Thursday, 13 August 2015

Basics: Drawing Proportions - 1# Lines

Basics: Drawing Proportions - 1# Lines

 By Natalie Wyatt

For the next few tutorials, I thought it may be beneficial to go through the different ways you can draw proportions and explore a number of mediums in the process. Today I will show you how I use lines to free-hand draw this pencil drawing of Poldark... I may be a tad obsessed with the show!

- B and 4B Pencil
- Eraser
- Canson CA Grain Paper
- Baking Paper/Tracing Paper

This is the main technique I use when drawing and although it can be a tad tricky at the beginning, it can prove to be a wonderful method that produces great results with practice.

Essentially, you use guide lines to line up the features of the drawing so you understand where the intersection points should be.

 This drawing by Diane Dobson-Barton is an example of the type of techniques I'll be employing in this tutorial. This shows you how the facial features intersect and the distance between them all.

This is the reference image that I used, I flipped it for this drawing though.

This was my set up, you can either print out your reference, or use the computer like I did, which allows you to draw over the top of the image on separate layers which prevents your reference from being wrecked.

I always start with the eyes. Try to avoid doing the face shape first because if the shape is wrong, every feature will be wrong. Whereas with the eye, you can start with a small section and get that right and then every section afterwards will also be correct. I did the majority of this drawing with the B pencil.

Once I had drawn the eye, I drew over my reference to figure out the distance from the eye to the eyebrow. From the edge of the eyebrow back to the eyelid was the same distance measured by the second line, this way I could use the distance of the part I'd already drawn to measure the line.

So I drew my eyebrow and shaded the rest of the eye.

Now to figure out the next eye, I drew a line across the eyeballs so I could understand what fell below and was above the line. I saw that the left eye is mainly above the line, which is the same height as my right eye. I also broke the line into thirds and noticed that the distance between both eyes was the width of the right eye. So you can essentially imagine a third eye fitting perfectly in the gap between the two.

I drew out the guide lines and penciled out my left eye. It may be a little complicated how I'm explaining this, but you can draw lines however you want. All you are essentially wanting to do is use lines to know where things line up. E.g. the iris in the eye lines up with the corner of the lip etc,.

I shaded in the remainder of the eye.

Now I sought to find the position of the nose, using the height of the eye and eyebrow as a measurement, I figured out that the base of the nose is two of those distances. I then drew lines to know where the nose tip/base/side of face lined up with the eyes.

The further along you go in the drawing, the easier it becomes. It's like Soduku, the more numbers (drawn features) that you have, the easier it is to figure out the rest.

Can you smell that? Cause Ross Poldark sure can now!

Now, I drew the hat line. I drew a line from the corner of the hat to the side burn on his right cheek. And then I drew another line with its middle being the highest point of the hat line. This helped me to understand the curve of the hat and where the highest point was.

Took this into the drawing.

A bit of shading.

For the mouth, I drew lines from corner to corner and lined then up with the eyes. I then drew lines along the middle of the mouth and base of the nose and figured out the equivalent above using the nose I'd already drawn. 

I hope at least some of this is making sense ha-ha!

Now I was able to shade it in.

For the jaw, I lined up the bottom of the nose and the middle of the mouth with the jaw line. Then I created another line for the bottom of the jaw so I would know that the size is larger than the gap between his nose and mouth. I also used other lines to help me with the side burn.


Shading is fun now! And the hardest part of the whole drawing is done. As much as it is important that the other features are right, it doesn't matter so much with clothes and hair because they are not consistent like facial features.

Now I used my jaw, nose and eye as guides to help plan the drawing of the ear.

Ear and the beginnings of hair.

When shading, it's important to shade with the shape of the face, but sometimes I'll cross-hatch to give it a rougher look.

At this point, there's a lot of grey-lead on the page, so I employ my favourite art tip, using baking paper. You can tear a piece and put it under your hand so you don't get your hand oils on the page or smudge the graphite. This is a life saver!

Now this looks crazy, but you can do it any way that suits you. You should see by observing my lines that I was interested in the points where the shape changes direction or comes to an extreme point. Imagine running your finger along those lines and seeing where they intersect.

Some of the hat couldn't fit on the page, but that's fine! I also drew the hair on the side of the head.

Shading in the hair.

I often roughly shade the whole object and then build up layers.

 This was done still with the B pencil, but I'll add more depth later.

Again, this looks complicated, but if you look at each of the peaks of his clothing, I've just drawn lines that intersect with some main element on the face, so I can line them up. I also drew a line along the jaw so I can determine the height distance of the different clothes.

Now put into practice.

Shading the neck.

Now I shaded the rest of the clothes, I used cross hatching to give it a gradual fade-out look. I also rushed the clothes a bit so they've a bit hap-hazard, but you get the picture!

The final step when shading a portrait is very important. And that is to get a darker pencil (4B), sharpen it to a fine point and then observing your reference, shade over the darkest parts of the drawing. Add fine details, thicken lines, add volume etc; and it makes such a difference.

(Here is a small .gif which shows the difference between the last two stages.

 Hope you learned something!
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Natalie Wyatt



  1. Completely awesome Natalie!!!! Would love to sit down with you and have a big drawing session!!!!

    1. Thanks so much Lydell, only saw your comment now sorry! That would be amazing! I have family up your way, so definitely in the future!