To many people portraiture is a difficult subject to master, but there are easy methods to learn that will help you to capture a likeness. First, you need to understand the principles of the face and its proportions. The distance between the main features makes a portrait look like the sitter, if one or more is wrong there might be a slight similarity but not an instantly recognisable one.
Graphite pencil is a quick way to record a face using simple line and shading. Water-soluble pencils are a versatile medium as an instant wash can be achieved by brushing with water to create shadows; this works well on textured watercolour paper. Drawings come to life by using coloured pencils or watercolour pencils – keep it simple with limited colours for maximum effect.
For a more expressive, dramatic portrait, charcoal is a good medium, if a little messy, and usually works better on a larger scale. All these drawing media can be rubbed out easily, unlike traditional pen and ink, when it is best to begin with a pencil sketch and add the ink when you are completely satisfied with your drawing. A wash with diluted ink can be used for the shadows and hair, or just have fun experimenting with different marks for shading effects.
Draw an oval shape and divide this into four. Position the eyes along the centre horizontal line. Incorrect placement of the eye line is a common mistake when drawing a face as all the main features are below it, the rest of the head is often forgotten about.
Lightly mark five eye shapes along the eye line: the centre shape is the space between the eyes – with about an eye width on either side. This is the basic position of both the eyes. Draw both the eyes with more pressure and add the eyebrows slightly above and wider than the eyes.
Divide the face in half between the eyebrows and chin to give you the base of the nose. The same measurement above the eyebrows marks the approximate position of the hairline. Now the face is divided into thirds, from hairline to eyebrows to nose and chin. This guide is used for checking the proportions at an early stage.
Draw the base of the nose and hairline
Divide the space from the base of the nose and the chin into three; on the first line is the parting of the lips and on the second line, the crease of the chin.
To find the width of the mouth, draw two faint lines straight down from the middle of the eyes. This will give you both corners of the mouth in repose.
The position of the top of the ears can be found by using the eyebrows as a guide, the nostrils are level with the bottom of the lobes. Ears are many different shapes and sizes, either flat to the head or protruding so use this as a basic guide.
Feature taken from the April 2008 issue of Leisure Painter