Michael Britton

Portrait Drawing Lessons - Learn to draw portraits

Portrait Drawing Lessons:
Drawing Children: The Tondo
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When I first introduced you to placing the primary landmarks in Mastering Portrait Drawing: the frontal pose workshop you were taught to employ a single line for the brow ridge and a single, vertical arcing line for the facial angle. Now that you are experienced a more sophisticated approach can be had.

The browridge is placed with two lines each indicative of the Superciliary Arches that protude slightly forward on the Supra Orbital Eminences. This is a more precise landmark but requires a knowledge of facial anatomy.

The small, vertically angled line at the base of the nose and facial angle is the fixed landmark for the center of the nose. Anatomically it is the Alar Separator. The body of the nose is comprised of the wings (Nairs) and two pieces of cartilege (Alar) that form the tip of the nose. The Alar Separator can be seen on many people as a faint vertical, linear depression.

With my landmarks fixed in place the primary darks are uniformly blocked in using the side of a small piece of 4B black conte. It is important that you establish the initial dark pattern as one cohesive tone.

Good professional practice is to work from the general to the specific.

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I stumped down the blocked-in conte with my fingers, stepped back for a look and immediately reached for a defibrillator. Stumping down to this depth of tone is not for the faint-hearted and is definitely not recommended for the beginner.

But for the experienced and trained artist this excessively dark tone is the express route to obtaining the full stretch of light to dark. The rule of drawing children is that they must be dispatched expeditiously.

What this means, though, is that you do not proceed at a maniacal full pelt, but that each step is thoughtfully considered before acting.

The subtractive process begins: using a kneaded eraser that I pulled into a #6 filbert brush shape (Shape your kneaded eraser to roughly the shape and size of the brush picture here) I literally painted out the facial forms working from light to dark.

The resulting ghostly image is similar to what an underpainting in oil or watercolor would look like. In oil the underpainting would traditionally be raw umber and in watercolor cobalt blue is the practice for achieving a realistic flesh tone.

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From the face I paint out the light masses of the hair. I have always found it both curious, and somewhat tragic in a reminiscent sort of way, that people will comb and fuss with their children’s hair when preparing to sit for a photograph or even a portrait session. Coiffed and tidy hair in children tend to distract from their active and playful (and tempestuous throwing of inconvenient tantrums) personalities.

My treatment of hair in drawing children is a preference for rhythmically interesting masses of dishevelment. Within reason, of course. There is a limited market for commissions of feral tykes.


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