Define ‘Fine Art’ – it’s a tough one, isn’t it? Today though, I’m going to take you through the process of creating my fine art pieces and the steps I go through for pencil portraits – my expertise. Everyone has different skills, methods and ideas for each material, but Derwent Graphic pencils are my favourite.
Step 1- The Essentials
The first step would be to get yourself a ‘basic survival set’ for drawing and knowing what works for you. The way of finding your own style starts with finding materials and techniques that work for, and express, you.
A good pad is a solid starting point though and I would highly recommend the Derwent A3 Sketch Pad which contains 165gsm paper. Not only is it beautifully textured, the quality withstands a lot of alterations. You will also need a set of pencils; my favourite to use are Derwent Graphic, particularly in the range 9B-H, as they provide an excellent choice of shades. Finally, choose a quality sharpener and eraser.
For me, Derwent Battery Operated Eraser (shown above) is an absolute godsend and allows me the versatility and exact point to remove mistakes, create texture and have various shades.
Step 2- The Outline
So, once you’ve chosen your subject, you’re ready to start with your outline. This is one of the most important steps and a really good area to practise: look at an object and break it into easy shapes that you can then build your outline from. You can do this anywhere – the studio, the kitchen table, the office, waiting in traffic. Just look at the object you want to sketch and see how it could be broken into smaller chunks – at this .
As I’m usually working with a face, I think in circles. There are loads of videos on YouTube that can help to show you how a face should be proportioned or methods to help with the outline, all dependent on angle. I particularly like the ‘Loomis method’ which can be adapted to any angle – all about shapes – particularly circles. This stage could take a long time and practice is key, keep on trying it across all angles before you get it right.
Lorien’s Top Tip: Art is never perfect, so try not to stress… but if you’re really desperate to move on see how you go with tracing the basic outline to give you a rough marking for the face shape and where the eyes, nose and mouth are positioned.
Step 3- The Eyes
If the ‘eyes are the window to the soul’, then they can make or break a piece. It’s always where I like to start!
Many people would suggest starting in the top left corner because that’s the best way to avoid smudging, but I feel if you can get the eyes right from the start then your picture is almost done!
Mark out any highlights in the centre of the eye, the pupil and the iris to add a real sense of naturalism to the drawing. Think about the source of your light too – this can often change the shade of certain areas of the eyes and bring out other details!
Eyelashes can be tricky because they are curved but its key to remember an eyelash is thicker at the base and very fine at the tip. You don’t have to add all the detail straight away.
Lorien’s Top Tip: Start off light so if you need to rub anything out you can, and only when you’re happy (usually half way through the whole drawing) should you go back in with the darker shades.
Step 4- Fill Out The Face
This stage is all about shading. You want to add depth and dimensions to your image by filling out the rest of the face.
There are lots of methods to shading, but the most popular is usually referred to as ‘hatching’. This means to draw lots of parallel lines next to each other which make the area look darker. The closer the lines, the darker the appearance. Cross-hatching is where a second layer of lines are added on top, in the opposite direction, to create the illusion of darker tones.
Personally, I like smudging my graphite but it does have many downsides. It is said that the oils in your skin can affect the pH balance of the paper and leave unwanted marks. It is also argued that ‘smudging’ can make the picture look flat. As I said before though, there is no right or wrongs – if it works for you, do it!
As with ‘hatching’, smudging takes a long time to master but it can also offer smoothness and highlights that are hard to obtain purely with hatching. It is more about finding the right method for the area you are working on. For example, I would never smudge the eye as that is an area that requires refined detail. However, I may smudge the edge between a highlight and a patch of shading. I would also use a small eraser to pull out highlighted areas, and a fine tip eraser to exaggerate really small areas of highlight, such as the glint in the eye or the ridge on the top of the lip.
Step 5- The Detail
Once the base levels of shading are added then some details can be added. The shading can be deepened and the lines made sharper. Colour can also be added too.
Lorien’s Top Tip: Never doubt the best partners for any artist – time and distance. Both are great aids if you ever feel something is not quite right. Taking a few days away and coming back can really help you process what is not sitting right with you, as can stepping away from the image and looking at it from a distance.
Step 6- Texture
Once you’ve completed all the above, it’s time to start thinking about texture – this is what adds depth to your image.
This is usually hair and clothing but can be external items like wood, gravel or anything in between. When adding texture, you’re trying to add difference between each item in your finished piece and make the viewer ‘feel’ your image. Make them feel the smoothness of each stone, the roughness of any wood, the softness in hair.
Before you begin, make sure your pencil is sharp!
The thickness, shade and weight of the lines can all be manipulated by how sharp the pencil is, the grade of the pencil and how much pressure you apply. Where there is a highlight you should apply less pressure, with a lower graded pencil and a very fine point. Some areas, however, do benefit from a slightly blunter tip to create thicker lines, such as the neck piece worn by the lady in the model.
While this is fine art, it is important to have detail, but it is also important to have an idea of how your work will be viewed. A1 pieces are unlikely to be viewed from a really close perspective whilst an A5 is likely to be viewed with a fine eye.
With that in mind, it is important to try and view your picture from the perspective it is likely to be viewed by any people visiting an exhibition.
Created by Lorien Tear – you can discover more about Lorien and her work here.