Drawing vs. Painting a Portrait

From: Susan
Sent: Sunday, September 24, 2017 2:01 PM
To: Bill Wise
Subject: Hi and help!

 I started a portrait pic for my friends who are getting married… I drew it out with pencil on watercolor paper and then decided to shade and finish it and not paint it in watercolor.  Is that so horrible/dumb?  I’m too far along to stop! ?

Dear Susan,

No, not at all. Think of this drawing as monochrome watercolor (WC). When you are adding more and more graphite, getting more value in places, think of that as adding layers of wc! Can I assume it is on normal WC paper right now? This may be more difficult to use pencil because of the texture, but not impossible. When you are done and happy with the values of the drawing you might try it again in wc.

You will be amazed what you will have learned having had this practice run at an image. I’ll do a practice drawing/painting with charcoal. You can blend and soften edges with charcoal like you can with wc.

Depending how far along you are, you might do this on toned paper (I like gray) and then you have a mid tone to start with and you can go darker and can add white as highlights. (both graphite and charcoal).  When you use white paper you can only go darker, which is OK.

What surface is your paper?  Any texture?

Decide early on whether you will blend/smudge or use hash marks. Blending can make perfect soft tones and easy to lift with Bostik Blu Tack [the best kneaded eraser] on smooth paper. Careful to not let your palm smudge it. You might start on the left side. And use some paper to protect the right. Hash marks can look cleaner and sharper.

One last thing, on the same type of paper, whatever it is, do a value scale with blocks. First is the white or gray of the paper. Then make blocks getting darker (and lighter). See how dark (and light) you can get with your pencils. This will show you the range you will work with. You might use your computer to make a posterized image. Then you have a reference and a value scale to use. This will give you confidence when you go dark. Find the lightest light and the darkest dark and use your scale to decide on the rest.

Ok, one more thing. Don’t start any shading until your drawing is perfect (not trying to scare you just stressing for effect)!!!! You can’t paint/draw yourself out of a bad drawing.  Way easy to change it when it is very light!!!

Now Good luck and have fun….


Last updated Dec 21, removed Blu Tack link on Amazon Apr ’18, changed some grammar and added link to Amazon