Monday, June 02, 2008

Evaluating your drawings

While working on a portrait it is crucial to take a step back every now and then and take a really close look ... from a distance. While working on a recent commission, I needed to After looking at get some distance to do a few more tweaks to it before moving on. There were too many little areas that needed tweaking and it would be too distracting if they are not addressed first as they are throwing off the resemblance.

I use several tricks to 'get distance' from my portraits as I work on them, the most helpful and easiest is to just take a photo and upload it onto the computer. It is like viewing the portrait through different eyes as the computer flattens the image even more so any areas that are off immediately pop out.

Another trick is to look at the portrait in the mirror which I think gives a pretty similar effect, but is a little difficult to do with a larger drawing. One I have been trying recently is using Photoshop to superimpose images.

  1. Open the original reference photo and the drawing at the same time
  2. Size the image size for both ref and drawing using Image - Image Size
  3. Unlock background layer of drawing by double clicking on lock in the layer panel
  4. Drag the drawing over top of the reference photo
  5. Set the opacity to around 45% on the drawing using the drop down for Opacity in the layers panel on the right hand side
  6. Match up drawing and reference photo

You may have to resize the image a few times to get it just right but it is a great way to check the proportions quickly for the entire drawing.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Totally cool right side/ left side brain 'test'

I just saw this on Maggie's site and had to check it out. It is so cool, give it a try and see, no you don't have do do any math or think, it is not a 'test' like that ;)

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Learn to Draw - Blind contour drawing exercise

Anybody can learn to draw, the key is to lean to observe what you see. If you want to increase your observations skills, try doing some blind contour drawings. Blind contour drawings are done by drawing an object without ever looking at the paper. The final drawing is not important, although you may be surprise at how recognizable the object is when you are done. The most important thing is to carefully observe the object and don't rush, just take your time and don't peek!

I like to draw my hand as it is always available and the possibilities are endless depending on how your hand is positioned. Place your hand in a comfortable position and put your graphite pencil on your paper. If you are not using a drawing book, you may need to tape your paper to your drawing surface so that it does not slide around. I usually start at the bottom of my hand near the wrist and work my way up from there. Just follow the line of your wrist very slowly allowing your pencil to follow every nook and cranny of your hand.

The more detail you can capture the better. The line must be continuous (i.e. don't lift the pencil) but can go back and forth the capture details such as folds of the skin etc. Once you are done, take a look. It is surprising that areas often look complete as though you had been looking at the paper the whole time! Try different objects, plants, flowers, dishes etc. This is also a good way to get loosened up before starting a drawing session. Practice, practice, practice :)

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Drawing depth in your portraits tutorial

One of the most common mistakes beginners make is to outline their subjects which results in a flat one-dimensional drawing. To create drawings that are three dimensional, it is best to avoid drawing with lines completely. Try drawing shapes rather than lines. The easiest way to accomplish this is to think of your subject as a series of lights and darks. Squinting your eyes and peering at the subject, whether it be a photo or a live object, will separate the lights and darks for you more easily.

It is always best to draw from life when learning to draw depth so set up a simple subject to practice from. To create more interest, side light the object to create stronger shadows. Sketch a contour drawing lightly using and H or F pencil using short broken lines. Block in the different areas of light and dark using HB for the middle values and 2B for the darker values. Try using different strokes with your pencil rather than using straight lines. Try circular motions, cross-hatching or side-by-side lines either short or long. The more variations the better as different variations of lines create interest in your drawing and work better for different areas. Work in thin layers building up the tone as you go to create an even layer of tonal values.

You can blend as you go using a tissue, cloth or cotton or you can leave unblended for more texture. Avoid using your fingers as oil from your fingers can leave stains on your work. If you have over blended and you have lost your dark values, just add more dark layers and do not blend as much as the illusion of depth results from the contrast of light and dark. Use a kneaded eraser or a regular eraser to pull out highlights.

The strongest areas of contrast will draw the viewers eye and adds interest to the overall drawing. The lightest area will draw the viewers eye the strongest, especially when surrounded by the darkest darks. Always keep this in mind when drawing so as not to accidentally pull the viewers eye away from your focal point. Practice these simple steps and you will see more depth in your drawings.

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Sunday, July 24, 2005

Graphite & Charcoal Materials Tutorial

Drawing Surface
My favorite drawing surfaces are smooth or medium bristol board and arches hot pressed watercolor paper. The watercolor paper provides more tooth for the graphite and charcoal to settle into.

Any artist grade pencils will do. Experiment to find a brand that you feel comfortable with. I generally use F for the initial drawing as it erases easily without too much damage to the paper. I also like to use mechanical pencils as well as regular pencils as they maintain their shape well.


Again any artist grade charcoal that you can find will work well. The degrees of hardness ranges from HB (hardest) to 3B (softest).


I use mak tak as a kneaded eraser. You can buy it at any stationary store. It is used for tacking pictures to walls but it works perfectly for lifting graphite and/or charcoal from drawings and for erasing.

Blending Stumps

Soft paper felt with double pointed ends used for blending. If the point wears down you can use sand paper to repoint.


Soft rolled paper with pointed end used for blending


For the smoothest blending and to lift off extra graphite or charcoal.
Tissue PaperFor a rougher blending effect and to lift off extra graphite or charcoal.


Tracing paper to draw original artwork on, transfer paper, masking tape for holding template in place, drafting brush to remove eraser and graphite residue, chamois for blending

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