Current Shading Process, Portrait Flow
As I scroll through Amdall Gallery’s main page, I can’t help but notice how my drawings have changed. Not everyone may agree, but I believe there has been an improvement over time. From August 2017 until now, after about seven months of practice, these sketches seem more confident to me. Especially when it comes to color; skin tones seem more realistic than they did early on, and I’m laying down color in thicker/more complete layers. There’s still tons of critiques I have (weak ability to draw straight lines, laziness on backgrounds, unimaginative creation, etc.), but I’m glad to see progress.
I don’t really know if this is interesting to anyone, but I thought I’d make a post on what my shading process has evolved into. I’m sure it will continue to change, but for now it has settled into a decent enough groove. Here’s basically how I approach sketching and adding color to a face using soft-core prismacolor pencils:
- First, I sketch a very basic outline. The main goals are to get the right shape without adding any shading, and to avoid marking too thickly.
- Next, I put down layers of whatever variant of skin color I need; basically, this layer consists of the peach and/or brownish hues. Even if seems too dark, that’s okay because the next few steps will lighten and blend a bit. I’m not shading here, just trying to get a base layer(s).
- Then, it’s time for shadows. I take a lighter gray (20-30% cool or warm gray) and start defining darker shaded areas, to give the face some light. It looks really unnatural at this point, because nothing is blended.
- Next, we get to some blending. For skin, I always use white (PC 938) applied heavily, pulling the base peach/brown tones with the gray shadows. For darker things, like hair or clothes, white may not work for blending though.
- After blending the white, I usually need to reapply a few more deeper shadows, so I go back to one of my grays.
- Then, I come back after the finer details with a sharp graphite pencil.
- Lastly, if any areas are especially well-lit and need to be lighter, I’ll lightly erase and area, then re-blend with the white pencil.
Here’s another look at it:
I’ve seen artists who are vastly more skilled with exactly these tools (Prismacolor soft core pencils), but my process isn’t too bad for now. I’d say the biggest difference I’ve seen in the experts, aside from them having professional-caliber eyes for color, is that they use a wider variety for shading. For example, where I am using grays to indicate shadows, some of these pros actually use browns, reds, and yellows to shade, and it ends up looking more natural. I’m not there yet, but maybe someday I’ll develop that skill.
Some of the most impressive blending skills I’ve seen are from an artist named Luisina Juliete. As I started working with color, I watched a couple of her progression pieces to learn techniques. I’ve embedded one of her videos here, but you can also check out her website and YouTube page for more examples.
So, how did this one turn out? Even though my main objective with this drawing was to show facial shading progression, I did finish it up. As is often the case, the subjects here are my two sweet girls. It’s not a perfect depiction of them; most of the way there, but a few features are off. The little one’s eyes are a bit wonky, and our oldest’s mouth isn’t quite right. But I think this is the first sketch that has included our big kid’s best friend in the world, good ol’ Mr. Bunny. He goes everywhere with her, and actually started out as a white rabbit…he’s more of a grayish color now.
Here’s the finished product:
By the way…see what I meant from the critiques I have about myself (first paragraph)? That’s supposed to be a shopping cart, and the handle doesn’t even resemble a straight line! I mean, couldn’t I have at least tracked down a ruler or something? And my laziness on backgrounds strikes again.