Comprehending the Art of Drawing Portraits

Drawing a picture from a real-life reference can be difficult. It demands various qualities like patience, good observation skills, keenness and naturally, to be friends with your pencil. When drawing human face or body, it is necessary to understand its structure. It is essential, at least for the not-yet-experts, to make sure the reference is stationary and does not change the posture or position, as it can ruin whole of your efforts.

Comprehending the Art of Drawing Portraits

Instead of drawing a portrait painting of a living reference, it would be a better idea to use their image instead. There are multiple advantages of using a photograph as your reference. These are:

  • Firstly, the drawing on the canvas or paper is a two-dimensional object. The real-life references are three-dimensional objects. The additional dimension of depth demands a higher level of skills to put its effect on a two-dimensional surface. Photographs, on the other hand, are two-dimensional. So, you would not need to pull out extra threads of efforts to draw your masterpiece.
  • Next benefit is that the reference object is stationary in a photograph, unlike in case of living references.
  • Other minor benefits can be – it saves the reference person from painstakingly sitting still on a single bench for a long day; photograph gives you a better idea of the ratio of the size of different parts like face to body, etc.

Here is how to get your hands on drawing to create a masterpiece from a photograph.

Pick a reference or photograph

The reference image should match your skills and expertise. For a beginner, it’s good to avoid complexities, too many shadows, photos taken from perspectives or angles that are unusual; generally, drawing old people is difficult as they have many wrinkles, loosened skin and many other minute details that need to be replicated on the paper. In the beginning, keep it simple. As you advance and get your hands overdrawing, you can introduce more difficult images as reference.

If you are thinking of taking the photo by yourself, make sure the angle is right, the picture quality of your camera is good enough to let you see the details and take time and number of shots until you are satisfied and convinced with the picture to be worth the reference for your drawing.

Start by drawing a general outline of the face and head

Start by outlining the face. Get the general shape correct. Use lighter shades of pencil for this purpose. Proceed to the outline of the eyes, ears, shaping the nose. Do not go for the detailing yet. Don’t be afraid to use your eraser.

Do not assume anything

Draw only what you see. Do not make assumptions. Don’t draw more wrinkles than you see, don’t add dark circles or bags under eyes if you can’t see them. The assumptions can lead to a whole new character which will be much different from the original reference.

Bring it to life by shadowing and detailing

Add detailing to the drawing. Use your observational skills to determine which details make the face of the reference unique; any unique mark on the face, slimmer nose, different shape of the eyes or anything else which lets you know it is him/her. Draw inner ears, shape the nose correctly, capture the right expression and make everything solid (darker). After this, move to shadowing.

Shadowing requires skills which you gain over time. It is necessary to add life to the portrait. In your reference photo, determine the lightest and the darkest parts of the face. The lightest parts are to be made as white as possible; make the darkest parts as black as possible. Use fine pencils for the light parts and bold for the dark. Make lustrous illusion on regions where the light has the most impact. It gives a 3d look to the drawing.

Do not rush while making a portrait. Take your time and ensure that the quality of your drawing is superior. Patience is the key.

Once you feel like you’ve added all the minor details and you are satisfied, keep your pencil down. Do not try to complicate it further. Step back and glare at the wonder you just designed.

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