have to add this one. You have managed to capture all the strength, dignity, and absolute beauty in her countenance. Love it! And I am so envious of your talent. :mrgreen:

    • Mary says:

      Elizabeth you are too kind, thank you for your generous comments and compliment – means a lot. I’ve a long ways to go in my art, it’s a constant challenge of learning and experimenting but that’s what keeps me interested and hungry for me. Thanks for your patience as I tend to post it all ~ lol!

  7. Gently and lovingly drawn. A beautiful peaceful lightness about her face.

  8. This is so poignant and beautiful.

  9. Your path of charcoal left us breathless Mary, absolutely remarkable work! A most beautiful, emotionally filled powerful portrait you have ever created yet! Love how you brought in the sunlight and let her be touched by it, warmed by it and that same light lends her an angelic aura which makes her looking most beautiful! There are so many stunning technical details about which I could go on but it doesn’t feels appropriate for me to do so out of respect and to preserve her dignity. This particular piece speaks directly to our heart and make us feel her story louder than words! I’m beyond impressed, touched and inspired by your work and as you said this was difficult but you really, truly created a master piece! You are a remarkable artist and you navigate the world of art with much grace!

    • Mary says:

      Hi Eva, it’s very hard to respond to such a generous assessment of Dignity. She taught me, if you understand, and in that aspect alone I was able to render some of the quiet dignity that she called for. This was a great subject to draw as I’m trying to developing a style in my drawings that I’ve been visualizing for my work – haven’t a clue if it’s going to work, but the beginning stages show promise. Thank you Eva, hope you have a wonderful week!

  10. ladyfi says:

    Wow wow wow – this is your best one yet.

  11. Exceptional portrait Mary!!!!!! 🙂 [Happy February!]

    • Mary says:

      You are one busy lady! Thank you so much for taking time to stop by and leaving me such a wonderful comment – wishing you all the best for your new album and Happy February back to you!!

  12. I love this one, too. I also like her, the woman in the portrait. There’s something in the expression that suggests she’s tough but hasn’t become bitter…?

  13. Fantastic portrait, Mary! I love the details you’ve captured.

  14. Steven says:

    Really quite a moving portrait, Mary, and both soft and powerful in its delivery. Lovely stuff. I can see a lot of the feeling you describe.

  15. Paul Beech says:

    Mary, I am much taken with this portrait. Yes, this is surely a classical image of dignity maintained through privation or tragedy. I cannot help contrasting the subject with the jolly Filipino lasses who tended my dear mum so well during her last years in a Welsh nursing home.

    Very well done.


    • Mary says:

      What a beautiful response to this drawing, I’m so glad that the title combined the visual image of this woman brought back loving memories of your Mum’s caretakers. That is what makes art intensely personal.

      Thanks so much Paul, it’s the great compliment I can receive.

  16. Heartafire says:

    Your blog has been nominated for the “Lovely Blog Award”, if you wish to accept it you may collect it at House of Heart…thank you Mary!

  17. Amy says:

    Very moving… well done, Mary.

  18. JSD says:

    Excellent title…and picture…because that’s what she appears to have. Love it!

  19. Beautiful & brilliant title going with it 🙂

  20. Leya says:

    A truly moving masterpiece of your hand, Mary!

  21. Susan Feniak says:

    I am not sure I can find the words to express what I felt and saw while looking at this work of art Mary. Its poignant. The words “well done” are lacking. Superb. It could not have been easy, not at all. I am in awe. XX

  22. casandralee says:

    absolutely stunning, the weight you carried while drawing this pours through emotionally in her portrait. I feel her too.

    • Mary says:

      Hi Casandra Lee, so nice to meet you – thank you for visiting and following my blog. I really appreciate your thoughts and kind words on Dignity. When someone can feel my work, it’s a beautiful compliment.

  23. lulu says:

    Mary, I am stunned by this piece which shows such strength, yours and hers.

    • Mary says:

      Hi Lulu, wow what a compliment – thank you. I felt her inner strength while I was drawing her, she doesn’t have to look up at the viewer to make a statement. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

  24. A.PROMPTreply says:

    What a powerful piece of work, Mary! I think, for me anyway, the cords of her neck straining against the wrinkled skin speak volumes. I’m also most intrigued by the uplift of one side of her mouth. Almost like she’s resigned and knows that though Life has beaten her down, she is still in charge of how she continues.

  25. Gallivanta says:

    You’ve captured the details so well. I think she does have dignity and a certain grace as well.

  26. ĽAdelaide says:

    Mary, While I cannot possibly speak to the technical challenges that must have been present as your created her, she is stunningly beautiful, almost angelic or a gentle spirit from another world. Incredibly moving… I felt every stroke as well. xo

    • Mary says:

      Hi Linda, thank you so much for your generous comment – I haven’t had too many paintings or drawings move me like this one. Sometimes the power of an image is all that’s needed to bring on such a response, this one did it for me. Means a lot to read that you connected with Dignity, thanks again – have a beautiful weekend.

  27. Rob Taylor says:

    This is actually reminiscent of an old woman I met in a Philippines jungle area. I was on the island of Leyte with some friends we and had crossed Lake Danao to do some photography. We came across an aged bamboo and banana leaf shack, surrounded by a small garden cleared out of the jungle. One of our group spoke with the woman for a bit; she only spoke Tagalog. Apparently, the woman had fled the Japanese forces to hide in the area during WWII and never left. She must have been over 90 years old. It was amazing how self-sufficient she had become.

  28. Ogee says:

    This one is extra special, Mary. Just beautiful.

  29. A very moving image and word description, Mary. She really comes alive in your portrait.

  30. I see great resignation in this portrait, Mary, a sense of being at peace with what has not been an easy life. Very nice treatment of values from black-black to white-white!

    • Mary says:

      Thank you Cynthia – glad you noticed the values, they had me anxious for sure. To tell you the truth it was emotionally difficult to draw the details of her face. She speaks, right? Thanks ~

  31. Jane Lurie says:

    Love this portrait, Mary.

  32. Lee says:

    Hope to see more of your portraits.

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