Top Tips Series 1: Graham Bradshaw – Feb 2013

Over the coming weeks, photorealistic pencil artist Graham Bradshaw will be bringing you some top tips for drawing! Today Graham gives us his tips on the best paper to use and some information on perspective.

Choosing the right paper:

One of the questions I get asked the most is “What type of paper do you use?” This is in fact a very good question because using the right paper is crucial depending on the type of drawing you want to achieve. Different papers can vary a lot in roughness, smoothness & some types take graphite better than others. If you choose a paper which doesn’t like soaking up graphite this could result in a very poor drawing. Rough paper will give you a very broken up look to your drawing making fine hair lines difficult to draw & unwanted white dots appearing everywhere. A smooth paper will give a you a much more realistic look as hair & fine details will appear much more refined making detailing easier. Personally I prefer to use Winsor & Newton Extra Smooth Bristol Board but I know a lot of my artist friends use Canson Bristol Boards; it really does depend on the style of drawing you’d like to achieve. Also make sure you buy a paper which is acid free as this will insure your master piece will withstand the test of time; the last thing you want is for your paper to turn yellow after 12 months & if you’ve been commissioned your customer may also be a little unhappy.


So you’ve now got your paper & subject of choice it’s now time to plan how you’re going to apply your subject to paper. The key to a good portrait is all in the planning; you’ll need to find yourself a good starting point. I’ve used many methods in the past but with my latest piece of Charlene Soraia I decided to use gridding for the first time. I’ve now found gridding to be amazingly helpful when drawing not only on a small scale but also on a massive scale. By gridding you’re breaking down the size of area so that you only need to concentrate on drawing a small section at a time. This also helps with finding the correct positioning of the subject before you begin applying detail. Some artists will draw one box at a time with intense detail then move on to the next, a bit like a jigsaw puzzle but that’s not how I do things. What I do is get the grid down then draw the entire outline very lightly. Once you know that everything is positioned correctly you can then forget about the grid & begin to detail & render; personally my starting point is always the eyes. There are many ways to work out the math in gridding but here I’ll explain how I work it out; applying grids helps to transform a small photograph into a huge pencil drawing whilst keeping everything in perspective.

Begin by finding the centre of the reference & the paper you’re drawing on then draw vertically & horizontal lines (Fig 1). When lining the grid on the paper you’ll be drawing on make sure to use a hard pencil & do this very VERY lightly; you’ll need to make these lines barely visible because they will need removing with a rubber as you progress. The lines on the reference photo can be made using a pen. I find it’s best to have two references, one gridded & one without.



Find the centre of each vertical box & do the same again (Fig 2)



Then horizontally (Fig3)



Keep going until you have the number of boxes you feel comfortable with, number the grid & you should end up with something similar to this (Fig4).



So now that you have a plan it’s now time to begin drawing your outline. Always use a hard pencil for outlining, personally I use a 5H very lightly so it’s easy to correct if needed. Once your outline is complete you can then rub out the grid. Or you could keep parts of the grid for certain areas to be drawn later; for example to help you with hair.




Try this out for yourself and see how you get along. I’ll have more top tips in the next few weeks.

Next tip: Rendering…