Cele once asked me to describe for her my art process, and I figured this graphite portrait of my niece would be a good place to do so. I had to remember to take photos as I went, so that I could successfully show what I do to get a finished portrait from a blank piece of paper.
First, I have to either be inspired by an image or create an image I imagine in my head. I've only once created art from my imagination that I didn't use a reference photo for. If I want a portrait to turn out well, the reference photo has to be good and inspire excitement in me. I prefer to take my own reference photos, and so that's what I did when my brother-in-law called to commission me. He got the girls ready and I went over with my camera and we had a little photo shoot out in the back yard. :) Then we headed indoors to upload the photos and choose which one(s) were best, which we narrowed down to one favorite from each girl. Here is the one we chose for T:
We printed the chosen photos, then I took them home and got my drawing paper out and taped it to my drawing board. I measured my drawing to fit the frame and mat that we had chosen. Using the lightest (hardest) pencil I have (2H), I lightly drew in the outline of her face, measuring for proportion constantly as I went. Sometimes I have a direct size match from the photo to my drawing, as happened with this portrait. I freehand the drawing either way. I do draw one line through the center of the drawing horizontally and one vertically, so that I can verify that my proportions and dimensions are accurate. Some artists use a full grid system, but I don't have the patience for that much work, and they risk being unable to successfully erase the grid once they're done.
Since I'm right-handed, I tend to draw left to right to avoid smudging and smearing, which is a real risk when drawing on a board in my lap. Once I'm confident that my drawing is sound and is proportioned right, I begin shading in the background and face. I use a 2B pencil almost primarily for this stage of the drawing, unless the background or hair or clothes are black, then I'll use a softer, darker lead size like 4B or 6B.
I continue until I have finished, which I clean up using my kneadable eraser, and I sign it, then spray using a fixative varnish spray to prevent smudging. After it dries for a night, I frame it in the cheap frames I can afford. Sometimes the person who commissioned me has it professionally framed.
My beautiful niece, T.