Techniques and Tips

Step-by-Step Demonstration: How to Draw a Portrait

Step-by-Step Demonstration: How to Draw a Portrait

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G’day mates! While we’ve introduced to you artists and techniques from all over the U.S., it’s always a thrill to go international and feature exciting things going on in the art world in Europe, China, and today, Australia. If you haven’t heard of it yet, allow me to introduce you to a hugely popular TV/DVD series known as Colour In Your Life, produced by Graeme Stevenson.

Graeme brings in artists such as David Wells (featured in Pastel Journal and Magazine). Watch a free preview of Alvaro Castagnet, Joseph Zbukvic and Herman Pekel–“the three amigos”–painting a cityscape in watercolor together in this clip from Colour In Your Life.

And because I’m such a fan of David Wells also (and I know many of you are, too!), I’ve included a portrait drawing demonstration he shared with Magazine (April 2009), when his work was featured on the unforgettable cover.

Key to medium manufacturers:
FCP=Faber-Castell Pitt

First I make preliminary sketches in graphite pencil on paper. Sketches like this one help me understand the subject’s face and temperament. Once I start with pastels and colored pencils, I work left to right, because I like to rest my hand on the paper.

On Art Spectrum Colourfix coated pastel paper (blue shade), I drew an outline in graphite, with all the excess rubbed off with a kneadable eraser. To block in the darks and midtones in this step, I used raw sienna and yellow ochre pastels (R).

Using a very pale shade of raw umber (R) and white (S) pastels, I then layered from darkest to lightest, right over the top. (I do pastels alla prima, in one layer.)

Next I blended the pigments with my finger. In general, my procedure is to build up the surface by layering from dark to light. I start off with more opaque colors and then work toward transparent colors. The highlights I add at the very end.

For the hand I used white, yellow ochre and burnt sienna pastels (R), as well as burnt umber colored pencil (FC). For the finger- nails, I used the exact same pastel and colored pencils, only mixed differently to get a different effect.

To depict the parasol, I chose pastels and pastel pencils in red and burnt sienna. I also used burnt umber with a few touches of black, and yellow ochre. The white wrap is the same gray-green pastel (FC) I used on the ring. For the hair (I draw every single one!), I used black, burnt umber, raw umber, raw sienna, yellow ochre and white pastels (R).

Then I “ghosted” in the features with burnt umber, black and white colored pencils (FC). Throughout my process, I pick up pastels, pastel pencils and colored pencils at different stages, in order to make the image convincing and the surface complex.

Next I blocked in the eyebrows with burnt umber, yellow ochre and white pastels (R). The eyes are blocked in here as well (the paper is blue). For the lips I chose raw sienna pastel pencil (FCP) and red and white colored pencils (FC). The result looks purple because of the blue surface color of the paper.

Here the left eye is 95-percent finished. I added the same blue pastel (FC) I used for the ring and the necklace, then worked it over with gray-green pastel and black and white colored pencils (FC). I added white pastel (S) and a hint of blue into the whites of the eye.

At this stage, I built up the lips with raw sienna pastel pencil (FCP). I also used red and white colored pencils (FC).

To finish the lips, I used burnt sienna, yellow ochre and white pastels (R), and a peach-yellow-pink pastel (S), plus colored pencils (FC). And now I present JessieCat (below; pastel and colored pencil, 19.75×27.5).

Learn more about David Wells and his art at

Discover the “Colour In Your Life” series with North Light Shop.

Watch the video: PAINTING A PORTRAIT in Oils - My favourite Techniques (August 2022).