Portraits, Pointillism & Pens: A Mini How To

Georges Seurat [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
A Study on La Grand Jatte , 1886, George Seurat
Pointillism was developed in the 1880s by a branch of Impressionist artists including George Seurat and Paul Signac. But the term Pointillism wasn’t popularized until art critics used it to ridicule the works of these now famous artists. Pointillism’s connection to Impressionism is unmistakable. Scientifically, these artists were interested in how we perceived light and color. However unlike the Impressionists who were interested in “capturing a moment in time”, Pointillists were more focused on how our eye blends fields of color dots into one continuous color and how that technique lends itself to giving the impression of more light in the work.

You can see a distinct pointillist technique in Vincent Van Gogh’s self portrait completed in 1887:

Vincent van Gogh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Self-portrait, Spring 1887, Vincent van Gogh
He was clearly very proud of his beard! And those eyes! (In this portrait he still had both ears, I checked. )

Traditionally speaking, Pointillists used oil paint, however you can use just about any medium to achieve the same result – crayon, pencil, marker… even cut paper would work! In the interest of simplicity, we decided to use our collection of pens and markers. ┬áThe primary requirement is that you use small marks (dots or lines) to create the effects of color, line and shadow.

We started by deciding NOT to do self portraits like Van Gogh did, but instead to create cartoon faces. We enjoyed making up stories for each of our characters. Then using some basic face proportioning techniques and a pencil we created a light sketch for our characters. Because we were unconcerned with creating anything resembling a real person’s face, we were able to focus on playing with the texture the dots made and how we could create new colors by combining dots.

We had the red carpet starlet:

And a Close Up on her pouty lips:


The gymnast (inspired by a friend from gymnastics):

The artist was particularly proud of her dramatic eyes:

And the investigative journalist

with the multicolored eyes and interesting hair

You can spend a little time creating a basic impression of the shadow, line, shape and color, or you can spend hours and hours filling you page/canvas with tiny dots to create a Pointillist Masterpiece! It is entirely up to you.

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