I’ve been drawing a lot for the last week and I thought I write a little bit about my process. I’m working on a portrait right now which is something I don’t do a whole lot of. I am in no way, shape, or form a portrait artist but do enjoy the task every now and then. I love drawing faces but most of the faces I draw are made up. The features aren’t always in the right places either. But sometimes I want to work with a real face.

I started with a photograph. Though most times I’m not the kind of artist that uses photo reference sometimes I do. One of the things an artist has to know about using photo reference is how to take a good picture. I’ve seen plenty of photo referenced art be ruined because a bad photo was used. I could write lots about what things make a bad photo but I’ll just stick with if it’s a cheesy snap shot don’t try to use it as reference.

I tried out my new Wacom Cintiq (12 inch). It’s a computer tablet that is also an LCD screen. I can put it on top of my drawing table and use the special pen to draw right on the screen on top of the digital photo. It’s not quite like drawing on a piece of paper. It’s more like drawing on a piece of paper with an eighth of an inch of glass on top of it.

So after I drew my underdrawing on top of the digital photo I printed out my drawing in non photo blue (a less then 50% blue that won’t show up on a bitmapped scan or photocopy) on bristol board. I then drew on top of the blue line with my regular 4B pencil. This will be the finished pencil drawing. But not the finished drawing. I was going to ink this one.

Inking is a traditional comic book/strip way of working. Those mediums were printed on cheap newsprint and therefore a pencil line could not be reproduced consistently. To deal with this fact an artist will draw something in pencil and then grab a brush, pen, and ink and redraw, in ink, right over the top of the pencil line. The ink drawing is the final drawing that can be reproduced consistently. Things aren’t always done like that today but it is still a way of working that many employ.

I happen to like an ink line and decided that is the way I wanted to work on this portrait. So I scanned in my pencil drawing, blew it up digitally, and printed it out, once again, on bristol board in blue line. Then I grabbed my Windsor Newton Series 7 number three brush dipped it in ink and got to work.

After I was done with the inking stage I scanned the ink drawing. When using a computer I use both Photoshop and Illustrator to color things. For this one and a lot of my prints I chose Illustrator because I like vector graphics for creating shapes. I do a lot of drawing in shapes when I work in color on the computer. Photoshop is more about dark to light and modeling.

Since I’m using Illustrator which is a resolution independent I like to blow things up. But whatever I’m blowing up has to be made as a vector graphic in Illustrator. The stuff I scan in will blow up just a jagged as a bitmap graphic. Because the things I like to blow up in portraits are eyes and lips I will often draw them larger and separately from the rest of the face.

So that’s what I did. After laying down the basic color for the whole face in Illustrator I blew up the eyes and lips and printed them out in blue line. I penciled and inked them again at their new larger size then scanned them in. I then brought them into Illustrator, cleaned them up and colored them. They could now be reunited with the rest of the face plus be ready to use for another project where I use large eyes. Like my painted coat.

I had my basic colors in but I now had to add in darks and lights. This is where I like to draw in shapes. I layer and interlock different shapes of color. There is some dark to light modeling going on but realistic color is not my goal. I’m looking for a an interesting playfulness between the line, shape, and color. And it has to look like someone too. This stuff gets complicated.

My next step was to figure out the background. When working on something that is not a portrait I usually figure the background out as part of the whole scene. Since this one was eighty percent face I never did. I printed out the finished pencil sketch in blue and grabbed my pencil again. I knew I was going to execute the background on the computer but it’s still much easier to work out my ideas on paper and then scan them in. That’s what I did.

I’m actually taking a break from the background to write this up. I’ve been working on this one drawing/print for about twenty hours now and I really need to give it a break. Except I’ve been into it and it’s coming along well. Sometimes it’s tough to quit when things are going well. I think I’ll put it down until morning though.