Rediscovering Portrait Sketching and Adding Lots of Colour

In my previous post I wrote about urban sketching and how it had come my main art focus (urban sketching post) but without knowing it, this came at the expense of portrait sketching. However as my urban sketching group moved mostly online a splinter group formed focusing on portraits, sometimes live portrait models would sit on a zoom call with us and sometimes from photos, sometimes for 5 minutes a portrait sometimes up to 20minutes. In my own time I tend to use Pintrest for reference photos (portrait references on Pintrest) and love throwing vibrant colours down sometimes more successfully than others.

The group sketching reminded me how as a teen portrait sketching was my main go-to. It was easy to see if you’d “got it right” by whether the portrait was recognisable as the individual (often celebrity). Back then I tended to draw in pencil or charcoal almost never with a coloured medium. The style and technique were never important to me, only ever the likeness.

Here are a few of my favourite portraits from pre 2010

Looking back I’m surprised to find how much my portraits have changed, and in my opinion improved. Although the shapes and colours are vastly different in portraits and urban sketches, the skills used are very similar. The need for observation, perspective and contrast are equally important in both subjects consequently practicing these for any sketch will improve them for all. I think the most notable change is how much quicker and looser my sketches are. Being far more relaxed and confident in my sketching the final products often end up looking fresher and less over worked.

Here are a few more recent sketches using similar supplies.

I’ve also gained the confidence required to incorporate colour. My first memorable attempt was using a handful of cheap alcohol markers (chisel tip no brush tip) and I still enjoy using them.

More recently I’ve experimented with every type of coloured supply I could find:

Gouache

Watercolour

Children’s posterpaint

Felt tip pens

Digital

Markers with felt tip pens (My current favourite)

Other line drawings and 3 tone sketches

I’m glad I’ve rediscovered portrait sketching and with resources such as Pintrest to provide references the possibilities are endless. Here’s a link to a collection of portrait references I use on Pintrest.