Basics of Drawing: Pencil Portraits.

Welcome to another episode of this little series I’m making, the ‘Basics of Art’. I tell you everything I’ve learned and I hope it helps a bit when you try to find your creative style, explore new ways of creating art or if you are just interested in it.

I’ve started 4 years ago again, after years of no serious drawing except in school. I was a child who was always crafting and painting and so it was no surprise that I had to start again. This was my first drawing. Audrey_Hepburn_z

The 17th of January 2012. How long has it been. And you see the progress, I’m quite proud of that actually. It was a lot of hard work and a lot of tears and a lot of ‘Oh why am I doing that, I can’t even draw properly’. Loads of existencial crisis. But finally I got there. And I started a blog. One year after this date. Three years of blogging now.

But enough of this nostalgia, let’s get back to the purpose of this writing. I’ll explain how I proceed when drawing with a simple pencil.

IMG_20160114_202908First I draw some outlines of what it will be. What is very important when drawing with pencil are the shadows and the contrasts. Your picture will look a lot more realistic if you add shading. I just mark the parts where there will later be shadows.

IMG_20160114_204608Then I begin shading itself with a softer pencil. Don’t draw dark lines at the edge of the face or the nose. There are no lines in nature, these are surfaces and you need to recognise them as such. Edges are only surfaces connected to each other…


The process of hatching is really hard, I know. I normally don’t leave so many lines, I smooth it all up a bit. That’s totally up to you. For you to see it, however, I left those little lines. Always draw the shades in both directions, it makes it a lot easier to produce dark areas.

IMG_20160114_210739The hair. What a tricky thing. Always think of hair as little strands. They need highlights and darker bits. Even if you draw perfectly straight hair, it still has some movement in it. Start the line where the darker parts are and draw with your pencil towards the hightlight. It sounds difficult but I’ll probably make another little tutorial on that.

IMG_20160114_212859Now begins the process of filling the other parts of the drawing. You are finished with the face, congratulations. Except: you aren’t. There is a lot of reworking, reshading, erasing left. (For this drawing I didn’t erase at all but it’s quite hard in the beginning to not do that. It’s perfectly fine if you do!) This is the hard part. Writers will know it as the frightening ‘EDITING’ process. What I find very helpful is to take pictures of my drawings and look at the photo. Does it look natural? What is missing? Where could I add some more? It creates a distance between you and the drawing that you need to think about it critically.

IMG_20160114_215022And after all that hard work you are there. A lovely portrait of Martin Freeman. Stop, if you feel uncomfortable and go on another day. Or just leave it. It is what was on your mind, what you could do at the given moment so that’s perfect.

The whole process may look a bit difficult but you can do it!!!

If you have questions, please leave them in the comments, I’m happy to anwer them. And now: get a pencil and start 😉


4 thoughts on “Basics of Drawing: Pencil Portraits.

  1. A very handsome drawing of Martin and great to read (and see) your progression, in this image and your portraiture as a whole. Your work is marvellous!

    1. Aww thank you so so much, Jacob!!! It’s great to hear that you like it, I was a bit unsure first about this project. But it keeps me motivated to hear that, so thank you. 🙂 (If you have any suggestions or ideas, please tell me!)
      I had a look on your work too, it’s so impressive! Really love it!

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