Learn Pencil Portrait: Step by Step

If you are an established artist you know it very well, and if you are an artist starting your adventure in the field of art, you need to know that a preparatory pencil drawing is a must before going to make a portrait, either in watercolour or oil.

Pencil portrait making is a crucial task. If the final portrait differs, even slightly, with his of her original face, it would not do well. So every stoke matters; every shade counts, every proportion speaks. If the set of eyes is drawn properly, the artist would not find it very difficult to draw the nose and the pair of lips. If you are to paint the portrait in oil or another medium, then the pencil drawing is of paramount importance. Properly made pencil drawing can be a suitable base for a final portrait. Here are articles that would be useful for Learning Pencil Portrait.

The Rose Leaf - By Rossette, National Gallery of Canada
Graphite on wove Paper -by 
Dante Gabriel Rossetti

PENCIL DRAWING: Jane Morris, Pre-Raphaelite Muse: Learn Drawing Portraits of beautiful women, Pencil drawings of women, Drawings of women with a flower.

The Roseleaf
 -- a portrait of Jane Morris by Rossetti

Jane Morris was Muse for the group of artists who were known as a Pre-Raphaelite group in London. Jane Burden (Morris) was an artist herself. She painted, too. But her fame came from her being a model for the great painters of the group. William Morris, a well-known artist of the time had married her. She was his muse. But she was the Muse to her husband’s close friend, a great artist, Gabriel Rossetti.

From the Letters written by Rossetti to Jane Morris, it is known that Jane Morris had made the blue dress herself. And she was deeply and artistically, too, involved in the choice of the dress and the pose itself. The unbelievable fame received by this painting had led the duo of Rossetti and Jane Morris to think about a wide series of subject pictures that followed this one. Rossetti was known for his imaginative and realistic paintings; he was equally known for his intimate relationships with the women he loved and worked with. The talks of the close relationship between Jane and Rossetti had always clouded the artistic sky of London.

Rossetti painted several paintings, keeping Jane as a model. His most famous painting is titled ‘Proserpina’ or ‘Proserpine,’, a Goddess of Fertility. Here in this painting, titled ‘Jane Morris' (The Blue Silk Dress), Jane had modelled for Rossetti. Dante Gabriel Rossetti is the artist who had drawn this pencil drawing. He was an English poet and a painter of the nineteenth century.

The lady who had sat as a model for many of Rossetti’s paintings is Jane Morris. In the pre- Raphaelite movement, the painters chose their near relatives as models for their painters, especially the female models. The female models were generally sisters, lovers or wives of the painters or their friends’. Jane Morris was believed to be Rossetti’s lover and she had married his close friend William Morris. This portrait drawing and such many drawings are done before the painters took brushes and pallets in their hands. Here Rossetti has shown the play of emotion as the strong force for the aesthetic experience.

A preparatory pencil drawing is a must for proceeding to a portrait, either in watercolour or oil. The above drawing is an example of the preparatory drawing by the master portrait painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Here the artist had, before proceeding to canvass, done the drawing in and black pencil. Rossetti is the artist who had drawn the above pencil drawing. Rossetti’s was famous for his poetry, too.

Mo-Slimy,
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons 
Drawing of a man with a turban

Pencil Drawing is the primary art of painting, a foundation of painting:  Painting is a universal language, as it helps to cross the boundaries of nations, of races, of gender. You fill free while communicating through the art of painting. The painters, since the age of carvings on stones, have endeavoured to reveal their emotions on the surfaces they chose. They used the tools of their linking and availability. The oil paintings came after the invention of durable oils. But pencil drawing, and preparatory drawing by any other tools, has remained a major source of artists’ pleasure, leading to perfection. 

Like pencil drawing, drawing or making portrait drawing and self portraying have been a favourite sport of the artists. It is one kind of blessing for us, too, as we can identify the artists of the pre-photography period. Artists paint themselves as independent paintings or drawing; as well as they include their own presence in the middle of another work, too. The earliest known self-portrait is from Jan Van Eyck, the portrait he painted in the year 1433.

PENCIL PORTRAITS: Drawing Eyes, Nose and Lips:  Theme: Learn Pencil Portrait Drawing: An artist wishing to draw a portrait with a pencil should make up his or her mind to keep certain aspects ready in memory. First and foremost is the drawing of eyes; the stage of drawing nose and lips comes afterwards. One can wait for it.

In order to do a perfect pencil portrait an artist needs to study the subject first; here subject being the face of a person whose portrait is to be drawn. Eyes and nose posing crucial identity of a person, we should draw it realistically. It is important to know about the size and shapes of both eyes. Artists generally believe that the lines while drawing the nose should be hard. In fact, the nose requires more shading work and less lining.

Before starting a pencil portrait of a man, woman or child, just engage yourself with the eyes. Inspect carefully all the aspects of the eyes: the shape, the lower and upper eyelids, the pupil, the iris and the white portion. Carefully examine the shapes and shades of the lashes, the eyebrow and the portion of the eyes that catches the incoming light. These all comprise the set of complications in pencil portrait making, but they can be handled effectively if the artist is watchful for the same. Look at the above portrait for its masterly done shading work.

Drawing Procedure:  You will have to use different types of shading. If the paper is white, the white of the eyes can be left on its own. One most important thing to remember while doing a pencil portrait is that it is to be given to a person whose portrait it is: so the resemblance is crucial. In the portrait of Fanny Cornforth, a well-know British model during the nineteenth century, we can see the different aspects an artist would keep in mind while doing a portrait of a beautiful woman. Look at this portrait, and you would find how the artist Rossetti has tried injecting the feel of the woman's beauty into her portrait.

SrmagnetismoCC BY-SA 4.0,
via Wikimedia Commons

If the final portrait differs, even slightly, with his of her original face, it would not do well. So every stoke matters; every shade counts, every proportion speaks. If the set of eyes is drawn properly, the artist would not find it very difficult to draw the nose and the pair of lips. If you are to paint the portrait in oil or another medium, then the pencil drawing is of paramount importance. Only the properly drawn pencil drawing can be a suitable base for a final oil portrait.

Tips for the Beginners:  Pencils are numbered from 9H to 9B. The letter represents the hardness and the B represents soft and black graphite. Higher the number, the harness or softness would increase. it would be better to use 2H to 3B pencils in the beginning. 

Drawing The Eyes: When you sit for drawing the face of a portrait, you would keep certain basic skills in mind. First of all, it is necessary to look minutely at the proportion of the eyes. The size of both the eyes matter to be viewed closely: whether the eyes are big, small or medium. The shape is to be understood closely. Then we can go drawing the inner parts of the eyes. If we draw the entire pupil of the eye we can have its sparkle and liveliness. Some artist like to add a shadow of the lid or the lashes falling on the iris or pupil; bur lesser we do such shading, more will the drawing become neatly pleasant. It would be advisable to put the shadow of the lashes on the adjacent skin area of the face if you want to show some shading.

The Art:  If you want to make the drawing of the eye more effective, adding a dash of highlight across the iris and pupil would be a good idea. If you are to show the face going through the act of laughing, then do keep it in mind that while laughing the lower lid of a person's eye moves upward covering the iris. Adding such a feature would make the pencil drawing of an eye more lively.

Before doing the pencil drawing of the eyelids, we should have in our mind that the natural colour of the eyelid would tend to be darker than the surrounding flesh and skin of the face. And once the eye is opened, the upper eyelid folds itself up. The lower lid would be a bit thinner than the upper one. However, in the cases of some people, there would be delicate skin folds in the eyelid; it would be a statement of the age of the person. 

The Artists:  The pencil drawing has been the primary work for any famous painting or the old masters' work. You can display your pencil work, too, in the art galleries and online art shows. All the figure drawing or most of the framed and famous paintings have their beginning from the pencil drawing. The colour pencils have also emerged as a separate medium of painting, like pastel colour painting and charcoal drawing.

The artists are unique persons; as every artist chooses his or her own visual language. Each and every painter experiments with different tools, a different set of colour combinations and textures. But the love for pencil drawing makes an artist understand much about the anatomy of the finished work to come.

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