This week’s guest tutorial is by Anat Ronen, a talented illustrator who works on large murals as well as a much smaller, 3″x3″ format. Enjoy, and be sure to leave your comments for Anat below!
I used to think I couldn’t draw and paint portraits. I used to be terrified by the mere thought of drawing somebody. Then about a year ago, I got on a Facebook group that draws and paints on small pieces of paper, or to be exact, on sticky notes. I usually paint murals, so the concept of limiting myself to such a small piece was both terrifying and challenging. The first few trials were pretty much doodling along, until I suddenly saw the opportunity in the small area. We had a daily theme, which really opened my mind and presented many challenges. At one point, I wanted to try a portrait. The small scale makes the work fairly quick, and the square makes it almost as if I was using a grid.
Time passed and since then I’ve completed more than 550 “sticky notes.” I moved to acid-free, thicker paper because people started buying them, and a sticky note is not that good for art purposes… I am sharing with you here my steps towards a black and white portrait.
Step 1 – Identify the reference photo. Try to choose a picture that is well contrasted, that shade and light are very visible. It will help you later with shading your own portrait, and giving it depth and realistic look. Since I limit myself to a 3”x3” square, I crop the picture so I have the same exact image I am drawing in front of me while I am at it.
Step 2 – I sketch the general lines of the portrait using a soft pencil. The small, restricting size allows me to refer to the borders as guides, like a grid. Of course, you can do any shape you want.
Step 3 – I go over the lines – still watching closely my reference picture – with a thin pen:
Step 3 – I block in the black areas. Not every portrait will have black areas, but this one has lots:
Step 4 – I have a set of Copic cool grays, C1-C5. While I don’t have all the colors and not too many at all, I do have sequenced color markers to make the blending as smooth as possible.
I determined that the lightest skin color would be a gray C1. I go over the entire face area with the C1 and then block the shaded areas with C2:
Step 5 – I move to C3 to start forming the darker shades and freckles. At all times I check again and again if the pen lines need some thickening or additional lines here and there (such as the eyes, lips, brows). If I feel that the color is too dark for a particular area, I quickly blend it with the C1 to reduce the damage.
Step 6 – Moving to C4 and to the darkest areas. Refining some pen lines (hair, lips):
Step 7 – Here comes the white gel paint. I use it for several effects: 1. To correct any minor darker mistakes (such as eye pupil placement) 2. To add some highlights (hair, fabric or even skin) I lay the gel and quickly smudge it with my finger to create a gray and a less precise area (see the fabric in the bottom left). 3. Adding some light reflection in the moist areas such as the eyes and lips.
Step 8 – I check everything to see if I need to refine lines, or add more shadows or highlights. Working with a gel pen is limiting in a sense that you can go over it with a pen, but not with a Copic, so you have to do it as a last step.