Art, How to draw portraits, Learning how to draw, Portraits

Drawing a Portrait – Stage 6


This post kind of wraps up the Meghan Markle picture.

If you’ve been following along, the picture had got to this:


There were a few things I wasn’t happy with, and if the truth be told, its very easy when drawing a picture to never be completely happy with it.  There’s always a thought that “oh if I just adjust that slightly” but more often than not it turns to overworking the picture and potentially wrecking it, which I’ve done in the past.

Nowadays I get the picture to this point and call it a version.  I know that redraws are often better than the original version, and part of this is the fact that in your mind, you are now familiar with the subject’s face structure and can manage to replicate it, but better and with less working, whilst contributing less wear to the paper which gives a smoother look.

Something else I do is leave a picture for several weeks without doing anything to it, and then view it again with ‘fresh eyes’.  Issues leap out of the page at you – not necessarily things that a casual viewer would be able to detect but that nevertheless distance it from being correct.

That opens up the question of what you want at the end of the day – do you want something that is so photo-realistic that viewers think it is a photo, and in doing so remove the opportunity of an artist’s impression, or do you want something that goes past a copy of the photo and produces a new picture from the source.

When I look at my ink work, there is no way that it is even going in the direction of photo-realism but they have a ‘grab’ factor anyway, or at least to me.  (Not that I’m egotistical enough to think that my pencil pictures are).

‘Grab factor’ is that certain something that makes you take a second look at a picture.  I think in this visually deceptive age, that people have become unconsciously blase about what they see in art and film.  What can be accomplished with digital art and CGI processing in film is light years beyond what it was 10 years ago.  The recent Star Wars films use CGI for several actors who had sadly passed on, and the finished shots were great.  What can be done in a fraction of the time in these formats still takes a pencil artist a long time, but the effort becomes understated because people now think that it’s easy to do.

Perhaps I’m moving in the direction of ink because it isn’t so easy to get right and it distances me from the batteries of artists doing photo-realistic pencil.  Not in a ‘better’ way – just different, and to me more individual.

Anyway, back to Meghan, who now looks like this:


So what’s changed?

IMG_3290    IMG_3301_crop_enhance

Ignore the fact that the left hand pic is darker – it just that I’ve balanced the light in the photo of the latest version.

  • A medium tone background has been added.
  • The hair has been darkened and has had (light) highlights added.
  • The edges of the hair where it meets the background, has been defined.
  • Stray hairs have been added.
  • Skin tone below the neck has been darkened.
  • The eyes, top eyelids and eyebrows have been overlaid with softer (darker) pencil.

I think the darker background works better.
The hair darkening was a response to my thought that in the original photo Meghan looks like she has black hair, but my stage photo made it look like she’s a brunette.   I think it could still be made darker.  The technique I used was to apply layers of tone over the hair, add single lines to provide some definition (but not every single hair – less is more with this).

The added tone in the background is a little rough, but the paper has had so much eraser work on it, that its chopped and far from the pristine Bristol smoothness it was in when I started.

I’m happy with this as a version.  A new version might be better but to be honest I need to do something else – this picture’s now been in development a little too long.

So what do you when the picture’s finished?


It’s become ‘unfashionable’ to sign work, but there’s nothing stopping you – I always think it tells the world you drew it when they ask whether you really did.

example signature

Protecting it

Not the putting it in a mission impossible style bank, but applying lacquer to prevent it accidentally being smudged.  The easiest way to do this is cheap hairspray.  Good old PoundLand hairspray is perfect.

Hairspray is simply glue with perfume added, and carried in gas as you spray.  You can buy expensive hairspray if you want but it’ll have more perfume in it, which may darken the picture.  You can also get fancy lacquer spray in art shops or online, but its simply the hairspray without perfume and is usually expensive.  Don’t spray the picture too much – it’ll take a long time to dry and may bleed what you’ve drawn especially if you’ve also used ink pens.

Displaying it

Either display it in a portfolio book – orderable online, in art shops or Staples, or frame it in a picture frame.  If you buy a portfolio, and are not using hairspray to bond the pencil, don’t buy the cheapest one you see – after a while, you’ll find that unprotected pencil drawing produces a shadow on the plastic sleeves and while doing so, lightens the picture.

This is an example of a portfolio book:



If you’re putting it online, take care to add a mask on top, including the words “Copyright” and your name.  That way its more difficult for people to download the image and print it off.  If you want people to be doing that, they should be paying for the privilege.  Sites advertising works for sale add their own masks to safeguard the picture from being downloaded as is.

Next (from you)

‘Next’ is up to you.  Find something you want to draw, apply the techniques here if you want, and start discovering how to draw portraits.  The more mistakes you make the better.  You’ll learn what works, what doesn’t and how to apply fixes.  Try to write down the process in a journal if you can, for review later, or better still stage photo your work and add notes as text. for things that have worked, things that didn’t and the techniques you’ve used.

Next from me

Next from me is a long overdue commission for one of my friends, and on here a tutorial on pop-art picture drawing.  If you fancy seeing that, I look forward to sharing the process with you next time, or at the least the first stages, of a colour pop-art picture of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman.

This is an example of a pop-art picture of the farewell scene in Casablanca:


If this makes no sense at all, IMDB reviews the multi Oscar winning film here.

If you’re working on your own pictures it would be great to know how they’re turning out.  If you have comments, questions etc, or would like to ‘like’ this article or follow it so you don’t miss the next one, you should be able to find buttons on screen to let you do this.

NB: The LIKE and FOLLOW buttons and links are hidden (a bit).  If you click the button with the three horizontal lines at the top of the blog, you should then see them.

Thanks for reading this, best of luck with your drawing and I look forward to seeing you next time.

All the best.  Ian.  smiley-1306301-639x623



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