Profile View Portrait, Large Drawing

I spent some time drawing yesterday evening, partially inspired by a desire to clean up an older sketch. This portrait of Julia Roberts isn’t new, but it’s actually one of the largest drawing I have ever done (around 2′ X 1.something’). I think I’ve actually improved on some of my pencil techniques, so I went back to this one and fixed some areas I viewed as weaknesses in the piece. I know that’s a dangerous thing to do with art, and probably not something most artists would recommend. But I figured; why not? It was just sitting around anyway!

I don’t really have a good answer as to why I drew Julia Roberts. She’s a pretty solid actress I suppose, but this isn’t a tribute from a superfan or anything. My wife does sort of look like her; in fact my oldest daughter just said, “Oh look it’s a picture of my mama.” I think the main reason though is that she has interesting and unique facial features, and I thought that would make for a good close-up portrait. Actually, now that I think about it, I really haven’t done many drawings of my favorite famous people. You would think I’d be churning out Dirk Nowitzki, Dak Prescott, and Mike Patton sketches left and right! Maybe that’s a good future goal, drawing more of my favorite athletes, musicians, etc.



  • Great proportions! The eye is extra solid. The faces shading is subtle and looks molded, which creates a nice texture. What did you use to blend that?

    • Thanks for that, Bluebeard

      I used my finger for the shading; unfortunately my techniques aren’t too sophisticated. What do you use when you work in pencil? I’ve read that some people use shading or blending things (sticks?), But I haven’t explored that yet

      • I’ve tried blending sticks with mixed results. Sometimes it looks great, sometimes it gets muddy. Personally, I’ve found that they work a little better with high b pencils used lightly. The graphite is looser and blends more evenly, but if you use like a 6b too harshly it’ll stain or wreck the papers tooth (the reason I always use watercolor paper lol).

        To be honest, what you did there actually worked really well. The only downside to using fingers is that the oils can interact with some types of paper or paints (watercolors or gouaches can coagulate where you did it).

        The only real pencil shading trick I know is that you can layer ink or a heavy b (6+) behind a 2h or hb for deeper shadows. I’ve struggled a lot with highlights and shadows in pencil work. Putting the lighter pencil shading in up front can make the drawing reflect a little more, that depends on the paper too, though.

      • Wow, you’ve got some great insight and knowledge on the craft of creating art. Is this a hobby, or are you a full-time professional artist? The quality of the stuff on your site certainly seems at the Pro-Level, and you’ve referenced commissions on there.

        Either way, I appreciate the info. I’ve mentioned in other comments, this is one of my favorite things about WordPress; the fact that highly skilled artists are actually willing to give me advice! I have no clue of any other venue where I could have come across that.

      • I really appreciate you saying that, and I love discussing various techniques and ideas surrounding traditional mediums. Talking about art is sometimes even more enjoyable (and far less stressful) than creating, in my opinion.

        I’m actually a chemistry BA (senior this year) undergrad at the University of Iowa, but I’ve always had a major passion for drawing and writing. I’ve only recently been commissioned, and only by two people. My hope is that I can have a career that supports my hobbies (writing and drawing) so I can continue to develop them and maybe one day they could be full time things.

      • I was actually a Biology major myself, so thumbs up for science!

        I think that’s an excellent goal, to build a career that supports a hobby, then let the hobby take over if things line up that way. You’ve certainly got the raw talent in making art, in my opinion

  • Drawing celeb faces is a great way to improve technical skills – John – This one is really nice! Maybe you’ll be inspired to do more…I have a book that I planned to do 100 faces of famous people in – so far I am at about 84 or so (I keep being distracted by other ideas and projects!) but, the really interesting thing is how much my technique has improved from page to page πŸ™‚

    • Much appreciated, Hilda! Have you posted any of the 100 Famous Faces series to your site? I’d enjoy seeing those. Any particular favorites?

      • Great idea, Jon, thanks! I should do a post on this! My faves are some of the characters from The Lord of the Rings movie and also a series of 3 I did of Tom Baker (Dr Who, 4th Dr) aged 20, 40 and 80…fascinating doing the same face at different ages πŸ™‚

      • I’ll definitely be looking forward to that post, it sounds awesome. I will keep an eye out!

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