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Introduction to drawing & the human Figure (or “Step One”) –

Text Box: To help build fundamental hand control. 
Awareness of the concepts of line, tone, light, shading, composition, 
Find your basic drawing skills & develop understanding of primary objectives, which relate to drawing. 
Improve your knowledge & abilities to ease your work by basing it on a photograph.
As overwhelming as this may sound, I can help make it somewhat uncomplicated!







Drawing, or any Art form really, begins with pleasure and satisfaction. 

No matter what the results – Did you enjoy doing it?! 


This is what counts.  It has to be important to YOU.


Everything improves with practice, attempts, experience and experiments.

Every level can be fun as long you see it that way. 

Do not exasperate yourself with dissatisfaction. 


Humility is essential.  For a true Artist actual perfection is impossible, there is always some perhaps minor flaw or oversight.  But you can get darn close.

If you think anything is absolutely perfect you are not being humble.  If you are not being humble you are inviting an arrogant breakdown earning little respect from fellow artists and eventually the general public.

The satisfaction is sufficient.  But there should also be some pieces that end up in the wastebasket.


By the by, Art does take the virtues of patience and fortitude.


Start by selecting a color photo of the subject (animal; domestic human or pet) of your choice.  Although wild can be rather entertaining as well…

Casual photos can show more “life” if that is what you want to achieve.  It is a personal preference.


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This is a simple “testing the digital camera” self-portrait photo.  It seemed best not to use any of the others as an experimental subject for this procedural demo.

Best to inflict upon yourself.


Make a black & white printed copy enlarged to the desired size of your piece, secure to the back with a softly adhering acid free tape.  Using light from behind (light board or window), SOFTLY trace the general outlines and main location of features and other important points. 

Here the graphite pencil did not photograph well.  So, the main lines of the eyes, glasses and mouth were touched with Sepia to help give an idea of the placement of the subject on the paper making it easier to note the positioning of softer lines.

[Or, if you like; SOFTLY draw a guiding sketch, where enlarging on scrap paper with grid is helpful especially on larger pieces.

OR: Scan-copy onto a thin plastic sheet, and use an overhead to project it onto your larger paper.]




Find your comfortable way to hold the pencil with true control.  Professors mainly taught loose control like holding chalk to use on the blackboard.  But for perfect control of a pencil, in the subtle spaces to be covered, it is best to hold it resting between your index and middle finger instead of the index finger and thumb.  Just put that thumb to work for security and the pencil won’t slip.  Work gently with a very sharp pencil and be sure to keep the sharpener close by.


After gently marking the features, fill the flesh space.  NOT the eye, with an appropriate soft, light, main tone; beige, light peach, peach. No matter what the genealogical heritage of the human subject could be; one of these tones would be there somewhere. 

When doing the skin, try to steer away from cold colors - even if they are in the photograph. Warmth adds to the soft depth of the portrait, cold takes away.




It is best to start now with the eyes, if only for inspiration to continue.  They are the most difficult part to do. If a mistake is to occur, let it be now, before too much shading and detail is attempted. Looking back to improve will be done throughout the project.  Be sure to leave the reflective light points in the iris and pupil, even if the eye color is very dark, this adds personality and depth.  The edge ring of the Iris is usually a darker tone that should be securely placed.  This defines the ‘gleam’ and ‘twinkle’ that adds personality to the piece.  Cloud Blue is used to show the contour of the white of the eye.

Here the colors used are; Olive Green, Light Umber and Black – very sharp fine points.




Slowly and softly start the shading of the complexion, you can always add more – you can’t always take away.


The main colors used are: Sepia, Cream, Peach, Lt. Peach, Pink, Blush Pink, Salmon Pink.


When working with a light color, BE SURE to gently erase the graphite first or it will become a set-for-life smear in that portion of the piece.


As far as contrast & shading; it is amazing what a very thin touch of black at the edges of light or the strong shadow points, do to provide depth.



The upper lip is generally a deeper tone.  The bottom lip is where varying shading comes into play; some points seem almost white some are deep with rosy shadow.

But note that on men the variation in tone is usually very mild - almost insignificant.  It is just best at this point to try for accuracy, you can always expand - carefully.

[Outlines are of Sepia, balanced with Henna, Crimson Red and Blush Pink.]


This also shows the instigation of the soft shadow of glasses, a nightmare to many artists.  But challenges are good.  Again, start softly with sepia – a pencil artist’s friend!  Work slowly with the accuracy of the line’s shape -- layer by Layer.


The main technique to achieve accuracy is to look at each feature, point, or portion of the subject individually and from varying angles.

Here is where turning the pictures sideways or upside-down helps in the conception of perspective and proportion - obtain a view of every angle.  Just keep them both lying in the same direction (topside down, sideways, etc.)

It is amazing how this improves the precision. 


 Precision’s good…



Some instructors and professors swear that is almost imperative to finish each feature or portion of a piece concentrating on one section at a time. But, logic shows that it is best to find your own “flow”.  For many, the balance blends if you step away and come back.  Shifting to another feature.  Sometimes interruptions alert you to a challenge that’s forming. Upon returning, you can more easily become aware of the solutions.


Metal is an interesting challenge with pencil.

The Metallic Gold pencil is very dark in tone working best as the shadow of golden portions, with a lighter yellow for the gleaming points of the segment for glasses … or jewelry.




Doing one of the background colors (in this case a blend of three greens) makes the depth and proportion become more visible.

It’s good to get that warm feeling of satisfaction, as you’re moving along.

[Olive Green, Marine Green, Dark Green]




The lighter tones of the jade and gold of the necklace, cross and palm ring (made fresh each year with a piece of palm leaf on Palm Sunday at St. Madeleine Sophie Catholic Church), had to be finished and secured before doing the dramatic black lines of the sweater.  Yellow Ochre  If deep colors are done first light colors cannot be used on the same space unless erasing is possible.  Since that is not likely – think watercolor!  Light tones first.


As can be noted with the smoothness of the green background, a Colorless Blender® pencil was used on the “wall.”  This is an excellent effect that is used everywhere in this piece except the face and necklace.


When items are detailed, blending seems to smear more than smooth.

The skin and necklace need to remain soft, subtle and precise.




Continuing to work in the facial shading, while doing a light ‘coat’ of black on the sweater.  The fiber knitting lines help a great deal in dimension and proportion for depth.  Note how they narrow in division and softly shift in angle following the flowing line.




Wanting a definite contrast between the depth of the shadowed knitting lines and the lighter surface shade a subtle layer of the same Black is used.  Adjusted with the photo’s lighting to finish the sweater shape with the tone desired, same color just variance of concentration.


Background woodwork was begun here more for reassurance of depth.  Four brown tones to be blended were used.

Dark Umber, Dark Brown, Tuscan Red, Terra Cotta.




For the colorful sections of hair begin with the lighter base tone, you can always go darker, very seldom lighter.

After the Colorless Blender® was used with Sienna Brown, lines of the darker tones were begun.  A look in the mirroring of the breakfast-nook window was enough guidance as for the ends of the “French-clipped” hair.  This satisfied the decision to expand the subject rather than trim the paper, solving the problem of disproportion between the photo and the paper.

Henna, Sepia, Terra Cotta, Tuscan Red, Dark Umber, Light Umber, Dark Brown with, of course, Black.




The sweater was rubbed with Colorless Blender® to finish the base surface tone without losing the shading effect.


Paying attention?

Hopefully the slow variations in the toning of the shadows on the skin have been noticed by now.

A key word: subtle.





Before the upper section of background is confronted, it is best to finish the subtle silvering of the hair (frosted – by God) and Tuscan Red highlights.


Beginning the background woodwork just try to keep grain and seam tones darker.





Continuing the deeper toning of the wooden cabinet, shading mainly with Black.


Improving the facial shadows especially above eyes.  Even though the eyes can become almost invisible in shade try to let them show their own sparkle, balance the shadow around them with Sepia and Dark Brown. 

This is one aspect of dissatisfaction in High School and College projects. It never felt as “alive” as intended.  The secret answer here is to liven up the eyes; this helps dramatically.




Complete wood tones for blending..


Blend by applying pressure going with the direction of the wood-grain but in small sections








Note a touch of light tone to edges of the hair where the background is very dark.  This satisfies the desire to have the value of the figure project and differentiate from the background.



It is always good to bring in a little of the background color when finishing the main points of shadow in the face the face or fur.  For example; On the piece titled New Nephew , looking at the piece and photo upside down it was noticed that his Auntie’s rosy shirt “reflected” above his eyes.  Softly touching that portion with the same pencil completed the tonal balance of the piece, adding depth.


DSC00556                                  Jonnys Pictures 005

New Nephew –© 2005                                                                   Bill Cosby –©2005




Now that you have been given all of these rules, guidelines & tips; follow what you will.  For any artist your own “objective” or wish to attempt whatever YOU want to achieve is most important.  Hopefully these strategies will help you to reach your own goal.




Please keep in mind, what several more noble instructors have told me:

Rules were made to be broken!





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