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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Behind the Scene: Preliminary Sketches

Lyndon B. Johnson Study, graphite, approx 8x10", 2010 (Click to Enlarge)
As you've read in past posts, I have been blessed with a slew of portrait commissions from one patron, five to be exact. All are of Democrat Presidents past and present. I thought you may enjoy seeing snippets of how I work to achieve a preliminary sketch for a client. In this case, reference photos were needed to begin. Once I select a reference for the sketch I create a contour line drawing lightly on the paper and spray fix it to the surface. You can see the contour lines in the first image if you click on the picture above.
I then use a 6B graphite stick to lightly tone the entire portrait area, evenly blending all the graphite with a chamois. I then use various erasers to remove highlights, namely a gum eraser.
The next step is to add the darker values in the facial features and shadow areas, as seen in the 2nd image above. Lastly, I refine the sketch in its entirety, going back and forth with erasures and shading as needed. I find that much of my time is saved by toning the paper first. Robert Barrett's book Life Drawing is an excellent resource for advice regarding rapid accurate rendering of the figure and was a great learning tool for me. Click here to see his book and art.

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