Finding a sketching niche

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By Amy Ryffel-Kragh

Ronda West has been drawing professionally for years,  but it wasn’t until recently she started to “play around with celebrities.” Before moving back to Florida with her husband, historical western fiction author Charles West, she was doing commissioned portrait work for customers, which she still does.

After moving to Oak Run,  she tried her hand at drawing famous faces and found her niche. West’s first celebrity pencil portrait was of actor John Wayne.

She has since sketched a variety of other American icons. And this past summer she learned the news that she made the “short list” of artists authorized by Wayne Enterprises to draw and sell artwork featuring him. “I’m really pleased about it,” she said.

Since her first drawings of “The Duke,” she has branched out and has drawn an assortment of stars including Britney Spears, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe and Ocala celebrity John Travolta. The self-taught artist chooses her subjects by looking through magazines or searching the Internet for a face in the news. West browses until she finds the right photograph.

West says some images are harder than others because of details. For instance, a Paul Newman piece was easier to draw than a portrait of Travolta, because the Newman photo was sharper.

After picking a photo, she heads to her drawing table or to the sofa to start sketching. After getting the initial draft on paper, she uses her pencil to add details.

Throughout the process, the portrait is sprayed, which holds the graphite in place and allows for more particulars to be added, West explained. Once she has perfected the piece, the drawing is made into prints. She does not sell her original.

First showing

Recently, West has been keeping busy preparing for her first gallery show at the Gateway Bank building on Silver Springs Boulevard. “She is finally getting the recognition for her talent,” Charles said.

The art gallery found out about her after Grafito, the printing company she uses, showed a man at the bank a drawing of University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. “He loved it,” she said. He was so impressed that the stylized portrait will be on display in the bank permanently.

She currently has four drawings in progress, including one of the Beetles, and her goal is to have a couple dozen on display at the exhibit at Gallery West from April 10 to May 29.

For more information, call 694-8141 or visit www.portraitbyronda.com. Celebrity prints start at $115, and commissioned portraits are more expensive.

E-mail staff writer Amy Ryffel-Kragh at akragh@riverlandnews.com.