Friday, 23 March 2018

Children's portrait commission, in coloured pencil step by step

It's lovely having portrait commissions, especially from people you know. In this case, a past student arrived on my doorstep and reminded me that I'd advised her to wait until her baby grandson was 3 years old before sommissioning a portrait, as he would have 'grown into himself' by then. So I assumed that he was now 3...  
'Well no, he's actually 5 already, but his younger sister is now 3, so will you please do TWO portraits?' Double fun!!
Below is the finished artwork of her grandson, on Bristol Board in Caran d'Ache coloured pencil.  and the images following show the stages I took to get there. 
Finished artwork, Coloured pencil, approx 19cm x 24cm. the client specified coloured pencil as her medium of coice. 
I began with a graphite drawing. This step is a perfect way to give the client an idea of size and the 'feel' of the final image - it also helps me to become more familiar with the face, and to work out the nuances of tones and likeness. All my portraits start life as a graphite 'rough', which I keep (unless the client wants to buy it along with the colour artwork). 

stage one, on cartridge paper in graphite. 

 Once the client has approved the rough, I move on to the final artwork. I used Bristol board for it's lovely smooth surface, as it really holds the colour well. I drew the whole thing as a line drawing first, then rubbed it back with a putty rubber as I went along, so that no lines show through the colour.
stage two on Bristol board. 
 I like to start with the eyes and work outwards from there. It's important with flesh to keep everything fluid and smooth, so as not to age the subject!

A few hours later... 
The photo above shows some of the layering - I have put a light umber colour on the forehead, and will lay a pinker colour on top to warm it up. The hair is getting a first layer too. I don't do a layer over the while drawing first - I layer smaller areas and work them to a finish in small increments as I progress.
The child is done, just the background to add. This can take several hours. 

As you can see, the cat loves being helpful at the drawing board... I will show the second portrait in the next blog post... In all the artwork took around 30 hours to complete. And - most importantly - the client was very happy!

For information on workshops, or commissioning a portrait, please email

Next workshops include: Children's holiday class, oils workshop, portrait classes, Father's Day drawing & water colour workshop.