Pencil Portrait - Beginnings

Submitted by Sam on 2 April, 2012 - 16:56

I'm taking a break from my Bargue plates, and drawing something new. I've spent around twenty hours on a portrait of my sister, working from a photograph I took in December 2011.

For the first time I'm drawing upright on an easel (rather than horizontally on a table), and on a big scale. I'm working at A1 -- whereas my Bargue plates were smaller than A4 -- and I'm using correspondingly heavier paper. At 300gsm it is twice as weighty as my Bargue sketchbook pages, and it is able to take much more aggressive erasing and re-working. This gives me confidence to lay down lines that I know can be altered later, and the large size allows me to be much more expressive when sketching out the initial form.

As the paper is so large I have drawn guidelines to separate it in to thirds to make sizing easier. I am currently refusing to use a ruler or tape-measure to precisely map the enlargement from source image to final drawing, as this feels like cheating. I instead measure relative lengths against a small paintbrush. 

Pencil portrait progress: Jess in Apron - 20 hours: Work in progress: A1 pencil portrait on 300gms paper of my sister Jessica. Working from a photo I took over the Christmas holidays in 2011. Around 20 hours of drawing so far.

Here is the sketching and rendering so far. I need to fine-tune the facial features, which are distorted at the moment, but I'm happy with how the shading on the fabric is going so far; see the image below for a close-up.

Detail - Pencil portrait progress: Jess in Apron - 20 hours: Detail of dress and apron. Work in progress: A1 pencil portrait on 300gms paper of my sister Jessica. Working from a photo I took over the Christmas holidays in 2011. Around 20 hours of drawing so far.

Jess A1 photo reference: A photo I took of my sister whilst she was getting some food ready over Christmas 2011. Taken in my Grandma's house in Barton-on-Sea, New Milton.  I used a Nikon f/1.8 35mm AF-S lens on a Nikon D5000 (1/250th of a second shutter speed at ISO-500). This photo serves as the reference for my first A1 pencil portrait.

Here is the original photograph from which I am working. I desaturated it and printed it at A3, and have it taped next to the drawing to use as a sizing reference. Unfortunately the printed version has lost a lot of the tonal depth, so I use the digital version on my laptop as the source for values and detailed areas.

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