Art, How to draw portraits, Learning how to draw

Drawing a Portrait – Stage 4

Hi and welcome back to my series of articles showing that it’s not as difficult as you might think to draw a portrait.  The header image is from Tim Wright on Unsplash.

This article is stage 4 in my portrait process and is going to show:

  • How to complete the mouth.
  • How to start on the eyes, ears and hair.
  • What blending stumps and tortillions are and how you can use them to improve your pictures
  • How to find a local art club (and what you can expect from it).


Completing the mouth

This is where we’d got to:

meghan mouth 2

Tidy up any differences in the teeth to the source picture.

Once this is complete, you need to add catch-lights in two areas. One is on the top of the right hand side of the top lip, together with a thin horizontal line below it.  To do this use a zero eraser if you have one or use the edge of a standard eraser.

Below this, on the bottom lip, you’re going to remove small vertical strokes to show the vertical catch-lights there.

Meghan mouth catchlights


How to start on the eyes, ears and hair


This is where we’d got to last time with the eyes:

Eyes 1

This is my rough procedure for this:

  • Confirm that the Irises are the correct size and in the right place.  You should be able to pull out what you’ve got already and redraw if necessary.
  • Reshape the contour of the eyes closer to that in the source photo if its a little out.
  • Draw in the Irises and the much darker pupil areas.  Be careful when drawing  these, and pupils in particular, that you draw in what you see and not what you think should be there.
  • Sketch in the contours of the catchlights reflected in the pupils.  I think in this case, that these are Studio flood lamps or light from windows.
  • Darken the pupil area surrounding the catchlights.
  • Draw in the upper and lower eyelid lines and define them further with tone.
  • Draw in the main dark eyelash areas and then add the single eyelashes above and below – the lower ones are shorter and fairer.
  • Add eyebrows, trying to keep as best you can to the direction and density of the source photo.
  • Add catchlights on the top of the bottom eyelid, below the pupil.  Draw them in lightly and then pull the pencil inside them out with your eraser.
  • Add the darker edges of the Irises.  NB: These are not solidly bordered lines on the inside – they feather in to the rest of the iris, so try to represent this, but don’t overdo it.

NB: Adding catch-lights to the eyes is just about impossible using a standard eraser.  An electric eraser, similar to the one shown below will allow you to pull out reasonably small areas on the paper.


Used quickly and accurately it will allow you to define the catchlights easily, although it can be a little difficult to control how much area it removes so you may have to shade back in afterwards around the correct size of the catchlight.  NB: Be careful you don’t overdo use of the electric eraser because it will easily chew up the paper if applied for too long or too harshly.

An alternative that I once used was to paint the catch-lights in with a dirty shade of white.  This gives you full control of the catch-lights but once applied cannot be removed.  A purist might argue that this is an unnecessary embellishment and that you should be able to do the catch-lights  without resorting to using mixed media. (On the one portrait I used it on, they kind of looked artificial within the sea of pencil).

These are before and after shots of the process described above:

                   eye before stage 4         eye after stage 4

Here you can see there are multiple lines above and below the eye.  Above, the first line is the area where the eyelid folds back into as it is opened.  The second line below it is a line formed by compression of the eyelid.

The lines below the eye are formed as the skin below the eye similarly compresses as you open your eye.  If you want to see how these lines are formed, look in a mirror and (obviously) keeping one eye open, look at the other one as you open and close your eye.

In case you weren’t aware, bags under your eyes are common as you age. With ageing, the tissues around your eyes, including some of the muscles supporting your eyelids, weaken.  Then fat that normally helps support the eyes can then move into the lower eyelids, causing the lids to appear puffy.  Thanks to the Mayo Clinic for that information by the way.  If this interests you, have a look at this BBC article for more information.



Hair doesn’t have to be defined strand by strand.  To understand the impossibility of this, I remember watching a science fiction CGI film called Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.  To reproduce the heroines hair they built a computer model with 60,000 hair strands.  It looked superb but can you imagine trying to do this?

Luckily you don’t have to – all you have to do is give the impression of strands.

The first thing you do is use a 2D pencil to darken the hair area.  Once you’ve done this, go over it again with an HB pencil.  If you have a blending stump use this, or failing that a cotton bud and smooth the pencil that you’ve applied.  Warning: Don’t be tempted to smooth the pencil with your fingers.  The key reason is that using your fingers transfers oil within your skin on to the paper surface.  Once oil is in the paper, it can make drawing on the surface unpredictable and can ruin a picture.

Once you’ve covered the hair surface, look at the source photo and establish which are the brighter areas – a method that helps you to see these is to squint.

Use your eraser and pull out these areas.  The images below show before and after doing this:

                Meghan before light areas in hair applied Meghan light areas in hair

I’ve gone a stage further with the after image by adding in some of the really dark areas as well.


To start with, simply outline the ear with a 2B pencil, where it meets the hair.  In the source, there’s a block of darker hair beside the ear.  Add this in as shown below:

ear before stage 4   ear stage 4

I’ve added a little bit of tone to show the more shaded areas of the ear, but mainly I’ve added the dark area beside it, which makes the ear stand out.  NB:  There may not be such a stark comparison with every portrait source picture.


Adding all this up, we’re left with the changes shown below:

Meghan stage 4
Some further changes I’ve added and which aren’t mentioned above are as follows:

  • I’ve started drawing some lines going in to the light areas in the hair.
  • I’ve added tone in to help define the cheeks, forehead and chin surfaces.
  • I’ve darkened the neck area.
  • Added a little more detail to the hair components.
  • Used a tortillion to smooth the tonal areas – more on that below.

Just in case you were wondering …  the portrait is being drawn on white paper, despite what it might look like above, which is how my phone’s camera represents it.


What blending stumps and Tortillions are and how you can use them to improve your pictures

Tortillions are rolls of paper, fashioned to points.  Blending stumps look quite similar but are made from tightly spun cotton.  You can use them to gently blend pencil so that there’s a smooth transition between pencil and surrounding unmarked paper.  They can also be ‘loaded up’ with pencil and used on their own to add tone, rather than drawing it in directly.

These are examples of Tortillions:


Be careful how you use them – its possible to go over the top and blend everything, which starts to make it look like the person in the portrait has loads of makeup on.  Everyone uses these differently but I find that they’re useful for blending in harshly defined areas of tone.

If a tortillion is too heavily loaded with graphite, wipe it off on another piece of paper before using it – its better to under apply than over apply.  Use rubbing paper to restore a clean surface, or wipe the end of the stump on clean paper until no marks are made.  NB: You can use the point for very focused blending.

I tend to load up one end with graphite for application of new areas of tone and use the other for blending – to save these getting mixed up I wrap an elastic band around the loaded end.


How to find a local art club

Local art clubs advertise in art magazines and local free magazines, and of course can be found on the internet.  I just used ‘Local Art Clubs’ and returned loads of sites, an example of which is shown below:

art club advert example

SAA magazine holds a section which details local art clubs and organisations – other art magazines off the shelf hold similar.

saa magazine

Clubs bring together a variety of talents of artists, mainly hobbyists who meet each week to draw their own work in company, and have the opportunity to discuss all things art and chinwag at the same time, or just focus on their pictures and enjoy the company.

They often have demonstration nights by prominent artists, organise shared exhibitions to showcase club member’s work and arrange visits to areas to draw on site or view art collections.

They’ll usually be a subscription which covers hall hire, newsletter stationary etc.  Sometimes clubs also charge a modest fee for attendance to cover refreshments and help with hall hire cost.

Some clubs are quiet ones with members focusing on their work and chatting in tea break, or you’ll get some that are more socially focused where you seem to chat half the  night at, not necessarily get so much done, but enjoy the experience nevertheless.  Its down to personal taste.

Next time …

I hope that this has been helpful, and that the articles are inspiring you to draw your own picture.  Next time will be focused on how to:

  • Continue the hair
  • Draw the shirt in
  • Add freckling
  • Add further tone and highlighting to the face
  • Adding catch-lights to the teeth
  • Establish what the background should be
  • Use a neat technique to check your picture

It would be great to know how your pictures are 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

Art, Learning how to draw, Portraits

Drawing a Portrait – Stage 2

Hi and welcome back.

In the last blog, I went through how to start a portrait.  This blog shows stage 2 in my portrait process.

I’m going to show:

  • How you place the eyes, nose and mouth so they don’t look just plain weird.
  • How you use mathematics to recognise people and why this is important.
  • How your TV can help you draw better.
  • Why its better not to draw with your paper flat on a table.
  • How to test your drawing.
  • How to complete adding the outline.

Stage Tracing

Before we start, I’d mentioned stage tracing previously.  This allows you to time travel like you might do in Word with CTRL Z, by returning to a previous version.  Simply put, you trace what you’ve done so far.  If you find your picture isn’t going the way you want,  get a new sheet of drawing paper, and then a separate sheet of A4.  Take your pencil and scribble over the paper so that most of it is covered in pencil.  Tip: You’ll find this easier if you use the flat of the pencil lead by using the pencil on its side.

Once you’ve finished, get your new sheet of drawing paper, lay the pencil side of the paper you’ve just covered in pencil, pencil side down on top of it.  Then put your tracing on top of that.  Then draw over your tracing again, following the lines exactly.  Once you’ve finished, take away the tracing paper and and pencil sheet and you should have a copy of the tracing on your new drawing paper.   All that’s left it just to gently erase anything that’s not your original lines.

On with the picture …

Ok, back to the portrait, which should at the moment look something like this:


How you place the eyes, nose and mouth

After the outline, the next most important thing is where the eyes, nose and mouth are positioned.  Maths comes in here believe it or not.  Whenever you see someone’s face, your brain stores the relative positions of the eyes, nose and mouth in a form of triangle.    When you see them next, be it in person, in a photo or in a drawing, your brain compares what it sees with its database of coordinates.  Once it finds a match, it knows who the person is, regardless of what angle you view them from (as long as you can still see their face).

If these aren’t correct in your drawing, then people simply won’t recognise who it is.  If they’re right, lots of other things can be wrong with your picture but they’ll still recognise who it is.

Look at the source photo, and see where the eyes are.  Draw the outline of each eye, not the eyelids or the eyebrows – just the outline of each eye.  Something like this:


This is the eyes area blown up:

meghan stage 1 - zoom

meghan actual eyes zoom

You probably know that eyes aren’t round, at least not the part that you can see.  This is why you draw just the outlines.  The rest can be added later.  At the moment you just want them in the correct position – which is just about halfway down the face (including hair, which masks where the top of the skull is).

If you look carefully, you’ll see something else that’s odd, and which you have to try to replicate.  In fact if you look at it long enough you wonder how it can be? The eyes are not at the same level.  Put a pencil horizontally across the right eye so that its covered, then see how much of the left eye is still visible.  This is caused by Meghan cocking her head slightly and because she has ever so slightly elevated the left hand side of the face while smiling – otherwise her eyes would be at the same height.

Working out where the mouth goes

The first thing you do is work out where the centre of the bottom of the bottom lip is in relation to the bottom of her chin, and draw a rough line where you think it is.  Then referencing the photo, draw in a rough line where the centre of the top of the top lip is.

Look back at the photo.  Note what lines up with the extreme left and right edges of the lips, (the edges in this photo).  The centre of the pupil in Meghan’s right eye, and the extreme edge of the white of the eye in Meghan’s left eye.

Meghan eyes to sides of lips

You can now use these as visual guidelines when drawing the lips in.  Effectively its learning to draw what you see, but they’re handy references.

Now draw the outline of the mouth in – remember we’re just after checking everything is in the right place.  Tip: Notice in this photo, that because Meghan’s face is tilted, the mouth is at an angle.

I’ve drawn in light guidelines here to show where the lips stop:


Kind of looks a little odd without the nose, but bear with me, that’ll all change with the next section.

Working out where the nose goes

With reference to Meghan’s photo, look for the lowest point of the nose and add a light upturned curved line to show where this is.  It makes an immediate transformation, especially if you appreciate Manga which always use minimalist  features.  You’ll build on this.  Now use the technique we used before and look for the extreme left and right hand edges of the nostrils and then add two light guidelines running down from the eyes.  Inside these two lines and a little way above the line you created before, draw two more curved lines for the outer edges of the nostrils, i.e.

meghan stage 2 - zoom
Now draw the remainder of the profile of the lower section of the nose.

meghan stage 3 - zoom

That’s the eyes nose and mouth in position, admittedly just the outline, but all you should do at this stage.  I wasted a lot of time in my early drawings adding detail because I was enjoying it rather than doing the basics and checking everything was in place.  Not much fun when you have to remove detail you’ve added or worse still start again.

bristol board


Tip: The smoother the paper you use, the easier it is to pull out detail you’ve added and move it or replace it.

I use Bristol Board which is just about the smoothest paper you can buy.


How your TV can help you draw better

Hang on I hear you say, isn’t this art stuff supposed to get me away from the TV?
Well yes, it will but that doesn’t mean it can’t help you.  If you HDMI up your laptop to the TV with a great long cable, you can display your source picture there.   If you have a smart tv, even easier – just find the photo on Google and display it.

What are the advantages to bothering?  You can draw at an easel, it just about replicates what it would be like to draw someone in front of you, and you get HD image quality in large format so you don’t lose a detail.

Why its better not to draw with your paper flat on a table.

Have you ever seen those pavement illusions where someone paints a swimming pool that isn’t there or something similar?  If you walk up to the image rather than looking from distance as you’re supposed to, it changes completely and the illusion is lost.

If you draw with paper flat on a table, unless the subject is flat on the table beside it, or you draw right overhead the driving, you’ll get distortion because you’ll have been working at an angle.  If you stand up the paper and look it, the portrait will either be lengthened or shortened.  This is why you should draw with the paper as upright as you can, as this minimises the chances of you adding distortion.  Try it out and see what happens.  You don’t have to do a full picture – just do an outline and you’ll see it for yourself.

How to test your drawing

This is really cool.  If you’re starting out by drawing from photos, this technique will show you how you can test any size drawing made from the original photo.  When would you do this?  If you have a small photo and want to draw from it, or you want to draw something larger than A4, you want a reliable easy way to check that everything in your drawing is in the right place.  This is how you do it.

1. Get an A4 acetate (clear plastic) sheet.
2. Reduce your source photo so that its smaller or the same size as your drawing.
3. Using a marker draw roughly around the face outline and the features you’ve added so far. (It looks really weird – you’ll get over it).

IMG_0288           IMG_0286

4. Take the sheet and hold it above your drawing.

5. Move it closer until the eyes nose and mouth are superimposed.  (You’ll find this a lot easier if you close one eye).

If there’s a good match, you’ve got reasonable similarity between the positions of these features on your drawing and those in the photo.  If not, see which are the most accurate when compared to the face outline, and move the one that’s most wrong.  Obviously you have more work to do if there’s two out of position.

This will save you hours trying to work out what’s wrong.

The closer you can get the outlines of the features, the better your picture will be, so continue with this until you’re happy.

How to complete adding the outline.

Next add in rough outlines of as much as you can.

In this photo, Meghan’s right ear sits between the top of the visible part of her right eye and the tip of her nose.  This isn’t always true – how the subject has inclined their head, and their age affects this rough guide.  (People’s ears grow larger and longer as they age).

This is with minimum outlines added.


The face outline looks a little out to me (at the top), but it can be corrected when the hair part of the outline is removed.  Most of the lines you currently see will be removed, as in reality, they don’t exist.

Its not worth outlining everything, in case you need to adjust things.  If the eyes, nose and mouth are correctly orientated with each other and the face outline is correct, this gives you more confidence to start on the next stage which is adding a little more detail to the features (eyes, nose, mouth and ears.  Once this is done you can start to add tone which will start to bring what is just a flat contoured picture to life.

Next Time …

I’ll be tackling these two areas next time.  If you’re following along, take a stage tracing if you haven’t done already, and try to get your picture to the same stage.

It would be great to know how your pictures are 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.  I hope its been useful.

I hope that you can join me next time, and good luck with your drawing.

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

Art, Portraits

Stage 1 and no laughing

Hi and welcome back.

Those who read the last blog and have never drawn before may have done some drawing, out of curiosity.  If you did, how was it? Enjoy it? Hate it?  I guess if you really hated it you wouldn’t be reading this.

I have to admit I found it difficult to go back in time and draw something I hope I’ve picked up enough experience not to do ordinarily.  Its like trying not to ride a bicycle when you’ve learn’t.  Yoda would say Scarily comical drawing turned out it has.

Poor picture of Meghan Markle

Maybe you’ve repeated my mistakes, created your very own or perhaps you’ve got a fabulous drawing you’re proud of and discovered a hitherto undiscovered talent.  If you made mistakes, did you work out what you’d done?  (I do appreciate that maybe no one picked up a pencil).

I don’t how your drawings have turned out, so I can only reference my timewarp drawing and if you recognise similar issues, I’m going to try to give you some advice on either how to avoid the issue, or if its a technique which doesn’t usually work with portraits, explain what it is and why it should be avoided.  I’m only going over the main issues at the moment.

Positioning of the subject

Unless you’re going for a ‘thirds’ picture where you’re intentionally leaving lots of space to one side of the subject, its best to have the subject in the centre of the paper.  Probably best to avoid chopping of the top of their heads too, as I’ve done above.  More on ‘thirds’ in a later article.


Unless you play Borderlands a lot, you’re probably not used to seeing people with dark lines surrounding their features.  You can use them as guides, but they should be removed as best as possible before you’re picture is complete.  for this reason, its best to use a 2b or 3b pencil to lightly add them.   Sometimes, you cannot help but avoid using them, e.g. when the edge of the subject’s face is the same tone as the background and it looks like they’re fading into each other.  (A trick to get around this is to change the background colour).

I find that ink drawings are the exception to this and I tend to use lines in them, but only because it suits the medium.

Positioning of the subject’s features

Here, I mean eyes, nose, mouth and ears.  I’ve exaggerated not putting the eyes in the correct place.  Most people, (me among them at one time) think that a persons eyes are 3/4 of the way up the face.  They aren’t.  They’re just above the centre of a face. If you have a protractor handy, try positioning one of its points on Meghan’s chin, and then spin the other arm so its positioned in the middle of the eyes.  Then take the first arm off of the chin and rotate it around so its at the top.  See how close it is to the top of Meghan’s hair?  Its sometimes difficult to judge this when people have big hair.

Scarlett head only

From the line where the eyes are, the nose takes up a quarter of the full length of the head.  The mouth is roughly 1/5th of the length of the head when measured from the chin.  Scarlett’s head is inclined forwards here so you’re seeing more hair than you would normally see.

I thought the eyes being situated halfway down the head was weird, and it took me a little while to get used to positioning them correctly.


scarlett tone


There is no tone anywhere in this picture.  Tone helps your brain recognise a three dimensional image from what is actually a two dimensional picture.  If its not there, everything looks flat.  Basically you need to show where light is not present fully.



The Eyes

Eyes are kind of almond shaped.  Irises are circular, so unless someone has their eyes wide open, you won’t see the top and bottom of their irises.

No catch light has been used.  This is a trick to make eyes look like, you guessed it – eyes, rather than dark shapes.  Usually it’s one but sometimes its more, very bright (white) areas in the eyes.  Usually these are on the pupils, but it depends where their eyes are looking and where the brightest light source is coming from.  You also see reflections of whatever is in front of the subject, though its more apparent in the lower half of the eye which is usually drawn lighter.

Scarlett Eyes only

If you know manga, then you’ll be used to seeing exaggerated catch lights in the character’s eyes.  Finally eyes tend to be darker at the top than the bottom because of shadow from the upper eyelids.


I have of course exaggerated the width and size of Meghan’s mouth.  The other thing I’ve done is define each tooth.  Usually when you see portraits, you’ll see that teeth are almost blended together with very little marking to show individual teeth.  I usually show some because I think otherwise it can look like a subject has a mouth guard in.

Hair and eyelids

anjeline part head


Usually you’d try to use lines here, not to define individual hairs but to give an impression of the direction of the hair.




Look carefully and you’ll see there’s a sort of ‘dirty’ look to the picture.  This was caused because I didn’t cover the picture as I drew it.  Essentially you get a piece of paper – tracing paper if you can, to cover the part of the picture that you’re not drawing.  If you do this you’ll avoid the edge of your hand scuffing the drawing.

It would be great to know how your pictures turned 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.

Next time …

Starting a picture of Meghan, showing every stage. smiley-1306301-639x623

Have a good week.  Ian.


Art, Portraits

Writer’s Block

Hi and welcome back.

To be honest, those of you looking for another thrilling instalment of weight loss advice (wouldn’t it be good if I could have used a sarcastic font there), may be disappointed.

I believe my editorial inspiration in the direction of loosing weight has run out completely.  I’ve been delaying putting a new post up because of this.  I can’t think of anything I haven’t already mentioned, that will assist you with losing weight, or at least not right now.  (Of course as soon as I publish this, I’ll think of something).

It did occur to me though that I could use my WordPress site for something else, or more something else at the same time.  Some of you wonderful followers may stay for this, but if you’re only after slimming tips etc, then I think not.

I will be changing this site completely so that it’s main role will be holding blogs about my art of which this is an example:

LiveDieRepeat - Copy


There wasn’t an ulterior motive to me starting my blogs at WordPress on losing weight, to draw in an audience for my art – there are a loads of much easier ways.  I naively thought that I had enough material to sustain a permanent blog about weight loss and it looks like I was misguided.

I’m paying WordPress for the site, so I just want to use it to advantage and I’m sure you’ll understand.  I will still be publishing the odd weight loss blog, and I’ll make it obvious when I do.  I just don’t want to start putting on fluff about losing weight that won’t be worth reading, just to maintain the blogs old direction.  You don’t have to go far on the web to see that all over the place with blogs.

For those that are interested, or might be interested in my art, which has recently taken a refreshing new direction, then I don’t think I’ll fall into the same problem of having nothing to add because its my main hobby and part time business and I can gabble on (hopefully some of it good gabble) about it for hours.

I think my previous blogs are worth revisiting because I think I’ve put some reasonable copy there so I’ll leave them here, and like I say I’ll be adding the odd weight loss blog now and again.  I’ve added a category selection widget so you can select to view art or weight loss articles.

Hopefully some of you will stay on to see how this develops, and to keep up with my weight loss posts when I add them.  If not, I understand completely and wish you the best of luck with your weight loss, and sincerely thank you for following my first blog.

Bye for now.