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.


OCAD Studio: Negative Drawing

Negative Drawing is a great way to quickly draw an image which is mostly dark with a few light patches. It creates an impressive and luminous chiaroscuro (light/dark) effect.



  • Charcoal paper (strong enough to resist a reasonable amount of erasing)
  • Soft stick charcoal or block
  • Kneadable eraser
  • Sponge or kitchen roll



  1. Using the soft charcoal, lightly apply an even tone over the whole page (it can be bit irregular at the edges if you like the effect). Get the tone as dark as possible without working too hard into the paper as this will make it harder to erase back to white later.
  2. Once the tone is applied, use your kneaded eraser to lightly remove the major light masses. Progressively lighten these masses to build form.
  3. The image should begin to emerge and you can roll your kneadable eraser into a point to erase finer details.
  4. If necessary, you can use the same charcoal to darken some areas and increase the value range. This can be particularly useful for reinforcing the darks in the background.
  5. You can keep erasing and adding tone until you’re happy with the drawing.

OCAD Studio: Shape Exercises

Shape exercises are a great, quick exercise to improve your observational drawing skills. They will help you to accurately copy shapes when you’re copying from life or a reference.

These are the materials you will need:

  • Piece of blank paper
  • Strip of tracing paper
  • Pencil
  • Tape


1) Begin by drawing a series of random shapes down the paper. Once you’ve drawn these shapes, tape the tracing paper on the right hand side of them.

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2) Starting at the top, try to copy the shape as accurately as possible. You can either copy by eye or you can measure, whatever you prefer.

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3) Once you’re happy with your copy of the first shape, you can lift up the tracing paper and then place it down over the original.

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4) You can now check to see how accurate you copy was.

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5) Repeat the process until you have copied all of the shapes. Using the tracing paper to check your accuracy each time.

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It’s as simple as that!

You can spend as much or as little time as you like on these. They’re a great little exercise to fill in time. The more you do, the better your drawings will become.

Task 4- Still life in Graphite

We have been building up a very basic foundation here for drawing in tonal media. Now task 4 explores taking on a ‘final outcome’ to put some techniques and skills to the test.

We will soon be moving away from our tonal work so let’s try a Still Life drawing with our graphite pencils.

Things we have covered so far:

  • Observation Skills- right side of the brain
  • Tonal Scale & Universal forms
  • Charcoal Techniques
  • Composition Considerations

Now we need graphite techniques to complete our skills in observational drawing.

You can use similar skills developed using charcoal for your graphite drawing, such as using a kneaded eraser to help with highlights. Do what you feel is right for you whilst applying the full tonal range to your drawing.

The same composition techniques we have discussed will apply and you should refer back to your universal forms to remind yourself of the different highlights and shadows. This time it should be easier as you will have the objects in front of you; if your light is good (natural light by a window) and your choice of objects is good (range of sizes, forms, textures) then you should be finding it easier to observe and create successful observational drawings.

Doing some different mark making exercises will also help you to decide on your style. It will also develop your understanding and control of using a graphite pencil in different ways. We have looked at adding tone to our shapes in a Sfumato sort of way so far, but there are many others that might suit you better and give a different character to your work.

Check out this resource to help you:

Mark Making

Here is also the previous video to a Live Mark Making Lesson which could give you a head start.


Soon I will be demonstrating some more techniques in a Facebook Live to show you how to get going with this task. See you there soon.


Have fun and remember to share your work for friendly feedback to support your progress – Join our Facebook Group for LIVE lessons and a friendly art community