How To Draw A Portrait - A Guide By Professional Artist Robert Shirt
Get the right equipment.
So you fancy a go at drawing do you. Well in this short easy guide, I can show you some of the rudiments of drawing in pencil.
It can start off to be very frustrating for the beginner, but as you progress with practice and become more in touch with your drawings you will become addicted and before long you will be drawing everyone and everything.
But first of all we need to get you kited out with the right equipment, you will be able to find what you need in your local art shop. You will need a good set of pencils from 4h which is the hardest, all the way up to 9b which is the softest (see diagram). You will then have to decide on which paper to use, (again their are gradients of paper to use) I personally use thick smooth heavyweight paper. Thirdly you will need a good quality putty rubber and pencil sharpener, some artists use a craft knife (remember if you are a child get an adult to sharpen this for you). If you are doing your sketch from a photograph you will need a ruler, some tracing paper if you don't want to ruin your photograph and find somewhere very comfortable to work (if you are working from a still life model I would recommend an easel).
Starting the sketch
If you are working from a single piece of paper you will need a flat rigid piece of wood around an inch or two bigger than your piece of paper, which you can secure your paper on using a few pieces of blue tack to secure on each corner, you may not need this as it can be easier without, it's just what your comfortable with.
Sketching using a photo
Time to start your sketch now. the easiest way to get a good visual match when you are just starting out is to use a grid reference, (only when using a photo) this will help when getting the position on the face and body (or whatever you are drawing). Simply mark out a grid down, and across the photograph or tracing paper, mark your squares with at least five squares across, when doing the head and shoulders the tighter the squares the better the proportions will be when transferring the grid to your drawing paper (see the diagram). If the photo you are working from is a lot smaller than the desired outcome of the drawing, then you must times the size of your squares by the size of your drawing. Remember when you are drawing your lines onto the drawing paper you must use around a 2b pencil, or softer to mark out your grid using a ruler. It is very important to remember that when applying the lines of your grid you must do so very lightly, if you press on hard it will be nearly impossible to remove afterwards.
You can begin using a 2h pencil, very lightly stroking in the lines of your drawing, constantly looking from your photograph to your drawing paper every few seconds, this allows your drawing to progress more smoothly, (this can take some mastering) when applying the lines to your drawing try to keep your pencil at quite a horizontal angle, as this allows the pencil to glide smoothly across the paper, and reduce the number of times you sharpen your pencil, remember to keep your pencil sharp at all times. (see diagram)
Once you have spent some time lightly creating the top layer of your sketch, i.e., the outline of the head, hair, ears, neck, nose, mouth, eyes etc. it will be time to start adding structure to the drawing, i.e., shading detail etc. Usually when working from a photograph, I tend to start from the top of the drawing downwards from the hair down to the neck, this stops too much smudging, as heavy smudging can be hard to remove later.
First of all start with the harder pencils when drawing the hair, (this can be the most time consuming part of the drawing). Using the pencil to go with the direction of the hair flow following this all the time, once you have created your first layer move onto a softer pencil which creates darker lines to put in your next layer gradually creating layers in the drawing, finishing up at the softest pencil which you will need in this drawing depending on the tones that are within the photograph. when you move on to start building up the tones of the skin i will generally go down to around the nose height before i start putting in detail of the eyes, however this is up to you it's just what i prefer doing.
Once you have your first layer on the face i use a cotton ear bud to lightly smudge the pencil using a circular motion, this gives the skin a lovely smooth finish, you can do this with every layer of pencil applied, however you may not want to do this as much when working on an older subject especially around the eyes, (make sure you make the subject appear as old as they actually are, this does not apply to animals,) but just try to keep this technique to the skin.
Drawing the eyes
Drawing eyes is one of the most crucial parts of the drawing, if the eyes don't look right the drawing doesn't look right, it's a good idea to try and get some good highlighted areas in the eyes, this brings the drawing alive.
If the subject has facial hair always draw this last. Then at this stage go along the whole drawing with a putty rubber and erase all the highlighted areas within the photo applied to the drawing, (again this is crucial to the success of the drawing.)
You can then move on to the clothes, in some cases it's nice to spend less detail in the clothing, this then draws your eye to the detail of the actual characters of the drawing, (but this is up to you.)
To finish off the drawing you can again go around the whole drawing with a putty rubber erasing all the graphite smudges left behind. Your drawing should now be complete?
You will then need your fixative or hair spray, just simply hold your spray and the drawing vertically and spray in two to three second intervals all around the worked area.
Repeat this process three or four times, each time leaving around two minuets for the spray to dry, (make sure you don't soak the paper this could damage your drawing.)
When the drawing has completely dried frame it with a frame of your choice.