I truly don’t know what it is about Frida Kahlo. I always found her fascinating and loved the film about her life starring Salma Hayek, but I never really considered her as a drawing subject until I took Draw and Paint What You Love. Perhaps it’s just that she has a very striking and compelling face, with distinctive features that suggest they might be easy to render. {Ha.}


I was feeling the itch recently, having been focusing my creative energies elsewhere {mostly new paintings}, and decided to do a ‘quick’ study of her in charcoal, which as you may know is one of my favourite media.



It started off quite promisingly. I used one of my many pre-prepared backgrounds, made from excess paint left over after painting sessions. I love how it seamlessly works here with her face. And of course I’m rather fond of these colours. Surprise.


Things got tricky once I realised I hadn’t got the tilt of her head right, and her eyes. Her eyes! {Dramatic wringing of hands.} I erased and redrew them countless times, trying to capture that piercing, challenging look she is so famous for. I knew they were too large for her face {which was also not quite the right shape or length}, and nearly gave up a few times.



But I didn’t. {Yay me.} I just kept reworking it, round and round, using my fingers and a putty rubber to soften areas and knock back where the light bounced off her hair and fell across the side of her face.


In the end I did have to stop. There comes a point where I know that I’m done, the energy is dropping off, and continuing will just take me to the Land of Frustration, which is not something I want for these quick studies. They are meant to be a way to loosen up, play and enjoy the medium, as well as practicing looking at the face and reproducing it.

Frida Kahlo {Tara Leaver}

I know it’s still not accurate. The eyes are still too big and despite efforts I couldn’t seem to tilt the head without beginning again. I think it’s quite clear who it is, but I am reminded that my main focus in art is not to accurately reproduce my reference {although I did fall down that hole while drawing her this time}. For me it’s always about a feeling. {That’s why in my head this one’s called ‘Angry Frida’. 😉 }

Something about Frida demands that you at least try to stay true to her face though, and in that sense she may not be the best subject for this kind of practice. That said, I’m pretty happy with the rendering of the features; on the improvement front I feel I am moving forward.