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Drawing Lesson 11, Part 1 – Drawing Portraits in Pencil

Drawing Portraits in Pencil – Life Female model drawing

Video Lesson Description

In this video lesson, you will discover how to draw portraits in pencil. A realistic female portrait will be done in red pencil on a warm tint watercolour paper.

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Drawing Portraits in Pencil – First steps

I will begin with a quick life sketches of Portraits in Pencil to familiarize myself with the model’s face. Making multiple life Portraits in Pencil is one of the best ways of improving drawing skills.

Making Portraits in Pencil, I am using a pencil to measure the angles of the model’s head. Holding the pencil in my fully extended hand, I first visually align the pencil with the model’s facial outline on the drawing; then, I move my hand towards the model to check the correctness of an angle.


Drawing Portraits in Pencil
As the easel is standing upright and the drawing board is almost vertical, the “candle” way I am holding the pencil is very convenient for drawing Portraits in Pencil. The pencil is rested on four fingers and pushed down by the thumb.

When I draw Portraits in Pencil, my hand has freedom of movement, as it is not rested on a support. It is easy to move my hand up and down in a very straight line because my whole arm is moving rather than just my hand. The same is true for horizontal movements. Rounded lines can also be easily drawn with the flexibility of the wrist.

However, for small details on Portraits in Pencil, where precision is required, another pencil grip may be employed, which will be the same grip as used for writing.

We are about to start the actual life drawing of the model’s head in red pencil.


Drawing Portraits in Pencil - Drawing Academy Video Lesson
For this task, I will use the Luminance 6901 red pencil, which is made by, Caran d’Ache. The red pencil lead is named, Perylene Brown 585. This is not the only red colour available in this range. You can also experiment with Crimson Alizarin 589 or Crimson Aubergine 599.

Another red pencil lead very much suitable for this task is, Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor; it has two nice red shades: Venetian Red and Indian Red. Somehow, Indian Red produces better looking strokes than Venetian Red, but this is very subjective and you may favour other pencils, instead.

I am sharpening the red pencil so it has a very pointed working end. High quality, carefully rendered artwork is only possible to achieve with a well-sharpened pencil. A good pencil knife or a scalpel would do the job nicely. Pencil sharpeners are only good for children, due to their safety quality.

The pencil lead is exposed at about 1 to 1.5 centimetres or almost half an inch. During the drawing, I will re-sharpen the pencil multiple times. At such a rate, it would last for only a couple of drawings.

As a support, I will use toned watercolour paper. In this video you will discover how to prepare toned in watercolour paper yourself. For paper toning, a good set of watercolour paints and a soft squirrel brush will be required.

Good quality toning requires a smooth natural flow of paint. The process has to be completed without interruption in one attempt.

When toned paper is dry, the portrait drawing can be transferred with a red pencil. You should avoid drawing straight on toned watercolour paper to protect its surface from unnecessary erasing. A rubber eraser will take off the toned colour from paper, leaving lighter marks on its surface. That is why making a preliminary drawing and then transferring it onto the toned paper would be the best approach.

There are many ways you can transfer the drawing. A number of them are described in other video lessons of the Drawing Academy. Just to remind you of some drawing transfer techniques – you can use a projector, a light-box, place watercolour paper over the preliminary sketch on the window glass or use tracing paper, just to list a few.

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