OCAD Studio: Pencil Portrait 1


  • Paper (preferably good quality paper that will hold up to erasing)
  • Mixture of pencils of differing hardness (2B, B, H, HB etc.)
  • Kneadable eraser
  • Drawing Board
  • Tape


Setting Up

Tape your piece of paper to the drawing board – it helps to add a second sheet of paper below the top one to cushion the drawing from the hardness of the board.


Major Proportions

Working from life or from a reference, begin lightly sketching in the main shapes lightly with a soft pencil. As always, begin with the largest proportions before refining the lines and shapes. Try to use primarily straight lines as these are easy to correct and look confident. Don’t draw too heavily with the pencil as this will be hard to erase once you start refining the details.


Block in Shapes

Once the major proportions are established, you can begin looking for shadow shapes and lightly sketching them in. Keep things simple for now, don’t add too much detail as you will need to make adjustments to get everything to work together accurately.


Sighting Angles and Alignments to Improve Accuracy

Even if you’re using your eye to copy, it is useful to pay attention to relative angles and alignments while working. This will stop you from getting tunnel vision about any single aspect of the drawing and keep you thinking about the big relationships that govern the overall proportions.

You can compare angles by flicking your eyes between your drawing and the subject. Your eyes will spot if an angle is different because there will be a shift as your eyes move back and forth (like how an animation works). The same is true for lengths of lines between the angles.

Alignments are even simpler, imagine a straight horizontal (or vertical line) lying across your subject (you can also use any straight implement, like a ruler or knitting needle) and see what point in the subject line up. If they don’t line up in your drawing, you know that something is off and you can correct the mistake.

If you can get the alignments and angles right, the drawing will naturally fall into place without too much effort.

High Point and Low Points

When looking at natural forms you will find that most are made of gradual curves. These curves make it difficult to break down a form into simpler construct lines (or articulations). An important aspect of producing an effective line drawing that captures the essence of the subject is an ability to pick high points and low points effectively.

A high/low point is essentially the point at which the curve turns back on itself in a noticeable manner. While a curve is (by nature) always changing direction you will tend to find that there are specific point along the curve where this change in direction is more pronounced. Thing of a parabolic curve, it is gradual changing direction until suddenly reversing rapidly before becoming more gradual again. It is these marked changes of direction that we refer to as high and low points.

When beginning to articulate a drawing, start by finding these high/low points along the curved lines. Only find one or two points to begin with, otherwise it will become over complicated quickly and it will be difficult to make corrections where necessary.



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