Meet Natalina!

Natalina is pastry chef and owner of Pasticceria Natalina, an Italian pastry shop in my neighborhood. It is said on the website that they make the best Italian pastries on this side of the Atlantic. But I have to tell you that I have been to Italy and I have not tried anything better there! Natalina’s pastry is the best I ever had anywhere. Made on site in front of you (the kitchen, the shop and cafe are an open space, you can see Natalina and her husband working) the confections are fluffy, light and flaky and are created to delight your senses. And let’s not forget her gelato and cookies! That’s not your usual Chips Ahoy, they are not made to withstand a delivery truck, but to crumble and melt in your mouth and create a taste sensation akin to poetry. And this is from a person that doesn’t like sweets.

This portrait took me longer than usual because of hands. I felt Natalina’s hands were important in this portrait both because of what she does with them and for their expressiveness. When I showed the portrait to George, my drawing teacher, and complained about complexity he asked “Why are you doing this to yourself?!” meaning why add difficulty and time to my already tight schedule. The hands doubled the portrait time. It is a very good question. I guess I am doing this to myself in order to see if I can manage this.

#25 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook


14 thoughts on “Natalina

  1. Another outstanding portrait. How long does it take you to do each one (not including the extra time for the hands on this one!) They are so detailed. I would love to try more with graphite pencils as pen and ink stippling portraits take me so long. I just love the expressions you capture – did you photographer Natalina first or work from (photographic!) memory!

    • Thank you, Nicola! They generally take 3-4 hours over the course of 2-3 days. I am not able to finish in one sitting so far – need time away so that I can come back and assess with a fresh eye. All of these are drawn from photographs I took myself. I am indeed going after interesting expressions, and I don’t suppose a model can sit and hold one for 3-4 hours while I draw. Sometimes it takes several dozen photos to get to my idea of a particular individual. Sometimes it comes out in one shot. Sometimes it never comes out in single photo, then I try to do a composite from several.

      How long does a stippling portrait take?

      • Stippling is also really time consuming but although my fiance says he can’t understand how it doesn’t drive me mad contantly dot, dot, dotting I actually find it quite therapeutic! Depending on the size of paper and how detailed the animal/person’s expression/features are it can take me anywhere from 10 – 20 hours. I’ve started only using A4 size pages now as otherwise it just takes a crazy amount of time to complete. I also refer to more than one photo depending on how good the lighting is as stippling relies a lot on shadow to create the features and likeness. I do love it but wish sometimes it didn’t take quite so long!

        • Thank you for describing the technique, Nicola. I can relate to it because Circulism technique in graphite is similar to a degree and takes about the same time – very long by regular standards. The results are worth it, IMO, for both – stippling and circulism.

  2. Oh my GOSH, Alex. I have been so busy lately that I haven’t had time to get around to everyone’s blog. You have been creating some incredible art!!! I really love this one, A LOT!! 🙂

  3. Alex, I have been enjoying watching the progress of your project for a few weeks now, and I felt compelled to comment on this one. First let me say that all of your portraits are just lovely. You really do capture that “spark” of each of your subjects.
    I can relate to your feeling of aggravation over drawing the hands, as well as your sense of “they need to be there” and “can I do it?” I tend to do that to myself a lot, and in the middle of the process ask myself “why am I doing this?’. Then realize at the completion of a good portrait, ” That’s why!” 🙂
    I can’t wait to see where you go next.

    • Good to see you again, Karen! Thank you for watching and for your comment here! I want to quickly say that it wasn’t really an aggravation I felt dealing with hands in this sketch, I love hands, drawing and painting them is a real treat for me. I was anxious about my time frame – I have to have 40 of these complete by the end of the year. So the joy and pleasure of drawing these expressive hands were messed up by the anxiety about running out of time. At the same time – this is the project I chose to do, the time frame I knew about, so it is my responsibility to manage it to completion.

      Your comment here guided me to go and visit your blog and reacquaint myself with your portraits (with hands!). Pleasure to see your work again! I realized we have some common points in the way we go after a portrait. I will be checking your work on a regular basis to keep in touch.

  4. OK, now this is just cruel. Another fantastic portrait AND a link to Pasticceria Natalina. I’m sitting here drooling over both your drawing and the pictures of Italian pastries.

    I love Natalina’s expression and I’m glad you included her hands. I know she talks with them so of course you had to include them!

    • I just love women of Mediterranean! Greek, Spanish, Italian – they are so expressive, and they talk with their hands! What a treat for an artist!

      I am sorry to be so cruel and include the link to the pastries! See, I don’t like sweets; chocolate, ice-cream, cakes leave me cold. I’d trade that for a calamata olive any day. So I lack understanding in this department, it is not intentional :mrgreen:!!!

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