Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Not sure that I have mentioned this yet, but my wife and I have spent the last 4 years living full time in a 21 foot motor home. Just the two of us and two cats. We have traveled pretty much all over the country.

Well, on our way to Missouri from California earlier this month, we decided that it was time to upgrade to a larger rig. So, this week we purchased a 30 foot Winnebago. Here is the problem; after spending 4 years in the smaller rig, we accumulated more stuff than is humanly possible for such a small space. Now we are in the process of moving from our old rig to our new one. So far we have spent 2 days on this project and we are about 3/4 of the way done. With any luck, we will be done tomorrow.

The reason that I am mentioning this is that our moving has a direct affect on this blog. The images that I need to continue the tutorial are on a computer that is still not moved over and set up. That is why there has not been a new tutorial in a few days.

Please bear with me for a couple more days and I will get back to the tutorials and continue the portrait of Tanna. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Virtual Sketch Date

After I started this blog I met some wonderful artists online that do a monthly sketch. Someone volunteers an image and then everyone else does a piece of artwork based on that image. I am very happy to have become a part of the Virtual Sketch Date this month. The original image was provide by Jennifer Rose Phillip of Fuzzy Dragons.

Here are links to the work that other artists have done with this project:
When I saw the original image I decided that I wanted the two largest flowers to dominate the rest of the image. So I cropped it in such a way that the flowers appear to be bursting out of their boundaries. This image was done in Prismacolor colored pencil. I used two yellows, one orange, one brown, four greens and a cool gray 90%. I used Strathmore 300 series Bristol smooth paper.

I made a huge mistake on this image that I will make sure I never do again. I should have done an underpainting of water color before I started with the colored pencil. But I was in a hurry and skipped that step. As a result, the cream color of the paper is showing through all over the entire work. But, that is why we do our art. To learn from the mistakes we make so that we can make the next one better. I learned my lesson with this one.

But, even with that mistake, I am still fairly pleased with the end result. I love the vibrant colors that you can get with Prismacolor.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Art Tutorials

I have been contemplating writing a post on the difficulties of creating written tutorials for art. The tutorial you have been following of the portrait of Tanna is the first tutorial that I have created. It is not an easy process.

Thanks to one of my favorite art bloggers, I do not have to create that tutorial any more. She has done it for me. Jeanette of Illustrated Life has described in detail all of the frustrations and problems that go into creating one of these in a recent post called Creating tutorials.

I think that once I am finished with the tutorial of Tanna's portrait, I am going to create a series of video tutorials. I have worked with film before and it has it's own set of issues and frustrations, but I think the end result will provide a lot more information than the written tutorial is providing so far.

Please take a look at Jeanette's blog. Her work is wonderful and you will be very happy that you visited.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tanna's Mouth

The photo of this image was taken at an odd angle, so the proportions do not look like what they do on the actual drawing. But that is ok. What I want to talk to you about here has nothing to do with the proportions of the drawing.

When creating lips and teeth it is very important to pay close attention to details of the original photograph. Many people find drawing teeth very difficult because they try to draw each tooth with harsh lines. The result is a very toothy portrait that simply looks wrong. Once again, remember that you are not drawing objects. You are simply drawing shades of gray. So, forget that you are drawing teeth. Forget that you are drawing lips. Instead, focus on a small section of the original photograph and reproduce the shades that you see there.

If you look closely at your original you will see that the areas between the teeth are nothing more than shadows. They are not clearly delineated lines. By focusing on the shadows instead of the teeth, you will be able to recreate the image with a lot more accuracy than you would have thought possible.

Most of the work that you will be doing here will be done with the tortillion. As before, use the pencil very lightly to lay down the graphite that you will need to work with. Then use the tortillion to blend it all together.

Tip: If you are having difficulty concentrating on the shades of gray because you keep seeing lips and teeth, try turning the your paper and your original upside down. By working upside down your brain will not be trying to force you to draw things a certain way. Many people actually work an entire image upside down for this very reason.

The last lesson we worked on the eyes. Once you have the mouth finished you should has something that resembles a demented Cheshire Cat. :D If so, you can feel good, because you are likely doing it right. But don't worry. In the next lesson we will start to add dimension to the area around the lips, we will create the nose and we will begin to start on the area around the eyes. Then you will begin to see the actual face starting to take shape.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Tanna's Eyes

Ok, let's get started. The first thing that I always do when starting a new portrait is the eyes. The eyes and lips carry the personality. Once you get those right, the rest of the portrait will follow in place.

I made a pretty big mistake when I made my initial sketch. I made the eyes a little bit too small. The problem is that I did not notice this until the portrait was almost complete, so I had to go back and fix it. If I had caught it early on, it would have been a lot easier to fix. So, check your initial sketch and make sure that you have all of the elements properly proportioned. One way to check for sure is to scan the sketch into your computer, size it to the size of your original, put one image as a layer over the other in Photoshop and then toggle the layer on and off. You will be able to see what is incorrect and you can then make changes.

The first thing that I want you to notice about the original image is the highlights in her eyes. Normally, both eyes will have almost the exact same highlights. However, in this case the source light was from an open door to Tanna's right. Therefore there is a sharp highlight in her right eye, but the left side of her face is in shadow, so the highlight in her left eye is much more subdued.

Also remember that you are not drawing objects, you are drawing lights and shadows. Don't worry about the fact that her eyes look wet. You are not drawing "wet." Once you draw the lights and shadows where they are supposed to be, the end result will be realistic looking wet eyes.

Start off by marking where the highlights are in her eyes. Then, using your 2B pencil darken the pupil, making sure to leave the highlights white. Once that is done we need to focus for a while on the iris. If you notice in the original image you do not really see her iris's very clearly. But one of the secrets to making eyes look deep is showing all of the little lines and details of the iris. So we are going to put them in there, even though we can't see them. Starting at the outside edge of the iris begin to make short quick pencil strokes inward to the pupil. You do not want to make your lines all the way to the pupil but rather about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way. Also, you do not want to make them uniform. There needs to be lots of variation in the length of the lines and the darkness of the lines.

The pencil stroke you use for the iris should be a short quick stroke that ends with lifting the pencil off of the paper. This will create a line that tapers off to a fine point. Once you get those lines complete, do the same thing from the pupil outward. This time you will be using a bit shorter of a line.

Now it is time to use the Tortillion. This is the key to making this entire technique work. With the fine tip of your Tortillion start rubbing the lines of the iris to slightly blend the graphite together. Take care to avoid the highlights. You will notice that this blending will seem to add "color" to the area and will soften the harshness of the pencil lines. They will begin to look much more like real irises as apposed to lines of graphite.

Once the irises and pupils are complete you can start moving to the whites of the eyes. It is possible that after using the tortillion there is enough graphite on it's tip that you can simply use it to actually draw the shadows in the corners of the eyes without even touching it with a pencil.

To complete the work in the eye, you should start working on the area of the face that surrounds the eye. Spend a lot of time looking carefully at all of the details in the area that you are working. A really good practice is to work in small areas at a time. Do not try to draw the whole face, just a small portion. Also, when laying down graphite, barely let your pencil touch the paper. What you ultimately want is to use the pencil only to put the graphite in the areas that you will be needing it. The real work comes in using the tortillion to spread that graphite out. If you make your pencil lines too heavy then you will not be able to blend them correctly and they will show through. So, start out very light. If you see that you do not have enough graphite on the paper to get the area dark enough, simply lay down another light layer.

If you have any questions, run into any problems, or need something explained in more detail. Please comment on this post and let me know. This is the first time I have tried to teach through written media. I normally teach one on one. So the more feedback I get the better I will be able to write each new post.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Tanna - A Complete Portrait

Well, we made it. We are now in South West Missouri and boy was I right about the thunderstorms. We have been here for a couple of days now and the storms have been pretty fierce. I actually love it. One of the bad things about living in Southern California is the complete lack of storms. They simply do not exist and I missed them terribly.

It took a couple of days to get settled in and get our internet connection up and running, but I am now ready to move on with the lessons. Later tonight, or sometime tomorrow I will be writing up the post on how to make eyes look realistic. I ran into a problem when drawing Tanna's eyes and I will explain how to avoid the issue.

I spent the better part of the morning and afternoon finishing up the portrait so that I could show it to you all before diving into the step by step process.

Here is the finished portrait of Tanna Anne.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tanna - A portrait

I am going to be a bit scarce for the next week. We are packing up our motor home and heading to Missouri for the summer. We take off tomorrow and are heading through the desert. We likely won't have access to the internet until we get there sometime at the end of this week, maybe not until next weekend.

In the mean time, I want to show you what we are going to be working on for the next few lessons. This is Tanna Anne. We met this young woman last weekend and I knew right away that I had to do a portrait of her. She has so much personality and innocence that her eye's even smile. :-)

We will be going through the process step by step starting with the eyes. I am about halfway finished this the portrait now and have been taking pictures along the way. This is where I currently am, I hope to have it finished by the time we start our next lesson.

After spending a lot of time examining this drawing I have found many places where I made some pretty bad mistakes. The next time I sit down to work on this I plan on trying to fix many of those mistakes. At one point in the lessons I will talk about what to do when you realize you have really been going down the wrong path in a project.

If you would like to get started, feel free to download the image, it should be 12" wide, and work on transferring it to your art paper. If you need advice on how to get started, one of the previous lessons was Creating the Initial Sketch.

The next time I talk to you, I will no longer be in sunny Southern California. Instead, I will be in the heavy thunderstorms of South West Missouri.

See you all when I get there. :-)