Firstly, let me start off by saying, I’m entirely self taught. I’ve never attended any art classes (other than the ones at school) and I’ve never taken my drawing any further than as a hobby; up until I started tattooing. I’m by no means an expert but even so, I thought I’d share a selection of hints and tips that have helped me along the way.
Most of the drawings I do these days are in colour. I started off, however, only ever drawing in pencil. The techniques for both are similar but do vary slightly for me personally. I’ll go into that later on.
Equipment I use:
• Lightbox for tracing
• Tracing paper/hot pressed watercolour paper
• Prismacolour coloured pencils/ graphite pencils
• If using colour pencils, I also have a blender pencil
• Pencil sharpener
Initially, you’re going to want to make a stencil of what it is you’re drawing. I normally suggest printing out the reference picture and either using a grid system, or tracing it to get your stencil. There’s no harm in tracing if it means you get it right! Remember not to press hard though as you’ll need to be able to hide the lines later on.
Next comes the fun but, the shading! You could have the most accurate stencil in the world but if your shading is wrong, it’ll never look realistic. I tend to start with the darker areas first and get the bulk of the image mapped out. Once my darker tones are in, I then work my way from darker to lighter colours, blending with my blender pencil as I go.
Drawing in pencil differs slightly in that I’d start off with medium tones and build them as I go to make them darker. I also use my fingers to smudge which I don’t when using colour. When I draw portraits in particular, I never use any pencils harder than a B; as in my opinion, they don’t tend to hold up over time and you don’t get as good a contrast level. That’s just me though!
In the early stages of me learning how to draw portraits, I struggled with shading certain parts of the body e.g. noses. This was because I’d have an image in my head of what a nose should look like and would try and shade to that, instead of the image I was actually working from.
It’s so important to try and detach yourself from the image as a whole, and try to break it down into a series of shapes and shades instead. “Draw what you see not what you think you see” is a sound piece of advice my Mum gave me years ago, and she was right! It’s easier to see the shapes and tones if you blur your eyes slightly when looking at your reference image. This also stops your imagination taking over and making things up!
I draw mainly on tracing paper now because I’ve found I can blend colours better and get a much smoother finish than I would do on paper. You can also alter the depth of your darker tones depending on the colour of mounting card you put behind your finished piece too, and I like that.
So as I mentioned previously, this is just how I do it. It doesn’t mean you have to do the same, or that any other ways are wrong. This is just what works for me. Happy drawing!