Tips on Pencil Portrait Sketching – Blending and the Kneaded Eraser
Once you have blocked-in the large value masses of your portrait you are ready to stump and “take out” the lights with a putty eraser.
A stump is a cylindrical devise tapered at the ends and commonly made of rolled paper.
Stumping then is to blotch or blend your hatchings with a stump. The intent of blendingis to produce gradations and halftones and to give particular value regions a softer appearance.
Blending can be done in different ways. You can use tissue paper or even your fingers or both. When using your fingers be sure to wipe off any oily remains with a tissue.
Blending must be done in a sculpturally manner. You should literally cut out the form while keeping in mind both the structural anatomy and the changes of the planes. As you work identify each anatomical element. This is particularly advisable when you work on complicated structures such as the nose and the eyes.
In a comparable fashion you can use your kneaded eraser to “take out” pencil dust to lighten particularareas. Again, go about it in a sculpturally way. Employ the putty eraser as if it is a brush.
Now and again you may want to employ the concept of “closure”. Your mind has a tendency to fill in the holes in your observations. That is, the mind has a need for “closure”. You can make judicious use of this tendency and leave particular parts of your portrait unresolved. It adds interest to your sketch as the viewer’s mind will unconsciously finalize the portrait for you.
After you have done a good bit of blending and removing graphite with your putty eraser it is time to further express the forms and planes by hatching with a harder pencil (e.g., a 2H pencil). But, there are a few things to look out for at this stage.
Be careful not to leave the light side of the skull too darkly or it will look like a bruise. The smile-line is also tricky. If you over-emphasize it you will end up with a scoff. It is best to under-emphasize it and let the viewer’s sense of finalitiy finish it for you.
An important consideration must be made when sketching from a photograph. A photograph should only be reference material. That means artistic decisions must be made. For example:
– What manner of emotional response are you after? When people see your portrait what manner of first gut response do you want them to have to your drawing. Good technique is certainly necessary. But it will count for little if it is frosty cold and dry.
– Make choices. You should not draw every tiny detail but only the important ones. Use your artistic judgement to make these choices.
A hard 4H pencil can be used to make the already dark regions even darker through hatching.
Careful attention needs to be paid to the edges of the forms in your drawing. For example, as a form turns away from the light source its tone gradually gets darker and takes on a soft edge.
A cast shadow has a hard edge. The shape of a cast shadow is determined by the shape of the entity throwing the shadow and the shape upon which it is being cast.
Finish the drawing by paying attention to the important details. You also want to further tweak and balance the constructed values. Your drawing must always read as a cohesive entity even though you choose not to bring it to a complete finish.
These few easy guidelines will set you on the accurate path. Apply them accurately and soon your pencil portraits will look a lot better.
Download my brand new complementary pencil portrait draw tutorial here: Pencil Portrait Sketching Tutorial . Remi Engels is a practicing pencil portrait draftsman and oil painter and skilled sketching instructor. See his work at Pencil Portraits by Remi: http://www.remipencilportraits.com