Been doing a bunch of environment concepts the past few weeks for a client. While I love doing this type of work, if I get a chance to squeeze in a little personal study, I like to do something completely different to break me out of that mindset. I want something that will be relatively simple and offer a low barrier of entry so I’m confident I can pull it off.

The old self portrait is always an effective go to for a variety of reasons.

First, you are your own best model. You show up on time, you hold the pose exactly how you need for as long as you need, and it’s strangely familiar territory.

From a drawing standpoint, I find they don’t work unless I’m able to kind of turn off my thinking brain and just draw what’s there. Measure, check the angles, but I appreciate the simplicity in it.  it won’t look like you if you overthink it.

At the same time I try very hard not to generalize when doing a portrait. I’d rather exaggerate and push toward caricature as opposed to generalizing. I’m not saying one approach is better than the other, but I get a better (albeit sometimes goofier) likeness when I push the shapes more.

And I never push more than I do on a self portrait. I’m not gonna insult myself so I really try to go for it.

Been living in photoshop for the past few weeks, so I wanted to pare things down and concentrate on drawing.  I love to draw. Nothing else provides the same seat-of-your-pants exhilaration. There’s no hiding with drawing. You can see the thought process in such a visceral way. I won’t lie, I wish I was better at it, but we all need that windmill to chase I guess.

Will start lightly and draw the base lines in with a 4h graphite pencil. I am heavy handed by nature,  so over the years I’ve found by using a super hard lead it allows me to adjust shapes for longer than I could with a softer lead.  I take my time, and concentrate entirely on proportions.

It’s worth lingering a bit within this phase because most of the decisions you make now you will have to live with. I try not to rush it, and make a point to take a break once I have things blocked,  in so I can revisit it with fresh eyes. I will check it in a mirror and hold at different angles to make sure it feels right.

Once I’m happy with the proportions,  I’ll go in with an hb lead and refine the shapes more. Again I’m taking my time and really trying to find those opportunities to define interlocking shapes where it makes sense. The eyes, the nose, areas of interest and protruding forms.

From there, I will go in with a soft charcoal pencil and lay in some base values. Just the big transitions and non form based value changes, like with hair for example.

To lay in big masses, I will take powdered charcoal and using a soft round brush I will block in the shadows. This can be messy but you can always go back and clean things up with a Kneaded eraser so I try not to be too precious about it.

Once my values are laid in I will go back in with a soft charcoal pencil and kneaded eraser and refine. I’m looking for fun shapes and areas I can be reductive and graphic to draw interest. This is my favorite part because if I’ve made it this far it means the hard part is over and my main task is to dial it in.

I got it passably far but why play it safe with a self portrait? The worst that can happen is I destroy it and it ends up in the graveyard of ruined drawings.

So I decided to hit it with some fine grained sand paper to see what happens!


And… I kind of like what it did. Softened the forms and brought things a little more “together”. Oh sandpaper, once again you prove to be the strange unsung hero of art supplies!

drew back in here and there to make some final adjustments and reinforce some stuff, and I think I’m sticking a fork in it!

It Was fun unplugging for a couple hours but it’s time to get back at it. Hope everyone is having a great summer and be sure to stay cool both in attitude and temperature!