Level Up your Portrait Drawings: Practical Approaches to Advanced Concepts! | Chris Hong | Skillshare

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Level Up your Portrait Drawings: Practical Approaches to Advanced Concepts!

teacher avatar Chris Hong, Artist and YouTuber

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.



    • 3.

      Finding Photo References


    • 4.



    • 5.

      The Block-in


    • 6.



    • 7.

      Building Up the Drawing


    • 8.

      Technique: Losing Unnecessary Lines


    • 9.

      Technique: Spilled Light


    • 10.

      Technique: Atmospheric Shadows


    • 11.

      Student Project & Closing Thoughts


    • 12.

      Portrait Drawing Start to Finish [RAW Footage]


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About This Class

How do you create a sense of lighting in your portrait drawing? And make it feel more "realistic" and full of life than a photograph? This class is all about taking the complexity of portrait drawing like lighting and design and distilling it down into simple steps you can take to level up your portrait drawings!

I introduce how to apply a sense of light through the use of shapes to group complex values, take you step by step through how I build up a solid drawing that feels structural, and lastly share some simple techniques you can do to inject even more appeal and life into your drawing.

This class is designed for those who have some prior experience with drawing the human head as well as observational drawing, as I won't be going into drawing basics or cover the anatomy side it. Rather, I approach drawing the portrait as a designer would; drawing the human head is a vast, complex topic that would be difficult to cover in any effective way in a single class - so the purpose of my class is to introduce complex concepts like lighting and design in practical ways that you can take and apply directly into your work today!

Meet Your Teacher

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Chris Hong

Artist and YouTuber


Hi there, my name is Chris Hong and I'm an independent artist who is mostly known for drawing and painting clowns and other whimsical characters! 


I just released my debut art book, Tumble, which is a collection of my works from 2016 to 2021! It's now on Kickstarter and it was already fully funded in under 2 hours!

Hope you'll check it out on Kickstarter! Here's just a sneak peek of what's inside:

Meanwhile, follow me be the first to catch my future Skillshare classes! You can also find me on Instagram and YouTube where I like to hang out as well. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to see you in class! :)




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Level: Intermediate

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1. Introduction: As an artist, I've always had a deep fascination with faces. It has been a bit of an obsession of mine throughout my career to be able to draw them in a way that excites me and that captivates the viewer and it's bursting with life off the page. Hi there, my name is Chris Hong and I'm an artist from Canada. I want to teach you how to level up your portrait drawings. Throughout my learning journey, I realized that there are ways of taking the complexity of portrait drawing and distilling it down to a more manageable task. The focus of this class will be to distill some of these advanced concepts of anatomy, lighting, and design into practical steps you can take to help build your drawing up from start to finish. I'll share techniques that can instantly improve the quality of your drawings. Taking them from a good drawing and transforming them into drawings that are full of life. Portrait drawing is such a huge topic to cover that it's almost impossible to try and teach in a single class in any effective way. For me, it's really important that my students take something away that they can apply directly to their process to help improve their drawings. With that in mind this class is designed for those who have some prior experience with portrait drawing and want to improve upon their current skills and understanding. But since we're going to focus on working directly from photo references and letting them guide us through our drawings, I strongly believe at even beginners can take at least one thing away that can help better their understanding of portrait drawing today. Because here's a secret, I don't know everything there is to know about the human anatomy and lighting and all that stuff But I'm telling you that it almost doesn't matter. You don't need to be an absolute master of everything to be able to draw striking and compelling portraits. I'm here to help you get there. So without further ado, let's get started. 2. Materials: In terms of the tools you'll need for this class, we're keeping it real simple. All you need is your favorite graphite pencil, a kneadable eraser, a regular eraser, a blending stick, and some paper. I personally use mechanical pencils because I like that I don't have to sharpen it, and I feel like I personally have better control over it than a regular graphite pencil, but really, any graphite pencil will do. Make sure that the lead is soft enough to be able to make some dark values. I would recommend a lead no harder than HB. Kneadable eraser. A kneadable eraser is great for erasing small areas that might be a little bit more difficult with a traditional eraser. You can mold it into a point to lift up the graphite from some really tight areas. I like to dab large areas of graphite with it if I want to lighten the whole area up more gradually, instead of having to erase it completely. A kneadable eraser gives you a ton of control, and I would highly recommend you have it for this class. Traditional erasers are handy for erasing large areas more quickly. So, having both the traditional eraser and a kneadable eraser is recommended. The blending stick. This is a blending stick, and I like to use this in my drawing process to quickly lay down patches of tone. I can cover bigger areas with it more quickly than my pencil, so I find it pretty handy when it comes to filling in large areas like hair. I'll be explaining more about how to use them in the shading lesson coming up in the class. If you don't own one, using the blending stick is not strictly necessary for our process, but I will be using it in my drawing demos, so try them out if you'd like. You should be able to find them pretty easily at your local art store. If you're more comfortable with digital tools, then by all means, work digitally in your favorite program. Just remember, we're working in grayscale and not dealing with color in this class. Last but not least, we need the photos we'll be working from for our portrait drawings. But where do we begin to look for one? In the next lesson, I'll be teaching the art of finding great photo references for the purpose of portrait drawing. If you're ready, let's get into it. 3. Finding Photo References: The first thing I do when I go to draw a portrait is to find good reference photos. It sounds simple enough, but it's a little bit more involved than just Google image searching a photo of a face, and some photos are definitely much easier to study from than others. In this lesson, I'm going to show you what to look for when looking for photo references that will set you up for success in your portrait drawing. The compelling reason. What compels you to the photo? What about it is interesting to you? A good photo reference should beckon you to want to draw it for some reason. Is it about the intensity of the eyes? Or is it the way the light falls on the features? Maybe it's just about how interesting you think her nose is, it's boldness and it looks very structural and you want to draw it as if you can reach into the drawing and pinch it. The reason for the inspiration can be as small and silly as that. This is obviously about personal tastes and it will differ from artist to artist but before even going into the drawing, it's important that the photo has some quality to it that you want to spend time in replicating. You don't have to understand exactly what it is that you're drawn to. Sometimes I don't even know myself when I'm drawing to certain photos, and it becomes more apparent to me throughout the drawing process. But you will have an advantage knowing what it is you want to highlight before going into the drawing, so you can focus all your attention and energy on it. Why do we copy anything? I think it's because as artists we have a yearning to highlight the beauty of what we're seeing. Drawing is our way of interpreting how we observe the world around us. With all that said, please don't just pick any old photo you come across on Google Images. Personally, for me, I feel way more invested in the drawing if I feel inspired by the reference in some way. Good lighting. In your photo, can you tell which direction the light is coming from? If it's hard to tell, there are higher chances that it's going to be a more difficult photo to work with. What do I mean by good lighting? I like to work from photos where I can clearly tell where the light is coming from because it makes it easy to see where I need to place my shadows. When looking for photos, look for cast shadows. Cast shadows are shadows created by an object onto another object. If it's a hard cast shadow, meaning there's a visible outline of the shadow, these I find are the easiest to work with, since outlines are inherently easier for our eyes to identify. Best places to spot these cast shadows are the neck, where the chin and jaw may cast a shadow onto it, or under the nose or under the bra bone. Daytime photos out in direct sunlight often produce these hard cast shadows that otherwise might not make for great photos, but we now know that there are great for drawing from. Clarity of features. This should go without saying that the photo you're working off from should be high enough resolution that you're not having to squint at it to see what you're working with. Drawing is hard enough as it is, so whenever you can make the process as easy for you as possible, so you don't have to jump through any unnecessary hoops. Make sure in your photo you get a clear sense of what the features look like. You don't want to have to make any wild guesses while you're drawing. We've covered what we should look for when venturing out to find great photo references for your portrait drawing. But what are some things to watch out for? Here are just some types of photos that I think might be a little bit more difficult to work from. Beauty portrait photography. This type of photography is designed to be very flattering, and therefore it's purposely lit in a way where they try to minimize harsh shadows as much as possible. Ironically, what's flattering in photos is not what I found to be flattering in drawing. Drawing from these photos, you might pick up bad habits and learn to shade in a way that makes faces look very artificial because this type of lighting scenario isn't what's presented in real life. It might be tempting since the people in these types of photos are often very beautiful, but I will recommend against them, at least in this learning stage. Celebrity photos. Also, not a strict rule to avoid celebrity photos, but for this class I would avoid using photos of more conventional Hollywood-type of celebrities as these types of photos are often very evenly lit, same as the beauty photography type of photos, and also heavily airbrushed and Photoshopped. Now that we know what to look for and what to watch out for, where do we look for good photo references? Chances are if you're taking this class and you probably have a deep fascination with faces. If you're like me, you probably like to observe strangers and nerd out about how interesting you think their features look. You likely already have a folder saved with photos of people's faces that inspire you. But if you don't, Pinterest is a great place to find photo references for practically anything you can think of. What's great about Pinterest is that it's already somewhat curated for you, so when you begin your search, you don't have to weed through terrible photos that you might come across on Google Images. These are photos that have inspired others and in some way and compel them enough to be brought onto Pinterest. Already your search is going to be more narrowed down. I would start searching upwards, portrait inspiration or a portrait photography or anything along those lines to get your search started. From there, try to find a photo that speaks to you, and when you click into it, Pinterest will automatically rearranged this new page with similar images to the one you clicked. Either save these photos onto your computer or pin them into your board as a reference folder that you can refer back to. I hope I've equipped you with enough information to go out there and find great photo references for your portrait drawings. I know that you guys are probably very excited to get to the drawing portion of this class, but before we do, there's a really important topic that I want to cover, and it's a lesson on shapes. In the next lesson, I'll be covering what artists mean by the term shapes. Why it's important, how to recognize these shapes from our photos, and how we can use shapes in our drawings. Let's begin. 4. Shapes: I'll be using the term shapes many times throughout this class. So I thought I should dedicate an entire lesson on the concept of shapes. Creating simple shapes is a tool that artists used to organize values in their drawing. But why is this organization important? If you have ever studied lighting in art, you probably have heard of the term grouping values, and this is where shapes come into play. As you may know, lighting is an extremely complex and advanced topic to try and learn. But using shapes is essentially the act of grouping values. So if you can understand this concept of using shapes, then you can already start applying lighting into your work. So let me demonstrate how this works. Here's one of the photos we looked at in the previous lesson that I use as an example of having a strong sense of light. If I wanted to simplify this image into two shapes, one being the light shape, and the other being the shadow shape, here's how I might go about it. Then here's how it would look like filled in, and against a white background to represent the light shape. Does this still read to you like a person? I hope the answer is yes. Now, let's take a look at the photo again, but this time I'm going to use the levels control, to push all the values in this picture, so that all the dark values are grouped into black, and all the lighter values are grouped into white. If we look at these side by side, they are very similar, minus the fact that I grouped the background as part of the light shape. When the values are grouped like this, we can clearly feel a sense of light and form. This light and shadow shape is how our eyes are able to read a given photo or picture. At this point, you might be wondering, well, that's cool and all, but I don't want to draw like this. I don't want to draw Banksy, I want to draw a realism. Well, my friends, this is how you achieve the quality of realism in your drawings. This is what artists use to help them condense the complexities of values down to very practical and manageable steps. Because trust me, I don't know all there is to know about lighting, but I'm still able to get a sense of light in my work, because of this understanding of using shapes. Let me demonstrate again by using a painting from John Singer Sargent as an example. Sergeant was known for his great command of values and I would highly recommend studying his works to get a better grasp of this concept. I took this photo into Photoshop, to show you how if I push the values in this piece to group into either a light shape or shadow shape, how clearly this portrait still reads in just black and white. Then from this gray scale version of the portrait, I take an Eyedropper tool and I hover over the lighter areas, where it would be grouped into the light shape. Watch how the little cursor that tells us what color we're picking in the color wheel moves as I hover over this area in the painting. Notice how it bounces very close together in this upper range of values. Now, when I take the Eyedropper tool and I hover over the shadow area, notice that it's much darker, and it doesn't go anywhere near the value range near the top of the color wheel, when I was hovering over the light values. This is because Sergeant was a master at grouping his values together, so that there was a clear separation of light and shadow, but also great variety within those shapes that make it more interesting than just a stark black and white image. Studying from these old masters' drawings, you can learn a lot about where they spent much of their efforts. It's extremely helpful to block in your drawing into shapes like this because then it's much easier to see where you're going to shade in your darker values. Because without it, you have an almost infinite amount of values to try and work with, but after grouping these values into two separate shapes, now it's a much narrower pool of value range to pick from. When you go into the drawing without first establishing the simple value statement of light and shadow, there's a much greater risk the drawing will feel flat and wishy-washy, because your values might be all over the place, throwing off the illusion of light. To help further solidify this understanding of shapes, let's take a look at some more photos and see how we can group the values we're seeing down into these two simple shapes. If you're curious on how I'm doing this exercise, I just bring the photo onto Photoshop, then I create a new layer filled with white with the opacity lower to help me see my lines better. Then I take a hard round brush and just press the "Shift Key" to the next point I want to make, to make a straight line across from my previous point. I use straight lines so that I don't get lost in the nuances of every little bump on the forms. I find the shape looks more structural with straight lines. I'm trying to decide where to place the lines to divide the shadow area from the light area. Some areas are more subtle in their value shifts than others, and so it's not always easy to know where to place a line. During this process, I like to hide these layers and check back at the photo periodically to see if the shapes are looking okay, because if it looks a little bit funny, then it probably means it's wrong. In which case, I'll redraw it until it starts to read better. Throughout these examples, you'll probably have noticed that the features are also grouped into these simple shapes. This is very important to note, because in order to use shapes effectively, you have to train your eyes and brain to forget about what you think you know about what something looks like. Try not to see an eye as an eye or a nose as a nose, but as patches of different values. This is why looking for photos with a strong sense of light is so important as I mentioned in our earlier lesson, so that you can more readily identify these shapes, so you'll know where to use them. This way of seeing previously familiar things suddenly in abstraction, is very difficult to get your head around at first. It takes constant practice and reaffirming your knowledge through it. Hopefully by now you have a better understanding of identifying and using shapes, because it really is imperative in my process and achieving the quality of life and believability in my portrait drawings, even if they're on the more stylized side. If so far this has been all new information for you and it's gone over your head a little bit, let me reassure you that in our class, we're going to be working from photo references, that hopefully make this job of drawing shapes so much easier than trying to draw from our imagination, and having to invent it all on our own. So don't panic, take your time. It might become clearer to you as we go further in our class once we really test out this concept in our drawings. To test your understanding of this concept before moving on with the rest of the class, I would encourage you to do some exercises in identifying and drawing shapes. If you have Photoshop, I would try drawing shapes over some photos onto a new layer like I have demonstrated in this class. If you don't have access to Photoshop or other digital drawing software, you can simply take a printout of some photos and draw directly over them. Or take some tracing paper so you can practice multiple times. Train your eyes to identify where you can turn certain areas into these shapes, and get a feel for drawing simple geometric shapes because this is a very valuable skill to have as an artist. If you're persistent and you start to see opportunities to turn complex things into shapes, and start to harness the power of using shapes, I promise you that that's really the secret to taking your drawing skills to the next level. It's a tool you'll be using, not just in portrait drawing, but in all aspects of drawing and painting. So I really hope I've stressed the importance of it enough in this lesson, because if anything else, this is the biggest takeaway that I hope you leave with in this class. But of course, there's still so much to come. By now you should have a great inspiring photo reference to work from, and the understanding of shapes to take with you to the blocking stage where all of this come into play. Let's get into it. 5. The Block-in: The block-in. The block-in is quite possibly the most important stage in the portrait drawing process. It's like a blueprint for your drawing that comes with a set of very helpful instructions. It should tell you how big your drawing is in relation to the surface you're working on. It should also tell you where to place the features, and it should hopefully tell you how to approach shading these features so that you know where to place your efforts. Drawing the human head is challenging, so is vital to have a plan going into it. In this lesson, I'm going to demonstrate several ways I like to approach my block-ins. I'll discuss what we should look for in a great block-in, and introduce tips on getting things placed with precision, like identifying landmarks to help place features in your drawing. By the end of the lesson, you should be well-equipped block-in your portrait drawing for success. In our previous lesson, I showed you how you can identify and draw shadow shapes from photo references. But how do you draw the underlying structure of the head? I believe if you learn how to break the photo reference down into simple and recognizable shapes, and familiarize yourself with certain landmarks that you can quickly indicate to easily map out the face, then you don't have to have a complete understanding of the planes of the face or the underlying anatomy before jumping into portrait drawing. After all, we all have to start somewhere, and I don't believe I have a full understanding of the anatomy myself, but I've trained myself over the years to know just enough what to look out for in order to draw the head effectively. With all that said, let's take a look at this photo and see how I've broken it down for approaching the block-in. I want to illustrate what goes on in my head when I'm looking at a photo reference, and analyzing how I may go about drawing it. When I look at a photo, I try not to get lost in the nuances of everything that I'm seeing. Instead, trying to pick out the major landmarks I can use to quickly indicate in my drawing, to help serve as anchor points that I can measure out from to fill in the rest of the face. The definition of what landmarks are on a face will probably differ from artist to artist, but for me, they are the following: the corners of the mouth, the line of the mouth, the underside of lip, the nostrils and the undersides of the nose, the ball of the nose, the ridge of the brow bone that meets the nose, the inner corners of the eyes, the eye sockets, cheekbones, and the hairline on the size of the ears. These landmarks are the easily recognizable parts across people's faces. By indicating them in our drawings early, they help us fill out the rest of the face. Notice that I'm trying to use straight lines as much as possible. That's because using straight lines help you skim through unnecessary complexities that you might see on the surface, and it helps you get the overall angle instead, or a summary of what's going on. Notice how her hair is a bit messy here, and therefore, it's a bit more difficult to see how to draw it in a simple way. This is what I don't recommend, which is to copy what you see line for line, picking up all the little flyaway hairs and the curves you see along here. Instead, see past the hairs to get the general shape of the hair underneath. This is a really big tip and something that has drastically improved the quality of my portrait drawings, which is to use straight lines whenever you can for a stronger and simpler statement. After all, a single straight line is easier for us to measure and draw, than a series of different lines going in many different directions. I find using straight lines over curved lines give me a better sense of the structure. I hope you can see how by placing these landmarks in, it becomes much easier to draw out the general shapes of the features from there. Over time, you will start to recognize these similar shapes, and develop them as shorthands to use for drawing features. These shorthand shapes obviously change depending on the individual characteristics of the person. Not to mention different expressions and viewing angles will vastly change what they look like. But notice that there are still underlying similarities. They all seem to have a similar structure, and that's because our skulls have similar structure despite the unique differences that make us look different from one another. The biggest mistake beginners tend to make when they go to draw from photo references, is to try and copy everything they see line for line. This results in creating lines that are not confident, unintentional, and wishy-washy, which do not lend to a sense of structure. I highly recommend if this concept of identifying landmarks and developing a shorthand for shapes is new to you, then try practicing your understanding by doing the same type of exercises that I did. Because having this in your tool kit will let you draw faster and believe it or not, more accurately and structurally than copying a photo line for line. Now that we have an understanding of identifying landmarks and drawing shorthand shapes for the features, let's take a look at some of my block-in drawings and see how I've approached them. I typically start in either two ways; by drawing a circle to represent the placement of the head on the page, or I try to get the silhouette of the overall head shape first. From there, I measure down to the chin to get the general length of the head. Then from the chin, I extended the line back up to the circle to get a general angle for the line of the cheek, and as well as the jaw line, then finding the general silhouette of the head. I draw horizontal lines mostly to help me play the eyes properly along the same plane, so that they don't feel wonky. Vertical lines are helpful for knowing where the middle of the face is, so I can apply proper foreshortening to the features on the side of the faces, receding in perspective. This is also known as mid-lines, and they help show the perspective that the face is in. After getting the general placement of the head down on the page, you will see that these landmarks are typically what I start the block-ins with. Then I find the features from the landmarks and fill out the rest of the face from there. Since some things are easier to play some others depending on the reference, block-in in one thing, then using that as a guide to fill out the rest like a puzzle is generally how I like to approach my block-ins. One thing gives you context for several other things around it, so my eyes are always bouncing around using the last thing I put down onto the paper as a guide to help me make my next moves. When working off of photo references, I am more of a fan of just seeing what's there in the photo, than organically putting the puzzle pieces together, starting with the easiest most identifiable measurements first, then building out from there. I don't have a strict set way of approaching them, and it oftentimes just depends on the photo, how I'm going to go about it. As you can see, I'm trying to get the overall summary of the major angles that I'm seeing. I'm not trying to nail down all the nuances I see on the surface right away, that can come later once I first establish the basic framework. Now that their major forms are roughly in place, I do go in to get the nuances of her face. It would have been much more difficult for me to try to get this more complex set of angles right off the bat, than just this one single line that represents the overall summary of this area. I read through the mouth since I felt I didn't quite capture the lightness of it in my initial pass. Don't be afraid to redraw things. We want to make our biggest mistakes during this block-in stage before we go into shading. Remember, nothing is set in stone at this point. At the end, what you see is a block-in drawing where I've planned out the features as well as some of the shadow shapes I saw from the photo. Keep in mind that part of the features also fall into the shadow shape category. While I'm drawing, I'm thinking ahead and making note of what I'm grouping as part of the shadow and therefore where I'm going to shade. If this doesn't excite you, don't worry, we're going to build up from this down the line. I promise that once you start shading, it will start to make more sense. Before you move on to the next lesson, I would like you to put some of these concepts and tips into practice, and get a feel for block-in in your portrait drawings. Find some photos or use the same ones that I work from and practice block-in in some heads. But first, get familiar with identifying landmarks, and practice indicating them quickly in your drawing, to help you draw the features more accurately. Practice indicating the features in as few lines as possible by using straight lines in place of many wishy-washy lines to get the overall impression of what you're seeing. Wait until you've gotten the simple statement of the head first, before moving on to getting all the nuances of the features and facial structure. But remember, you don't have to take them to a finish, and they certainly don't have to be fancy. A block-in is just for you, a special set of instructions for you to follow and not really anyone else. I would also encourage that you document your own block-in process, and observe how it may differ from mine to gain some insights into your own working mind and process. While you're at it, don't forget to take some photos. Being able to look back at this block-in stage, might be very interesting to compare later on with your finished drawing. Not to mention, it makes for a great post on Instagram when you share your progress. By now, I hope I've shared enough knowledge and tools with you to set you up for a great portrait drawing. But before we get into the fun part of building up the drawing, let's brush up on shading, over in the next lesson, I'll see you there. 6. Shading: Before we get into building up our drawing, I want to quickly touch on shading. What do I mean by shading? Shading is the act of applying a darker value to indicate where the form turns from the light. Since this part of the form is facing against the light, we shaded darker to indicate that is in shadow. For our purposes and what I want you to walk away from this class, will be taking the shadow shapes that we blocked out in the previous lesson to guide us where to shade. We're going to be concentrating more on laying down even patches of tone, rather than creating gradients of tone which might be a more familiar way to shape for some. We want to create as even patches of tone as possible, because in our drawings, we want our lighting statement to shine not necessarily the individual mark making. Don't worry, there will be room to play with mark making once we've firmly established a strong foundation for our drawing. When I shade, I'm not concerned about trying to create an appealing look with any special shading technique, because I don't believe I have one. That's actually great news for this class since it means that whatever makes my portrait drawing stand out, isn't due to something that might be hard to replicate and apply into your own work. If you do have a way of approaching shading that may be different from mine, I will encourage that you try the way that I demonstrated the class at least while we're still building up our drawing. I generally like to keep my lines going the same direction within each shadow patch that I'm working with to keep it as even as possible. Lines going in all different directions, will create too much noise and risk some areas getting unnecessarily darker than others by accident. Here's the biggest mistake that beginners tend to make when it comes to shading, which is to blend between their lights and their shadows. Blending is discouraged because we want to preserve the shapes we made, distinguishing between the light and the shadow as clear as possible for as long as possible. Blending between them, will blur these lines diluting that value statement we just made. Luckily for us though, we can avoid doing that because we've already blocked out the shadow shapes so we know exactly where to shade and concentrate our efforts. Now, let's talk about the blending stick because there are some things to know before using it. You can tilt it on the side to use a broad exposed edge of the steak to lay down a street of tone. You can also use the tip of the stick for a more controlled application to get into smaller areas. I usually use the blending stick when I wanted to quickly lay down an even layer of tone in a large area. I sometimes usable blending stick to smooth out some of my shading lines when they're a bit patchy and inconsistent looking, and therefore, distracting. The blending stick can be very helpful in decreasing contrast since it helps smooth out any distracting edges and variants and values. But I try to use this as sparingly as possible and try not to use it all over my drawing since it has a tendency to make things look very soft all over. I always have my pencil on hand to draw back out some of the lines that might have gotten a bit mushy with the blending stick. The biggest thing to keep in mind is again, do not use a blending stick to blend between the light and the shadow shapes. I know it's a bit contrary to its name, but blending between a dark value and a light value to create an even transition between them, it's actually somewhat tough to do with the blending stick and I often find I have better results and more control if I do it in pencil. Ultimately, how you shade, is a personal artistic choice but for the purpose of this class, I suggest keeping it clean and even to start. The main takeaway from this lesson, is to keep shading simple even an intentional, and use a light hand to begin with. We have some room to build up the darker values as we go. Next step, we're finally ready to start building up a portrait drawings. 7. Building Up the Drawing: Now we're finally ready to start building up our block in and develop our portrait drawing. But how should we proceed? After having done many portrait drawings to prepare for this class, I've identified and broken down my process into manageable steps that you can follow along with. But please note that while I'm going to present this lesson in steps, when I'm building on my drawings, I do tend to jump around from step to step. Take what you can from my distilled down process and build up your own process on top of it that best fits your own drawing rhythm. With that said, let's begin. Filling in the shadow shapes. This is where our shapes from the block in stage really come into play because I focus all my attention into these areas. If you were diligent in your block in and you blocked out your shadow shapes like this, then this part of the process should really be as easy as coloring in a coloring book. I'm just looking for the shapes I had drawn out in the block in stage and shading them in with a light tone to start to build up our lighting statement. When I'm shading, I'm trying to apply my strokes as evenly and consistently in pressure as possible as to not create any unnecessary value shifts within the shadow. There are certain areas in the block in where I wasn't quite sure whether to block in as part of the light shape or part of the shadow shape, like the cheeks or parts of the hair, for example, because the value shifts in these areas were more subtle in the photo. I like to leave shading tricky areas like this till later. I try to avoid shading in the light areas until all the shadow shapes that I blocked out have been shaded in. Once you start shading into the light areas and bring darker values into it, it gets confusing with the shadow shapes at this early stage when the values haven't been built up yet. I try to keep these areas as separate for as long as possible. Think back to our shape lesson again of this bare bones breakdown of values into light and shadow. When I'm shading, I'm trying best to keep this simple statement in mind of just what's in the light and what's in the shadow, trying to figure out what areas need to be shaded so I can get it as close to the statement as possible. Carving out the features. Once you've filled in your shadow shapes, your drawing should look something like this. With the initial layer of shading in place, it becomes easier for me to see where things need to go, so I feel more confident going in with darker marks to start bringing out the features. I [inaudible] with the carving stage because it really does feel like I'm carving out the features, as if I'm sculpting, if comparing the previous stage to roughly shaping out the major forms of a bust. Now I'm starting to narrow in and chip away slowly at the features and uncovering them from the shadow shapes. I concentrate my efforts on the main features first, especially the eyes since that's often the focal point of a portrait. I'm being more careful with the marks I'm making because I'm going in a bit darker now and I want to start getting the nuances of the features down early. It's important to remember not to go too dark at this point because we still want to leave some room to build up our values and very dark values too early on in this stage might throw off the value relationships. We want to build up to our darkness values gradually. You might be wondering, as you're watching me draw this portrait, that this all seems painfully slow, that's because it is. Every mark I make, I'm taking a pause and checking to see if it feels right. I want to make sure I'm setting the drawing up for success since how I feel about how the drawing is going is very crucial to its outcome. I need to feel like it's going well and that it's going in the right direction and developing the drawing further really helps me with that. Do take the time to carefully draw things out right the first time, like getting the right shape for the nostrils and getting the right distance of the eyelids. The little nuances of the features of the subject at hand, I feel like it really makes a difference on the overall portrait, and so it's worth getting it right earlier than later. I want to know when I go into further build of the values that I'll be working off of a good foundation. Once I feel more confident in the drawing, I start to pick out some lines to help strengthen the sense of forms and I clean up my shapes as I go by drawing around them so that they look more purposeful and designed. Building up the values to strengthen the lighting statement. With the features starting to feel more defined and drawn in a way that's pleasing to my eyes, I feel confident in going further to develop the value range in the portrait and deepen some of the shadow shapes for a more dynamic drawing. As I mentioned before, we're putting most of the effort in the shadow shapes, so this is really just about layering on top of the shading we've already done in the first part of the building up process. I slowly bring the forms out of the features, as well, by putting in these darker values. Notice how I've hardly done any work in the light areas. That's because most of the visual information is in the shadow areas, not in the light. Though, when I do start to work into the light shape, I try to have a really light hand with it so that I don't confuse these areas with the shadow shape. As you all recall from our shape lesson, remember how closely John Singer Sargent kept his values in the light. We have to do the same in our drawing for each area to read as light and shadow. Any mark we put down in the light area that we blocked out has to be lighter than the shadow area. My eyes are constantly jumping around the drawing and back to the photo reference, seeing where I can improve the drawing, whether it is getting better likeness or making cleaner and more geometric shadow shapes out of the shading that I've done. I'm shading, it will become more apparent to me If I shouldn't have grouped something into the shadow shape, or vice versa into the light shape. I'll redesign some of the shapes as I go along, whether darkening and area or erasing and lifting the value back out. At this point, I'm trying to define the cheeks more so that the face feels more three-dimensional. You can see here that I'm pushing this part of the cheek into the shadow shaped by darkening it more because it didn't feel quite dark enough. I'm trying to find the best and most appealing way to redraw this shape around here, since I feel this area is a bit ambiguous and busy when looking at the negative shape. I decided to combine the shadow shapes from this area for a simpler statement. Notice how I go over the entire area evenly with the shading to blend the shapes together and help make that area feel more cohesive. It's important to note that you can remain flexible and fixed things as you go. If an area you grouped as a part of the shadow feels too heavy and dark, maybe it looks better in the light shape and so it needs to be lightened up or maybe even erased completely. You don't have to have the shapes drawn up perfectly to start, I'm always redesigning my shapes as I go along in the drawing. I'm starting to pay more attention to the hair of this point. Then I realized that the lower area of her hair was feeling too convoluted with all the lines going in different directions and the wide ranging values that were there. What happened is that I got lost in the nuances of the hair there, trying to pick out each individual strand of hair sticking out, instead of seeing the overall big shape of the hair. I took the blending stick and blurred out the lines to form a bigger, simpler shape. I like to work on the hair later on in the process and focus my efforts on the face first, since hair is more of a secondary form that sits on top of the underlying structure of the head. Also, I just find the hair a bit difficult to approach sometimes, especially when I don't immediately recognize the shapes within them. I like to let the drawing unfold first so that I can design the shapes as I go along. When I'm building up the values in the picture and strengthening the value statement that we made with the shadow shapes, I'd like to ask myself, are there any distracting white values within the shadows? If so, consider knocking it down with the blending stick or shading over top of it. Always be suspicious of anything in the portrait that stands out and calls her too much attention, and consider if going back to the simple shapes is ultimately a better statement overall, and something that reads as messy and confusing. Prioritize a read of the big simple shapes first, then we can bring out the details over top more easily. Finalizing the drawing. This is the stage or I feel confident enough in the direction the portrait is going to really start to commit to what I have down on the page. Now that we've built up our values and our lighting statement enough, I'm switching my brain to think more in terms of design and drawing and lines that solidify the portrait and create an appealing visual roadmap for the focal point. I find that by this point, I'm looking less at the photo reference and more working off of what I have down on the page to figure out my next steps. You'll notice that I'm jumping from one point to another all around the portrait, and that's because I'm constantly stepping back and trying to look at the overall picture when I'm making these more final marks and the drawing. Whenever I make a mark, it impacts the look of the entire image and I feel the need to balance out that previous mark in some way. Every mark you make on the page is visual weight, and so there needs to be some consideration of how it affects the overall composition of the drawing. For example, I wanted the hair on the right side to feel really bright, so I laid down a darker value for the background so that it has something to contrast against. Notice how as soon as I started putting a lot of marks in this corner, my instinct is to hop to the opposite corner of the picture or to balance out the visual way that I've just created. It's important to note then how every mark you make gives you more context for drawing in terms of what to do and what not to do. When you feel stuck, just keep moving forward and draw a comes to mind and go from there. Even if it ends up being a mistake that you have to erase out, it will still help inform your next moves. Something I was drawn to the photo initially was the stray hair strands that have so much movement in them, and I definitely wanted to user rhythms to draw attention back to the face. Something I really like to do at this stage is to see the drawing abstractly to extract design elements from the drawing itself. For example, I was seeing this dark crescent like shape forming here and it was helping balanced out the big shadow shape on the other side. Notice also the shape by the hair here that it's also similar. I strengthen the shape of it so that it would be more recognizable, not by any sense of real logic, but because I liked it as a design element. Once I strengthen that shape, I really felt that these three shapes frame the face very nicely. Seeing similar shapes like this being repeated in other parts of the picture makes it design feel more cohesive and intentional. It's easier and feels more natural to take what's already down on the paper instead of trying to impose some arbitrary design element into the picture after the fact. When I'm close to the end of the portrait drawing, I like to take one last look at the features to make sure I'm getting the impression that I want with them. The nature of this photo reference and also the model's face have a very angelic like a vibe to it. Instead of leaving her facial expression more neutral as it is in the photo, I decided to give her a bit of a smile, so I turn up the corners of her mouth slightly so that her expression was less vague and more intentional. Is such a tiny little thing, but I feel like it makes a huge difference in the overall look of the picture. Ultimately, you get to decide what you put in the picture. Feel free to take certain artistic liberties like this, because there's no rule that says we have to copy the photo as we see it. As artists, we have the power and the permission to manipulate certain elements to fit our desired statement. By this point in the process, we should have a drawing that looks finished. But what makes a drawing appear finished? I've made a little checklist you can go through to see if your drawing is getting close. While I go through this checklist, let's take a look at this portrait from start to finish to see how it all comes together. Do the features read? Are the features feeling mushy and flat on the face? If so, chances are you probably still need to build up your darker values so that they feel like they have a sense of form. While my features start to feel a little bit mushy and lost, I like to revert back to drawing mode and just draw them back out, though being light handed with astronaut create unnecessary outlines. Is the eye direction clear? This sounds simple enough, but I find that the execution of the eyes can really make or break the porsche drawing. Just the tiniest bit of discrepancy in how the iris is sitting inside the eye and how much the lid is covering up the iris makes a huge difference on how we perceive the eye direction and the expression of the eyes. Constantly cross-referencing with your photo reference to see if the intention of the eyes is translating to your drawing really helps make a big difference. Arr there distracting light values inside the shadows? Make sure to scan the drawing for any light values in the shadow shape that are distracting, because it may throw off the read of it. A quick go over with the blending sticks should not these areas down so they don't draw too much attention, and appealing sense of rhythm. Do the rhythms and the drawing lead back to the eyes? Rhythms is a bit of an abstract concept and so it's been difficult for me to try and explain it. But I like to check if the rhythms and the picture that's created by the dry elements are composed in a way that ultimately leads to the focal point in the picture. Even in people's drawings that are very loose, if the rhythms and the drawing are successful in bringing attention to the focal point and the focal point has enough of a payoff or the viewer, then even a loose drawing or painting feels finished. The further I go in my own art journey, I think a thoughtfully designed portrait looks more finished and impactful than a portrait that's just been rendered from top to bottom. This is just a small list of things, I check to see if my drawing feel is done. Notice I said feel because this is a very subjective matter and finished means something very different to each artist. But I think it's a good place to start. From the start of this class, my aim was to set you up with the knowledge and the tools to be able to take your photo reference and build up a solid portrait drawing from scratch. But what if we could go further from here? In the next lesson, I'll introduce some concepts that are involved in what I think makes a drawing a great one, to hopefully show you how to take your drawing to the next level. 8. Technique: Losing Unnecessary Lines: Losing unnecessary lines. This technique is where I try to soften or even lose completely any lines I feel unnecessary in the picture for a cleaner statement overall. This is because outlines are not how real life is presented. We needed them earlier in the drawing process to know where things go in our drawing but now we can afford to lose some since they can throw off the quality of realism that we want to achieve with our lighting statement. Let's take a look at some examples. I look for lines or any hard edges of my drawing that stick out. I become very suspicious of them and think if the drawing could stand on its own without them. Here is often a great place to look for these. As I feel we have a tendency to want to indicate each strand of hair as separate outlines, so it often ends up looking a little bit too busy and overstated. What I like to do in this case is take the blending stick and knock down some of the lines so that it becomes more of a patch of value than a bunch of distinct lines. I find it much easier and frankly more appealing to treat it very graphically like this, where I treat it as one big shape and lose as much of the detail inside of it. Treating it this simply, it not only draws your attention to the face, but also offers a textural compliment to the overall picture because the face likely was treated with more fine details. Our eyes find this difference and texture interesting to look at. I often think that a drawing looks better if we understate it than overstated, spilling everything out for the audience instead of letting them fill in the blanks on their own. Here's another example where I decided going against over complicating the hair and went for a more graphic solution. As you can see when I first approached the hair, I was drawing a lot of lines trying to indicate what I thought I saw in the nuances of her hair in the photo reference. But I quickly realized that that wasn't necessary and all I really needed was the general shape of the hair and to convey that it is a darker value than the rest of the picture. I took the blending stick and I softened up all the lines while also covering the entire hair shape in a darker value. I instantly liked the drawing more once I did that. Outlines are inherently distracting because they are things that our eyes can latch onto. If you can find places to get rid of any redundant outlines, try it out. See how that looks to you when you take a step back from the drawing. Since lines are pretty easy to draw back in, I think it's worth a try to see if you can lose some to end up with a more simple and more powerful statement. 9. Technique: Spilled Light: This is a technique where I imagine that the light hitting the part of the face is so bright that it's bouncing off and spilling out into the atmosphere, creating an almost misty look in the drawing. Imagine it like this. The light is coming into your eyes as a viewer and it's so bright that you can't make out all of the details very clearly. It's like when you go to take a photo and there's so much light coming in through the lens. This results in the photo being overexposed and this is the effect that I'm trying to create in my drawing with this technique. Let's take a look at how I use this technique in this drawing. Notice how the top right side of her hair is blown out in the photo and you can't make out any details in it. The light bouncing off that part of the hair was probably really bright and so it resulted in an overexposed look in the photo. Well, I wanted to push that look in my drawings so that you can really feel that sense of bright light bouncing off from her hair. I took my kneadable eraser and dabbed it out gradually from her hair into the dark side of the background. Lifting the graphite backup and breaking up the hard edge that had been separating the two areas before. As I was lifting some of the graphite for the light trail, I simultaneously darken some of the surrounding area since I really wanted the light to pop again something. But being careful as to not create any hard outlines and to keep the light looking very soft. I replicated this effect all over her hair on the right side to really make it feel very illuminated. This soft bleeding of light into dark areas like this, I feel lens a really nice textural contrast to some of the harder lines within the portrait and it creates a sense of movement and energy that I find really engaging as if there really is light bouncing off the page. To try out this technique in your drawing, find areas where there's a light shape, touching a shadow shape, especially near where the focal point should be. Remember, it won't feel like light if there's no dark value to contrast against it. Make sure it's an area where a light shape meets a shadow shape. Try blurring the outline that separates these areas by erasing part of the line, gradually by gentle dabbing of the kneadable eraser, then extending it outward further into the shadow area to create this look of spilled light. The softness you just created offers a really nice textural difference against the hard edges around it, which keeps it really interesting for the viewer. If you have built up your values enough during the drawing process, this is a super simple technique that can make it look as if there's a real sense of light in your drawing. 10. Technique: Atmospheric Shadows: Atmospheric shadows. I often use this technique to add a sense of interest into the shadows. Sometimes, an area of shadow will end up getting too dark during the shading process, and dark values have a tendency to fatten things out on the page if not used sparingly. I'll look for these areas where I might have gone too much too dark, and see if dabbing my kneadable eraser and gradually lifting up some of the graphite, will help make the area feel lighter and more pleasing to the eye. Things that are farther away from us are less discernible for us to see, especially in the shadows. By making the shadows look not quite as dark, it's mimicking the appearance of atmosphere in the drawing, which is a really interesting effect since you're treating the face as if it's like a landscape, as if the drawing is emerging from a mist. The times that I use this technique the most, often seem to be with very dark hair, such as black hair. There's a tendency to think, oh, black hair is black, so it should be fairly dark, and use a lot of pressure on the pencil to get very dark patches. That's precisely what I did with this drawing. In the photo, the hair looks pretty evenly dark. That's how I treated it initially, but then I realized it was really fattening out the shape of her hair. I decided to lift up some of the graphite in this area to make it look as if it's affected by the atmosphere, which I think made it look much more dimensional. This also made it so that the darkest dark values were left in the face, which I think helped bring the focus to it in contrast. How can you find ways to use this technique in your portrait drawing? Look for large patches of dark value that feel a little bit too heavy. Ask yourself, does this area need to be quite this dark, or is it taking away from the drawing? It doesn't hurt too much to try and lift some of the value back up with your kneadable eraser, and see how that feels to you, since it's pretty easy to darken something back if it doesn't feel right. These heavy dark patches can be boring for our eyes, since it doesn't leave much room to move around. It ends up giving off a flat and dead appearance on the page. But this technique of lifting some of the value from these overly dark patches, allows us to see life in the shadows and moved her eyes through the shadow passages. I think, it's a really neat effect that both increases interest, while highlighting the focal point of the portrait. It reminds me to reserve the darkest dark values for a smaller and more important areas, and that even though I might think something looks really dark in the photo, it doesn't actually have to be treated that way in the drawing. 11. Student Project & Closing Thoughts: I hope, by the end of this class, you'll feel well equipped to test out some of these concepts and techniques and go level of your portrait drawings. Because, now it's time for you to work on your student project. I would like to see you do a finished portrait drawing either from one of the photos I used in my demonstrations or one of your choosing. You can find a link to it in the Project and Resources tab. Be sure to check it out for some other resources, like book recommendations and a Pinterest board of great portrait drawings from other artists or anything else I find that might be useful for the students taking this class. But before you tackle this project, don't forget to practice drawing shadow shapes and warm up your drawing hand by doing some block ends to set your drawing up for success. Make sure you go through all the steps covered throughout the lessons so that by the end you have a drawing that feels finished. Upload your drawing along with the photo reference you used to the project gallery, so I as well as other students of this class can take a look and see how everyone's tackling the same subject of portrait drawing. I'm pretty confident, I'll be able to see if you've applied some of the knowledge I've passed on in this class. I'm really curious to see what you can do. If you like your results, show it off on social media. Don't forget to share the work in progress shots too. We all love to see how a drawing develops over time. Before I go, I want to leave you with some words of encouragement to take with you. Portrait drawing is hard. It requires not just knowledge, but also a lot of mileage and practice and a ton of bad drawings to get to some good ones. Depending on your experience level, it might take you a while to see some results. All the honest, I don't even like every drawing that I did in preparation for this class. Please don't get discouraged by one or two bad drawings. Don't be impatient with yourself. It's okay if you don't grasp these concepts right away, let us sit and give a time. But meanwhile, keep learning, keep practicing, keep being inspired by people's faces, and keep applying some of these lessons to your process, even if it doesn't make sense to you, right at this moment, you might still take away something that can help you. Eventually you'll develop a process and a way of seeing that makes sense to you. That maybe one day you can pass on to someone else. At the very end of this class, as a bonus, I'm going to leave some raw real-time footage of a portrait drawing that I did from start to finish. Only cutting away bits where I had to cough or stop recording for a moment. I hope it's insightful for you to see all the pauses I take before making my marks. All the jumping around that I do from section to section in real time. The times I feel confident and sure my decisions versus all the erasing and redrawing that happens. I hope it will inform you. I hope you find it valuable, and I hope it helps build your confidence up to start drawing. If you found this class helpful and you've been jiving with my teaching style so far, then I highly encourage you to follow me on here because I'm planning to release more classes soon so you can catch it as soon as it goes live. Meanwhile, you can follow me on Instagram to see what I'm up to day today or over on YouTube where you can catch a ton more videos where I share my process and journey as an artist. Thank you so much for taking this class and I hope to see you all again soon. Take care. 12. Portrait Drawing Start to Finish [RAW Footage]: .