Thursday, November 27, 2008

The purpose of this site

This site is starting to get a very large number of readers. As such, I think it is important that I attempt to explain exactly what it is that I am trying to do here. However, I think I should also explain what this site is not. My purpose in this site is not to teach art or to help people become artists. The purpose of this site is to teach a technique that can be used to recreate any photograph as a graphite drawing. I focus on portraits, because they are extremely popular.

So do I consider this technique a form of art? Actually, no, I do not. Allow me to explain why. Art is something special. It comes from the creativity of the artist. It is something that is inspired. I personally do not believe that art can be taught. No one can teach you how to be inspired, it is a spark that comes from deep inside each individual person. That being said, it is possible to teach techniques that are used in the creation of art.

That is what I am doing. I am teaching some techniques. Primarily, I am teaching how to use a tortillion. I am also teaching how to see. But first and foremost I am teaching how to use the tools.

Using what I teach on this website you can create a pencil portrait of a family member or of a beloved pet and give it as a Christmas present or hang it above you fireplace.

What is important to understand is that I am teaching a very limited range of techniques. At some point in the future I might expand the tutorials into a broader range. But for now my goal in this site is to show people the techniques that I have learned to create realistic pencil portraits from photographs.

I highly encourage anyone that wants to learn the traditional artistic methods to seek a degree from a reputable university, art school or community college. But the most important thing, is that you do what you love and you love doing what you do. If you enjoy your life, the universe will go out of its way to provide you with an enjoyable life. If drawing pencil portraits from photographs is what you love, then this is the place for you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Final Touches - Drawing Eyes

This is the final result. Once again, much of the detail was lost in the process of saving the image to the web. But I think there is enough here that we can talk about it. Let me pop in an image zoomed up to show one eye more clearly:

Remember an earlier lesson where I talked about the hatching technique for creating the lines in the iris? That same technique needs to be used in creating the small hairs that form the eyebrows. There are a few things that you need to keep in mind when creating eyebrows:
  • Use hatching technique
  • "Always" follow the natural line of the hair
  • Start where the hair attaches to the skin then hatch in the direction that the hair lays
  • All hair must have an anchor, it can't just sit in open space, it must appear to be attached to the skin
  • The hairs are not haphazard. Know exactly where you are going with each one before you "hatch" it in
  • As always "reproduce what you are actually seeing"
Tip: Sketch in hair to fill the area, then use a tortillion to blend them all out. Then use the pencil to add more hair. This will give the illusion that there is depth and many layers of hair.

Eye Lashes:
Pay particular attention to where the eye lashes are connected to the eyelid. If you want it to look realistic you must have the hairs attach correctly. The biggest problem that I used to have with eye lashes was that I was trying to draw in three dimensions. I knew that the eye lashes came out from the eye and my mind wanted to try to recreate that. As we know, that is not possible. So, look at your original as exactly what it is, a two dimensional image. Look at the eyelashes as if they are lines going across the other areas of the eye. Then draw them exactly as you see them.

The same things that I pointed out above when talking about eyebrows are important here as well.

Skin is never perfect, there always freckles or other spots that define character. This is where you keep your finished image from looking like a porcelain doll. With your pencil simply draw the blemishes where you see them, then use the tortillion to smooth them out. Blending them a little bit will anchor them to the skin so that they don't just look like dots drawn on the face.

All skin has wrinkles but remember that not all wrinkles look the same. In this image there were a few wrinkles under the eyes and more tinier wrinkles where the corner of the eye meets the nose. Using very light strokes with the pencil, sketch the wrinkles in. You will likely want to go over them very lightly with the tortillion just like you did with the blemishes.

For the larger wrinkles you will want to look very close at your original source image. You will notice that there is a bit of reflective light along one edge of the wrinkle. Using an eraser that is sharpened to a fine point will help you get those highlights in place.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Shadows - Drawing the Face Around the Eyes

The first thing that I would like to do is to thank everyone that has signed up for my newsletter.  I would also like to thank everyone for their patience.  Life has been really crazy these past three weeks or so but things are starting to settle a little bit and I am finally able to get back to getting these lessons created.

Today we are continuing where we left off in the last lesson "The Wet Look - The First Steps to Drawing Eyes."  If you haven't looked at that lesson yet, I recommend that you do.

One of the things that I have been trying to make clear since I started this blog is the importance of drawing what your are actually seeing instead of drawing what your brain tries to convince you is there.  This is the case in almost everything you draw.  In the last lesson it became very important when trying to recreate the highlights in the eyes.  It is just as important in this lesson and as always we are dealing with lights and shadows, nothing more.

This lesson will begin the process of creating the face that the eyes are set in.  When we are done today, you will have created the basic shadows and shapes that make up the upper portion of the human face.  In the next lesson we will expand on this base and add details such as hair, wrinkles, and freckles.

The Lower Lid

Let's get started with the lower lid.  Pay special attention to areas that are in highlight.  It is very important that you get them correct in order to convey the natural look that you are going for.  What you are trying to do here is to get the graphite laid down on the paper, so you need to make sure you get just the right amount.  Do this by taking note of the difference between the whites of the eyes and the skin of the eyelid.

This is also where you take care of a common mistake that many people make when drawing eyes.  The eyelid is not a paper thin flap of skin that covers the eye.  There is definite thickness. This is where you add thickness to the eyelid itself.   Making sure that you get that thickness will go a long way to creating the feeling of depth in a final portrait.

Once you get the graphite in place it is time to bring out the tortillion and blend the pencil lines to create a smooth layer of graphite.
Basic Skin Tone
Now we need to create a skin tone base that we can work with as we progress through the rest of this piece.  We do this by laying down an "extremely" light layer of graphite.  This may be difficult to see in this image, so let me explain exactly what I did.  I rested the pencil lightly in my hand.  I did not provide any pressure at all on the pencil.  I simply allowed the weight of the pencil to do all of the work.  I then used small circular strokes to allow the graphite to transfer to the paper.  Yeah, I basically just scribbled.  Only I did it without applying pressure.
Note: This will likely take a really long time.  All I can say it patience truly is a virtue.  Don't try to rush this step, allow it to take as much time as it needs to take.
Then, using the tortillion again, I blended the entire skin area so that it has a very light and somewhat even layer of graphite.

Shadow Areas
Now that the basic skin tone is on the paper, it is time to add some of the shadow areas.  Continuously use your photo reference.  Especially when adding in shadows.  You want to make sure you get them in exactly the right locations.  For this step I used the same basic technique I used for laying in the skin tones.  However, I applied a bit of pressure to the pencil to create the dark areas.  But, once again, I basically scribbled. 
While doing this step, go ahead and darken in the areas where the eyebrows are going to go.  We are not interested in drawing the hair at this time, just the darkness.  You will find that this darkness is very important when you get to actually drawing the individual hairs.
Finally we are using the tortillion once again to blend the graphite and smooth the shadow areas that you just created. 
As you can see, we are starting to get something that resembles human features.  In our next lesson we will work on the details that will bring more reality to the drawing.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Top 10 Art Myths

1. You have to be born with a natural talent to create art
This has got to be the laziest excuse I have ever heard for not becoming an artist. Let me be perfectly clear. People are not born with natural artistic talents above anyone else. The reality is that as we grow we develop interests in other things and we focus our learning on those things. Historically we focus on those things that we need to learn in order to survive. We learn skills that we know we can use to make enough money to provide for our future families. Because of this, we never spend any time really focusing our attentions on creativity. The bottom line is this, everyone can become an artist if, and only if, they have a true desire to do so. The hard work, dedication and self confidence that it takes to become an artist tends to turn most people away. So, they use this excuse above all others.

2. If you don’t get a degree in art, or go to an art school, you will never make a living as an artist.
I know lots of people that graduated art school. Not one of them has a career in art. On the other hand, I know several people that have never had any former schooling at all, and they make a nice living as artists. It has nothing to do with the training you are given. Instead, it is the real life lessons that you learn and your passion for art help you succeed as an artist.

3. Being an artist isn’t a real job
Oh please. Let’s define a job as something that brings enough income for you to support your family. Let’s say Ed makes $30,000 a year working in the computer industry and Bill makes $30,000 a year working as an artist. Can you really believe that Bill does not have a real job?

4. I can’t be an artist; I can’t even draw a straight line
I have been a successful artist for over a decade and I can’t draw a straight line; at least not without a ruler. Yup, there it is. The key to the whole artist mystery is that you have to learn to use the right tools. Art is just like any other endeavor you choose to pursue, if you don’t use the right tools, you will never get the job done.

5. I’m too old to learn how to draw
Really? Tell that to the 80 year old man that decided to become a portrait artist. He couldn’t draw a picture to save his life. After a few weeks of study he started creating colored pencil portraits so realistic you couldn’t tell them from photographs. No. Dump that excuse right now because it simply does not wash.

6. I am disabled; I could never become an artist
Bring up your web browser and search for “disabled artist.” If the people in those websites can’t convince you, I never will.

7. It requires investing a lot of money to become an artist
First of all, there are so many free online tutorials for learning to be an artist that you will never have to spend money on books, lessons or classes. Second of all, you can create fantastic works of art using $15 worth of pencil drawing supplies.

8. I am not creative enough to become an artist
Creativity is not the key to becoming s successful artist. There are tons of places you can get creative ideas from. All you need to do is learn to use the tools and keep fueling your passion for art.

9. Every work of art must be perfect
Let me tell you a little secret. No work of art is perfect. To paraphrase a famous film director, works of art are never completed, they are abandoned. If I considered every non perfect work of art I created to be a failure, I would never have sold a single piece.

10, Real art is only done with traditional methods.
By traditional methods I am referring to pencils, paints, canvases, paper and things like that. There is a world of art snobs out there that consider any work done with modern technology to be inferior and not real art. That is ridiculous. Real art does not come from the medium that is used. Real art comes from the heart and soul of the artist. So use your computer if that is your medium. Use your camera to create grand works of art. Use a yard rake on a sandy beach if you want. The important thing is to create your art. If you don’t, you will be depriving that world of the beauty that is within you.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Wet Look - The First Steps to Drawing Eyes

In the last lesson on eyes we talked about the various problems that artists run into when trying to draw eyes as realistic as possible. In this lesson, we will begin the drawing process. There are two things that you need to do in order to in order to get started. The first is to make sure you are using the right tools. If you have trouble finding the tools locally, or if you would simply like to help support this site, you can purchase the tools directly from my Shopping Center by clicking on the Pencil Portrait Supplies link in the upper left section of this page.

The next thing that you have to have is your initial sketch drawn on your paper. The first two images I am going to show you here are the original photograph and my initial sketch.

Step One - The Pupil
The first step is to draw in the pupil. Using your 2B pencil, color in the entire pupil area. Make sure you lay in a lot of graphite and create as dark of a tone as you possibly can. Don't worry if you can't get really dark. If it needs to be darker later on, you can use a softer lead pencil on top of the 2B. But that will be in the final stages of the drawing as finishing touches.
Important Note: Make sure that you do NOT color in the areas that will be the highlights. This is very important. Those highlights have to be left completely white in order to get that wet look that we are going for.

Step Two - The Iris
Before we start drawing in the iris, I want to talk a moment about a technique called hatching. We use the hatching technique when creating the iris. You start with your pencil on the paper and make a short sharp motion across the paper. The key to this is to lift your pencil off of the paper before you finish the stroke. The result is a nice line that tapers off into nothing.

This image illustrates both the correct and incorrect usage of hatching. Notice the first group of lines starts out solid and dark, but ends up fading to a nice point. This is what you are looking for. The second group of lines was done by stopping the pencil before lifting it from the paper. Notice that both ends of the line end suddenly and harshly. The third group of lines shows what happens if you try to join groups of hatched lines that are done incorrectly. Notice the dark band where the two join together. The last group shows how two groups of hatched lines join when they are done with the correct motion. Notice that the area where the two groups join is nice and smooth.

There are a few ways that artists traditionally shade the iris area of the eyes. All are legitimate techniques, but the one we are going for is the first one. Start at the outside edge of the iris and hatch inward toward the pupil. This will help to create the realism that we are looking for.
Ok, the first step in the iris is to create the initial lines of hatching. The human eye has many layers of lines that make up the iris. That means that you must draw many layers as well. Do NOT start out trying to draw the darkest areas of the iris. Start out light and create the darker areas by drawing many layers on top of each other. Take your time with this. This is a very important step and there is no need to rush it. Sit back and enjoy the feel of the pencil on the paper. Also realise that you can add more layers as you continue through this lesson. So, if you don't get it dark enough now, you can darken it later. When you are satisfied that you have it looking the way you want, go on to the next step.

Did anyone notice the mistake I made here? I will point it out later in the lesson.

Step Three - The Edge of the Iris
Every eye is different, of course, but most eyes have a distinct darkness along the outside edge of the iris. In this step, all I have done is create a dark ring that I will be pulling into the iris in the next steps. Remember, never press hard when drawing! If you want something darking, simply add more layers.

Step Four - Pulling in the Darkness
Using the same hatching technique that we used before we are simply pulling the darkness around the edge into the iris so that it does not look like such a hard ring in the middle of the eye.

Step Five - Blending to Create Depth
Using a tortillion as a blending tool, start blending the lines of the iris. Make sure that you follow the same direction as your pencil strokes. This will begin to create the depth of the eye that is contrasted by the bright white of the highlight. Once again, make sure that you leave the highlights completely untouched.
Step Six - The Inner Darkness
Along with the outer ring of darkness in the human eye, there is also an inner ring. If you look very closely at the original photograph you will see this area. You will also notice that it is not a uniform ring. In some areas it is closer to the pupil than in other areas.

Using your pencil, lightly hatch in layers until you have recreated that inner area as close as you can to the original photograph. Then use the Toritillion to blend it in with the rest of the lines of the iris.

Step Seven - Fixing the Mistake
Did you figure out the mistake I made yet? I left out a very important highlight. If you look at the outside edge of the eye on the left you will see that I have "drawn in" the highlights from the photograph. How did I draw them in? I am so glad you asked. I used an eraser. Actually, I used a battery operated eraser. It is very useful for drawing in highlights when using both graphite and colored pencil. Always remember the importance of highlights and do not skimp out. The closer you recreate those highlights the more realisic your drawing will look.
Step Eight - Drawing the White
As much as your brain wants to think it is white, the whites of the eyes aren't really white. They are just whiter than the rest of the eye. The true white is found in the reflections you see in the eyes. In order to get that highlight to look as white as possible, the whites of the eyes have to be darker.
In the image you see below, I barely allowed the pencil to touch the paper while laying in just a small amount of graphite. I then used the Toritillion to smooth the graphite and remove the lines. Note that I avoided the highlight areas and went in with a very sharp pencil to draw in some lines to represent the blood vessels in the eyes. Note: it is possible that I have made the whites a little too dark. But I will not know for sure until I get the rest of the image created. If need be, I can lighten them up later on.
Next Lesson:
We will focus on the edges of the eyelids and the corners of the eyes. Attention to detail in these areas is very important.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Series of Unfortunate Events

I first want to apologize for not being around for the past week or so.  Unfortunately, there was a series of unfortunate events that we could not have foreseen.  The good news is I am back online now and will be working this site even more than I did before.  For those that are interested, read on and you will find out exactly what happened and just how lucky we ended up.

For those that are not aware of our lifestyle, Kylie and I live full time in a motor home and travel the country.  We left California in the spring and spent the summer in Southwest Missouri with my family.

Last Wednesday morning we left Columbia Missouri, heading to St. Louis on our way to Florida.  We got a couple of miles down the road and the engine started making a bit of a rattling noise.  We pulled off the side of the road and checked things out but there was no one in the area that we could have look at the engine.  So we drove a few miles until we found a Freightliner repair shop.  We stopped there and they told me that there was no one there that could work on gas engines.  So we decided to drive on to Kingdom City.  About 4 miles before we got to the Kingdom City exit, the rattle became very loud and was obviously from one of the engines cylinders.   We were lucky in that there was an exit right there.  We pulled off and called a mechanic from Kingdom City to come take a look at it.  He agreed with what we had diagnosed, so we had it towed to his shop where we could get an estimate on repair.

The tow, which was only 4 miles total, cost us $225!  After a couple of hours of being there they told us that the engine was going to have to be replaced and it was going to cost between $5000 and $6000.  So, we started panicking.  A little while later they told us that it was actually going to cost between $7000 and $8000.  Ok, even more panicking.  Then a while later the owner of the shop showed up and said that there was no way they could do it for less than $9000.  It might as well have been $100,000, because there was no way that we were going to be able to get that kind of money.

Kylie's parents came from St. Louis the next day, we rented a U-Haul to take all of our stuff to St. Louis.  I called a couple of salvage and scrap dealers to try and sell our home for scrap.  No one would take it.  All we could do at that point was to head to St. Louis and see what we could come up with.  It just so happened that Kylie's mother has a cousin with a piece of property and he said we could park the rig there while we worked on it ourselves.  I hope that we can fix it ourselves for less than $1000.  I am going to try anyway.  So, we had the rig towed the 160 miles or so from where it was to where we are now storing it.  That tow cost us $1000!

Well, that left us homeless, so to speak.  It just so happened that Kylie 's grandmother is in a nursing home and will likely never leave that facility.  Her house is full of junk, important papers, photographs and family records that go back to the late 1800s.  So, Kylie's mother suggested we stay in that house for the winter and help her go through all of that stuff and get the house in a condition that it can be sold once Kylie's grandmother passes away.  She will likely pass this winter.

We didn't make it to Florida like we had planned, but we are ok.  We are in Illinois. Kylie has a potential job lined up.  I am going to be focusing on our online businesses, organizing all of the stuff in this house and distributing Juice Plus+.  BTW - if anyone uses Juice Plus+ or are interested in doing so, let me know and I will hook you up.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Featured Artist Blogger of the Week - Daisie

It's time again for the Featured Artist of the Week.  Today I am introducing you to a wonderful artist from Canada.  Daisie is a fellow portrait artist and her work is absolutely stunning.  She has learned in a few months what it took me 36 years to learn.  I myself am learning simply by studying the work that she is doing. 

She has over come all of the problems that I mentioned in my first lesson on eyes that most people have when trying to get eyes to look realistic and her skin tones are incredible.  She has a social networking page on I Draw and Paint that you must see.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Moving again

First thing in the morning we are heading south, going to Florida this time.  I had planned on doing at least two more posts of my lessons on drawing eyes, but getting ready for the move had taken every spare minute I had.  I don't know what kind of internet connections I am going to have over the next week.  So, I am not sure how often I will be able post along the way. 

If I don't talk to you all before then I will talk to you when we get to Florida.  Now, here's hoping the gas prices go back down again before we get too far.  Five miles to the gallon is pretty painful when you are driving almost 1000 miles.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Featured Artist Blogger of the Week - Stacy Rowan

Welcome to the Featured Artist of the Week. This week I wanted to try something different. Last week I talked about how wonderful the artist was and sent you a link to her blog. This week I want to introduce you to the artist. I sent her a few questions and she has answered them as only a true artist can. Stacy Rowan has a passion for art that very few possess and it has driven her to create some of the most beautiful works of art you will ever see.  Her blog, Stop and Draw the Roses, has been a huge inspiration for me over the past few months.  I am including two images of her artwork here, just to whet your appetite. After reading her interview, make sure you click on one of the images to visit her site.

What is your earliest memory of creating art?

I remember when I was probably around 10 years old drawing a copy of a Girl Scout cookie poster. I worked hard to duplicate the poster on my piece of notebook sized paper. When I was done I was proud of my result so I called my older sister in to see my drawing. She took one look at it and accused me of tracing the image even though my drawing was much smaller than the original poster! I guess that means my drawing was a success! Luckily, my sister is much more supportive of my art now.

What is your favorite art medium to work with?

I don't have just one favorite. I love working in watercolor and when viewing other artists' paintings I always seem to be most drawn to watercolors. It is great for capturing the play of light on an object because its transparent nature can be used to create a wonderful glow. Watercolor painting requires a lot of planning since typically the white of the paper is reserved for highlights, and since making changes or corrections can be difficult. The challenges which watercolor presents play well to my analytical side. About 18 months ago I started working with charcoal and was really surprised by how much I also enjoy this medium. The ease with which a charcoal drawing can be changed gives me more freedom to experiment. Also I enjoy the process of starting with paper that has been toned to a middle value and then adding charcoal to achieve the darker values and subtracting (erasing) charcoal to create the light values. It is a different process from how I work with watercolors, but exciting in its own right.

How has being an artist effected your life?

Art gives me a challenge. I am always learning, trying to improve, wondering how I can create what I see on paper. I have so many ideas for paintings - new subjects or techniques that I want to try. It's exciting and motivating. At the same time, art provides a reassuring constant in my life. When I sit down to draw or paint, and I find that zone where I lose track of time and tune out the outside world, it is a bit like visiting with a good friend and it provides a sense of normalcy no matter what else is going on in the other areas of my life.

Who is the artist that you admire the most?

A tough question. There are so many artists out there creating wonderful art, not to mention all the masters who achieved things with their art that most of us can only dream of. But if I am forced to choose one artist, I would choose James Toogood. I've had the pleasure of taking two workshops with Mr. Toogood. He not only creates beautiful, detailed watercolor paintings, but also has an extensive knowledge about watercolor pigments and painting and he generously shares this knowledge in his workshops. I admire this combination of artistic skill and technical knowledge.

If you could tell the world only a single thing about yourself, what would it be?

I would tell them that with art I have found a true joy in life and my life is better for it. I'd also recommend that they find something they love or feel passionate about and find a way to make it part of their life.

Monday, September 8, 2008

It's All in the Eyes

Of all the human facial features, the one that stands out the most is the human eye.  I personally think it is because we use them so much as a means of communitcation.  We speak with our lips, but we communicate with our eyes.  We are drawn to them when we look at other people.  When people wear makeup they spend more time working on their eyes than they do any other part of the face.  Why am I mentioning this?  Because when people look at your portraits they are going to be seeing them as real people and they will be focusing on the eyes more than anything else.  Therefore, it is vital that you get the eyes right from the very beginning.

I am starting a new set of tutorials today.  Each one will focus on a different feature of portrait drawing and will go into detail on problem areas and what do to about them.  As we go through them, I want you to keep two things in mind.  I talked about them over and over in my lessons creating the Tanna portrait.  First; you are not drawing people, you are drawing light and shadow.  Second; you are not drawing in three dimensions, so do not look at your source in three dimensions but rather look at it in two.

The Shape

People have asked me time and time again; what is the basic shape of an eye?  Well, the absolute honest answer to that is "round."  The eye itself is round and that is a very important thing to keep in mind.  Now, the eyelids that protect the eye is where you get into different two dimensional shapes.  If you whant to draw eyes from scratch, without using a photo or live reference, then there are some basic eye shapes that you can start off with.  But, I am not going to talk about them.  There are plenty of books and online tutorials that focus on the technical aspects of drawing eye and the correct anatomy to get them right.  That is not the purpose of this site.  This site is about creating Realistic Pencil Portraits of people that already exist.  We are not creating things out of thin air, so we don't need to focus on basic shapes.  What we want to focus on is the shape of the subject we are drawing.

This is an image that I put together that shows a variety of basic eye shapes.  I wanted to use it to show you an example of why I am not teaching you a basic eye shape.  With so many differences from one person to the next, I don't want you to get hung up on whether or not you got the basic shape right.


The Eyes We Will be Working With
Over the next few lessons we will be working with a photograph that I took this morning of my wife, Kylie. 


 Problem Areas
In this next image I have pointed out a couple of problem areas that people run into when drawing eyes.  Below the image I will discuss each of these and a couple of others.  Then when we get into actually drawing the eyes with graphite, I will point them out so that you can keep them in mind.


Highlights - When most people draw an eye they shade everything and put a single highlight in the iris area, usually partially covering the pupil.  What people tend to forget about are all of the other areas of the eye that have highlights that are just as bright as teh one in the iris, they are just much smaller.  Getting these highlights correct is what creates that wet look in your drawing and brings life to the eye itself.

Round Iris - Remember earlier when I said that the basic shape of the human eye is round?  Well, it is.  And so is the iris.  Some people tend to draw iris' in more elliptical shapes because that is what they see the entire eye as being.  But the reality is that the both the eye and the iris are perfectly round and should always be drawn that way.  Unless you are drawing an image of someone who deliberately has there eyes wide open out of fear or surprise, then part of the iris will always be hidden behind one or both eyelids.

The eyelid has thickness - I can't tell you how many portraits I have seen where people totally ignore this.  The eyelid is not like a sheet of paper covering the eye, it has a thickness.  In order to depict the eyes as realistically as possible, you must show that thickness in your final drawing.

Eyelashes - The eyelash has always been a very difficult thing for artists.  In fact, a lot of the old masters completely omitted the eyelashes simply because they were so difficult to get right.  This is the advice I am going to give you.  Remember that you are not drawing in three dimensions.  Do not look at the eyelashes as tiny strands of hair coming out of the eye.  Instead, look at them as two dimensional lines that are placed over certain areas of your image.

Shadows - A lot of artists tend to ignore the different shadows that are all around the eyes.  I think they are afraid to work with it too much.  Here is the thing.  High contrast in shadow areas is essential.  You must put as much focus on the shadows as you do the highlights, it is absolutely vital in getting the results you want.

Skin tones - Skin tones tend to scare a lot of people off.  A nice smooth blend is easy, but creating freckles or wrinkles or other skin blemishes is a daunting task.  I will cover this in a bit more detail when we get to that lesson in the series.  For now simply try to remember that you are not drawing freckles and wrinkles, you are drawing values of light.

Photo Reference
Here is the photo reference that we are going to be using for the remainder of this tutorial.  If you click on it you should get a fairly large image that you can use.  If you need help in getting the image transferred to your drawing paper, take a look at the post on Creating the Initial Sketch.


Next Time
In our next lesson we will start working on the iris' and discuss the highlight areas in more detail. As always, throughout this tutorial, if you have any questions or need assistance with anything, please comment on the post.  

Friday, September 5, 2008

Temporary Outage and Upcoming Changes

As some of you may have noticed, this blog was offline for a few hours.  I want to apologize and explain what happened so that you can make sure it doesn't happen to you.  This week, I have been trying to make this site a little more user friendly.  People have asked about supplies, so I created an Amazon shopping cart with a few different categories in it.  I then created the links you see in the upper left to link directly to those Amazon store categories that I set up. 

For a moment I need to explain about something called linkspamming.  There is a method of internet spam that unscrupulous marketer use where they create a fake blog, often called a splog, and they put lots and lots of gibberish on it.  Nothing that really makes sense, but within the gibberish, they include tons of links to a site where they sell stuff.  The reason they do this is that search engines will give you a higher ranking if you have lots of links to your site from other places on the web.  Basically, this is a way to artifically boost page ranks and get more traffic. 

Now, let's talk about Google.  Google has to have some way of stopping linkspammers.  But paying people to search for them all day long would not even come close to catching all of the spammers.  So, they created something called a SpamBot.  This is a program that constantly looks at Blogger blogs and scans for potential violators.  When it finds one, it shuts it down instantly.

Back to my Amazon shopping cart.  The SpamBot scanned this blog and found that I suddenly had several links to the same site.  Since that is one of the signs of linkspamming, they shut me down.  Needless to say, I was a bit shook up over this.  But the good news is that they provide a link for you to restore your blog.  Now, this does not happen right away.  All that restore link really does is notify Google that a human needs to look at the site and determine if it is spam or not.  The bad part obout that is that is can take up to 24 hours.  In the mean time your site is completely down.

So, now you know the story and hopefully you can avoid having the same thing happen to you.

Upcoming Changes
I am getting ready to make some major changes to this site.  In fact, it is likely that by the time you read this, the changes will already be made.  First off, the reason I created this blog in the first place was to provide lessons on drawing pencil portraits.  Over the past several weeks I have strayed from that and started getting into watercolor and various other media.  As of now, I am redirecting the blog's focus back to pencil drawing and pencil portraits will be the primary work done.

With the refocus I am also going to change the name of the blog to Pencil Portrait Lessons and the URL will be  It is my understanding that Blogger, at least for a while, will continue to send traffic to the blog if people use the blogspot address that I have been using for several months.  So, if you have any links to my blog you might want to change them and if you are subscribing to my feed, you might want to resubscribe once the domain name is in place.  I plan to have all this done sometime tonight.

Other than that, I want to thank everyone for supporting me in this blog over the months.  At first it was more of an experiment to see if I could keep it going or not.  All of the support I get from you guys has shown me that I can.  So, I will be spending the evening tweaking this blog and making it what it should have been from the beginning.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Featured Artist Blogger of the Week - Kellie Hill

As of today I am going to start a new feature on this site. I am going to attempt to do this every Wednesday, we will see how that goes. LOL.

This week I am featuring Kellie Hill. You can see her artwork at One Painting a Day. I highly recommend taking a look. Her use of color is absolutely incredible. She has the ability to take simple items like a teacup, or a shot glass on a wire and evoke an emotional response in the viewer.

I have spent hours looking at her work and I never get tired of doing so. Please take a few minutes and visit her blog. You will be very happy that you did.

Pencil portrait supplies

I have been getting emails from people asking where the best place to get supplies is and exactly which ones to get. So, I decided to simply post links on the blog directly to the products that I use. They are on, but they are the exact same products you get at art supply stores, and quite frankly, most of them are cheaper on Amazon.

Remember, you do NOT have to spend a lot of money to do wonderful works of art. These are products that you will want if you are ready to take you art to the next level. They are for the point where you look at your work and you want more detail and contrast than you have had before, or if you want the flexibility that these products provide. For instance, I used to do some really cool stuff with a standard number 2 pencil and some copy paper. But there is no way I could have done the portraits that I do now with those tools. The graphite in those pencils simply isn't workable enough.

In order to get to the shopping pages simply click on one of the products listed on the left bar. It will take you to an Amazon shopping cart that I have setup for you to use.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

An Apology

I have to make an apology. I didn't do what I said I was going to do. Actually, I didn't do a couple of things that I said I was going to do. I said I was going do a painting for the Virtual Sketch Date this month. It didn't get done. I also said before that that I was going to post sample sketches of a project that I am working on, that has never happened either.

All I can say is that the real world has intruded into my art for a while and I simply have not had time to do anything. I apologize.

With any luck, I will get several things squared away this week and be back to making regular posts.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Birch Dryad

Ok, so I went ahead and did another one today. This one I like so much better. But, I had a major screw up that I couldn't fix. As a result the dryad turned out way too dark. She almost looks evil. So, the two major lessons that I have learned from the last two paintings:

  1. I do lots better when I work with small details at a time instead of large washes to cover large areas.
  2. I really don't like trying to reproduce someone else's work.
So what does that mean? It means my next watercolor piece is going to have lots of small details that I am going to work on and it is going to be an original, not copied. Oh, and I plan to do a WIP of it. So keep an eye out. I will try to post something tomorrow with at least some bits of pieces of ideas that I have for it.

Well, here it is, the Birch Dryad. This is another one of the lessons from the book that I mentioned in a previous post.


Well, here it is. Lots of things wrong with this thing. Way too many to even begin discussing. Let's just say that I learned a lot from this one just like I learned from the last one.

Like I said in the last post, this is not an original. This was a lesson in a book, so I can not take credit for the composition or concept, only the execution.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Next watercolor

This is the initial sketch of the next watercolor that I am going to attempt. I can not take credit for the idea or composition. This is from the Dreamscapes book that I was talking about the other day. This is one of the lessons. I don't know if I will be able to work on this tomorrow or not, likely it will have to be this weekend.

With any luck, I heave learned enough from my mistakes in the last couple of watercolors that I can actually make this one come out looking nice. At least, I am going to give it my best shot. I will let you all know as soon as I get it finished.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tree trunks in the park

Kylie and I rode our bicycles to the park this afternoon. Our goal was to take art supplies with us and draw whatever flowers were found there. Imagine our disappointment when we arrived at the park and there was not a single flower to be found....anywhere!

But as I was looking around I noticed that the trees had incredible character. Not the boughs of the trees, but the trunks! They were wonderful. So, I got out my sketch book and pencil and started drawing.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am starting to get into drawing and painting images set in the faerie realm. This tree will make excellent references for when I really get to working in that genre. Just looking at these tree trunks I can see dryads peaking from around the back or gnomes leaning up against the base.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I know that I said I was going to post a comparison of the cheap watercolors to the new ones that I bought over the weekend. But my artistic direction was taking me elsewhere.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to by myself a birthday present. It was a book on watercolor fairies called Dreamscapes: Creating Magical Angel, Faery & Mermaid Worlds In Watercolor. Here is a link to the Amazon page for it.

Well, the book as some wonderful projects and they start out rather small and move up in detail quickly. I decided to start basically at the first real project. It was to create a glowing pixie. After a bit of trial and error I came up with something I like well enough. It isn't as perfect as I would have liked, but I have learned a great deal during the process. So, here it is, for better or worse.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Another watercolor experiment

Ok, I have made the decision to get good quality paints. I am using really cheap grade tube paints right now. And I do mean cheap. I do not like the way things have been going with these paints. So, I figure it is either me, or the paints. If I get new paints and I still have the same issues then I will know it is me. But if it solves my issues it will be well worth the money spent.

Here is a cropping from the painting I did today. I actually like this cropping a quite a bit, so the painting was not a loss.

After I get the new paints I am going to try this painting again. When I do, I will show you the full painting both with the old paints and with the new. When you see it you will understand why I didn't like the full thing.

Memories From Behind the Iron Curtain

As many of you know, Kylie and I live in a motorhome and we travel the country. We have been doing this full time for a little over 4 years now. Two winters ago we were in a campground in central Florida called Lake in the Forest. It is a wonderful campground that is a perfect getaway from the chaos of life. It is right in the middle of the Ocala National Forest, it is connected to a small lake and just about everything you could enjoy naturewise is there. Great place for artists, by the way. If you get a chance, you should check it out.

The owners of the camp ground are Bob and Debbie. Debbie's mother lives in a permanent house of the campground and is an absolute joy to visit with. After we had been there for a while she discovered that we were artists and writers, so she asked us to help her out on a couple of children's book projects that she was working on. Then she asked to do something very special :-D

She was eleven years old in northern Poland when the German's invaded in September of 1939. That invasion did not affect her family very much accept for the fact that her father and uncles were drafted into the war and were forced to leave the family. A few years later, however, the Russian's were pushing the German front line back through Poland. Both armies were destroying everything in site and few people survived the wake. The small town that she and her family lived in was right in the way and they were forced to evacuate.

In the dead of winter in northern Poland a mother and her children climbed into a horse drawn wagon and escaped to live in the streets, running from the war. Often, the war caught up with them and they were actually running down streets while soldiers were falling and dying beside them.

What she asked us to do that was so special was to write and illustrate her story for her. The more we worked on the project the more I realized that her story was a German Little House on the Prairie story. So I read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and studied the art in them. The end result was self published through a year ago. It is called Memories From Behind the Iron Curtain. You can read the first chapter here if you like.

The reason that I am discussing this on my art blog is that this is an example of opportunity. Every where you go there are opportunities for art. Every person you meet has an incredible story. Listen to them, they will inspire you.

Here are a few of the drawings that I did for the book. I was inspired by the art if Little House on the Prairie and mimicked the style of that artist.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Another experiment - this time, watercolor

I just read a post by Rose Welty about the Importance of Failure. She is absolutely right. Many years ago, I would have considered the piece above a failure because it did not come out looking like I wanted it to. Half way through I decided to turn it into more of a children's book illustration than the soft watercolor that I was going for. To be honest, I was actually going for this kind of look from Cathy's Watercolors.

Even though I failed in my attempt to create my original goal, I still managed to create an image that isn't half bad. But the most important thing is that I learned many things from working on this. I wish I could explain the things that I learned, but I really can't. It is more of a feel for the medium than anything else.

All of my life I have been taught the importance of practice practice practice. And it is true, you can never truly be great at something unless you practice. When I was a kid in band I had to practice my trumpet at least an hour a day. I was supposed to work on scales. The problem is, scales are boring. I have the same problem now. Art practice is boring. Drawing the same thing over and over again is extremely difficult for me because I feel like I am getting nowhere. Yeah, I know what you are going to say, "You are getting somewhere, you are getting more proficient." This is true, but in my mind, if I am not actually working on a project of some sort I feel like it is a waste of time. I know it isn't, but that is just the way it feels to me. So, that means that my 'practice' is actually working on complete pieces.

Let me give you an example of a time that I simply tried to practice and failed. I had painted a dragon that I really wasn't that happy with. One of the things that bugged me was the eye. I really didn't like the fact that all I did was sort of hint that there was an eye there. So, I thought I would 'practice' drawing dragon eyes. I finished drawing the eye and it inspired me to complete this mechanical pencil drawing:

So, it was no longer just a practice piece. It was suddenly a complete piece on it's own. The problem with it was that I really liked it. But it wasn't in color. So, I got out my Prismas and went to work. This is the end result:

Is it perfect? Not by a long shot. But it was fun and I enjoyed it so much that it became the cover of our first book.

So, what is my point in all of this? I'm not sure I had one. I think I am simply reminding myself that everything I do with art should be enjoyable. It should be fun and I should love every second of it. Otherwise, why do it?

The flower at the top of this entry isn't a failure, even though I technically failed to get the result I wanted. What it was, was practice, just like the dragon eye. And I had fun doing it. So, as I close this entry, I raise a glass to one more successful failure.....Huzza !!!!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bit of a Slump

I haven't been posting much lately. I have been in a bit of a slump artistically. When I was growing up, I lived out in the middle of the woods. A quite a way from any civilization. Sometimes in the winter we would get snowed in and not able to get into town for days of even weeks at a time. I often suffered from Cabin Fever. That is sort of what I am in now. I am kind of stuck in a life situation that has me wanting nothing more than to get out, but for now that can't happen. Mainly because of lack of money. I am sure everyone can relate to that.

Anyway, when I am in this sort of slump I really have a hard time being creative. I KNOW I should do art work. I even want to do the art work. There is no lack of inspiration. I have tons of ideas of things that I want to do. The problem is I have no motivation. None, nada, zilch. My wife and I were talking about it this afternoon. We are both it the same rut and when you get in a rut it is really hard to get out.

So, my plan at this point is to at least start one of the art pieces that I have been thinking about. It will either be watercolor or pastel, I don't know yet which one will call to me the most. I suspect it is going to be watercolor and I suspect that I am going to do something small. I have been working on a larger scale for many years now. So, doing something small might be in order.

Well, with any luck, you will see something here tomorrow where I have at least started something. See you then.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Tanna's Background - The final lesson

I am afraid there is really not a lot to say on the background. If you have been following the tutorials then you have heard me say "focus on the lights and shadows" so much it is likely getting annoying. Also, if you have made it this far and you have successfully created a graphite likeness of Tanna, then the background should be a piece of cake. My only other advice to you is to rely on the tortillion. You should have built up enough graphite on it by now that you can use it quite well as a drawing tool. For instance, I blended the darkest areas of the background and then proceded to do then entire tie-died fabric with the tortillion alone. I never touched it with the pencil.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment. If you run into any problems let me know. I am happy to do whatever I can to help.

Just are never drawing objects. You only ever draw lights and shadows. Even when you are doing color, you are still working with lights and shadows. You are just giving them hues.

That is it for this first series of lessons. I am not sure what I am going to do for the next one. I will let you know as soon as I come up with something. For that matter, if you have anything that you would like for me to cover, let me know.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Virtual Sketch Date July

Well, I decided to try something different this month for the Virtual Sketch Date. I have spent the past few days looking at it and have decided that I really don't like the result at all.

Recently my wife and I have spent time helping my parents shop for furniture. The furniture stores all have impressionistic artwork at exorbitant prices. Since i recently started using pastels a bit I thought I would try to replicate the styles that I was seeing in the shops. Well, I can't say that I am much of an impressionistic artist.

Here it is, turned this way it sort of looks like it might be 3 sunquats. Turn it upside down and it might be 3 orange balloons. I don't think I will be doing much more in the lines of impressionism for a quite a while.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tanna's Hair

Now that you have gotten Tanna's face to look like you want it to look, you are ready to start on drawing the hair. But, if you are like me, you have a problem. You rest your hand on the paper while you are drawing and if you do that, you run the huge risk of damaging the work that you have done so far. The good news is that there is a solution.

Take a clean white sheet of paper and lay it down on top of the area that you want to protect. Then you can lay your hand directly down on top of it. You still need to be aware of the area and be gentle with it, but you at least have a way to draw in comfort.

Ok, now to get to the hair. For years I have had people tell me that you do not draw hair, you simply draw shadows and lights to hint at hair. This is all fine and good. But it is my attempt to get as close to reality as I can. So, I actually draw each individual strand of hair. But don't worry, it goes faster than you might think.

In the last lesson I said to draw in the direction that the hair is going. For most of Tanna's hair you will be drawing from the top down. However, she has a cute little flip in the front that will have you drawing from the bottom up.

Here are tips to remember while drawing hair.

  • Always draw in the direction of the hair.
  • If you show where the hair meets the scalp you need to make sure that you "anchor" the hair to the scalp. The easiest way to do that is to make sure you are duplicating the shadows exactly as you see them.
  • Draw one strand at a time.
  • Layer the hair. Remember, hair is in layers, so it makes sense to layer your drawing. Draw light lines and build them up on top of each other.
  • If you need to make highlights in hair that you have already drawn, you can use a sharpened click eraser or an electric eraser.

Below are a couple of images that show my progression on creating the hair.

Finish up the rest of the hair on this image. In the next lesson we will discuss the background and likely finish the portrait.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Pastel Experiment

For a while now I have been considering experimenting with pastels. I have debated back and forth if I wanted to try working with oil pastels or soft pastels. I used to work exclusively in oil paints so I was tempted to go that direction with the pastels. However, I do live in a small motorhome and after researching oil pastels I learned that they never actually dry, like oil paints do. So, keeping them from damage is actually impossible, I am can not frame and hang the finished work.

So, I settled on soft pastels. I was still not convinced of what I might be able to accomplish with them, so I was not willing to spend a lot of money up front. We went to Michael's on Saturday and I picked up a really cheap set. $5 for 48 colors. I don't think these could even be considered student line, let alone high quality. Anyway, I got them out this afternoon along with a really cheap pad of paper that I picked up for doing quick sketches and sketched out an eye.

I have always been very unsure about skin tones until I read a really intersting formula this morning. 2 warm colors + 1 cool color + gray = skin tones. I decided to try it out. I used a dark gray to lay down the initial sketch, then use a light brown (this color containing both a warm and a cool color) then I layed a light pink on top. I liked it ok, but it seemed a little dull, so I tossed in a bright yellow and some bright white in the highlighted areas.

I must say, I was rather pleased. I only spent 5 minutes on this and the results are rather satisfying for that amount of time. I think I am going to use these pastels for our Virtual Sketch Date this month. If it come out OK, then I will go ahead and invest in a higher quailty set.

Here is a photograph of the sketch along with the package that the pastels came in.

If anyone has any comments or advise on using pastels, I welcome them. I suspect I am going to enjoy working with this medium.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Oops! My bad.

At each step in the process of creating a portrait, I tend to spend a lot of time simply looking at what I have drawn and comparing it to the original image. When I got to this point in the drawing I realized that I had made several mistakes. I have pointed them out with red arrows in the image below.

  • The first area is around her right eye. I did not include the shading that gave dimension to the face. The result was that her head was looking a lot wider than it really is.
  • The next problem was the shape of the cheek. It was subtle, but I did not made the cheek quite wide enough. I had to actually erase the line of the cheek and rework it. Be careful when erasing. use light gentle strokes with the eraser until you have removed enough of the graphite. You do not want to remove any paper or you will have a LOT of trouble getting it to look nice and smooth when you go back to it.
  • Now we start getting to a couple of the bigger mistakes. The area of the right cheek, just below her dimple was way too smooth. If you look at the original image you will see that there is a lot more chubbiness in the cheeks than what I created. This required me to remove a great deal of graphite that made up that area. Once I did that, it gave the cheek more definition and brightened her smile.
  • That same problem showed up on the other side of her face as now.
  • The biggest problem though, was the are between her lower lip and her chin. I actually turned the shadows the wrong way. This took a great deal of erasing and reblending to correct.
The result of the mistakes that I had been making was causing the portrait to look like a much older child than Tanna really is. There are actually a couple of other mistakes, but I didn't notice them until much later.

Below is a copy of the original so that you can compare and see exactly what I am talking about.

After making the corrections I was able to continue on with the drawing.I decided to move down and finish all of the skin tone areas. It is very important to get the neck to look right. As always, focus on the shadows and recreate them. Make sure that you do not create a line around the chin. Many people spend a lot of time on the face and leave the neck as an afterthought. The result is always what I call "Talking Heads." It looks like a face floating in air. In order to keep a portrait looking like a professional portrait you have to consider the neck to be just as important as the rest of the face. It is a continuation of the face and creates an anchor for the entire image.

Then, by creating the rich dark areas to frame the face, we are starting to get an image that actually looks like a beautiful young girl.

Before considering this stage of the portrait finished I decided to throw in the basic lines of the hair. When doing this, pay close attention to the various waves and nuances that make up shape of the hair. At this point, you are not trying to create the hair, but simply lay in the shape. These shapes will be your guidelines when working with the rest of the hair.

Tip: When drawing hair you should always move your pencil in the same direction that the hair is flowing. In other words, from inside out, or from top to bottom.

In our next lesson we will focus entirely on the hair and what you need to do to make it look as real as possible.