This is Pete. He’s the patriarch of the Western Lowland Gorillas (group one) at the Woodland Park Zoo here in Seattle. He was born in the wild in 1968 like his counterpart, Nina. He has a fascinating face that I looked forward to drawing. I took this photo back in May and knew right away it would be a great reference to work from.
I’m rendering Pete in classic graphite for a couple reasons. For one thing, I already drew Nina in graphite and liked the idea of having a semi-matching pair. For another, there’s something incredibly soothing about drawing in graphite. I work slowly, gradually building up thin layers of graphite. It’s time consuming, but this approach gives me time to really settle into the drawing process. I have an ever-growing list of potential projects running through my head, and a lot to think about with the transition from classes to building a business. A detailed graphite drawing of Pete will help me take some deep breaths and slow down.
I can’t resist starting with eyes in a portrait because the expression is vital to a successful drawing, but other than that I try to not to focus too much on any one part at a time. If I work the entire drawing (or painting) at once I can keep the values (the range of dark to light) consistent across the whole thing. If I finish the drawing in sections I’m more likely to struggle with keeping it even. I’ve started with his eyes and I’m trying to build up the first layer of shading from there. There are only a few small areas in the whole drawing that will be white paper, so I’ve got a lot of shading to do!