Task 6: Portrait Photography

Using the natural light which shines in through a window is a great way to get soft light onto an indoor subject which costs nothing and is often overlooked.


Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch painter who specialised in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life.  You are most surely going to recognise his famous ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ below… among many skills, and amazing use of his media, you can see that a lot of success in his work is also down to the positioning of the light. See many more of his works to see how natural light casts great shadows and provides focal points to his art.



Pay close attention to the quality of the light as well as how you are positioning your subject in relation to the window light. For this task, you want to create great shadows! This will give you a great image to test out your tonal shading skills when drawing the image.

Having a face in profile, or straight on, can test knowledge of proportion and observation- so trial several positions to get the angle and shadow that makes it interesting for you to observe.

You can take your photography one step further…

Quote from Wikipedia:

portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the person.

The last sentence here might catch your attention… how can you achieve personality and mood of the person you are going to draw? Well the photo is a good start as you can trial expressions and trial different backgrounds and environments. You could really intensify the shadows and make some extreme contrasts to give you a certain mood or atmosphere to the image.

In trialing your compositions, lighting and expressions, you can get very creative and have an image that, when drawn, tests not only your drawing skills and observation, but also adds meaning and purpose to the art.

Great examples of this can be seen with many artists, all of whom want to share a story or interpretation of their personalities when doing a self portrait.

One of the favourites is clearly Frida Kahlo:

She was a Mexican artist who painted many portraits, self-portraits, and works inspired by the nature and artifacts of Mexico. Inspired by the country’s popular culture, she employed a naïve, folk art style to explore questions of identity, post-colonialism, gender, class, and race in Mexican society.

Her paintings often had strong autobiographical elements and mixed realism with fantasy.



Do think about what you want to get out of your drawing as you are exploring the photography… a test of observation and tonal shading? Or, as well as this, purpose and meaning to showcase the person you are drawing?

Photography will help with the ideas!


Join our Facebook Group for LIVE lessons and friendly art community – see you there 🙂

Why not have a go at this and post your artwork for me to see. Maybe I or the community can offer support, encouragement and helpful feedback.  – share your work on TWITTER and INSTAGRAM – POST  using our hashtag #ONLINECOLLEGEART


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *