Lifelike Drawing with Ian Codding Long Beach, CA

Great Art Made Easy

Learn the secrets to drawing and start making your own masterpieces for others to marvel at.
"Your art makes mine look like child's play" C.T. - Jacksonville, NC
"WOW, this looks great!!!" L.H. - Oxnard, CA
"You are extremely talented. I'm beyond impressed =)" K.B. - Weatherford, TX

Content and Composition
Great art is mostly characterized by its content and how it is composed. Learning to draw is the easy part. In the Art Composition table to the left are several articles that I have written in an attempt to quickly and concisely explain the key elements that affect a composition, such as light, color, and posing. I have also included an article on the camera. Since most artists are using digital images as a reference, it is important that they understand the camera in order to use it to its fullest potential.

Now for the easy part!

Basic Materials for Graphite Drawing
  • 0.5 Mechanical Pencil (usually comes with HB lead)
  • 2B Lead Refills for 0.5 Mechanical Pencil (4B is the softest available for a mechanical pencil. Up to 9B is available in a standard pencil form.)
  • Kneaded Eraser
  • 15” Ruler 
  • Combo Circle & Oval Templates (for drawing eyes)
  • Horsehair Brush (for removing erasure debris from the paper)
  • Pink Pearl Eraser
  • Tortillons (an assortment of paper stumps for blending)
  • Clear Grid Sheet (” squares work well. An opaque projector is an alternative to a grid.) 
  • 11x14 Smooth Bristol Paper (ideal for portraits)
  • Camera (used to take reference photos)
  • Pencil Eraser
  • Art Supply Case (box or something to hold all materials)

How to Draw
Much more can obviously be said, but the few steps listed below will hopefully be enough to get you started.
Step 1: Layout
Assuming a black and white photo is used as a reference, there are several options for laying the image out on paper--freehand, using an opaque projector, transfer paper, or a grid. I will describe the grid method. Following the link, print out the grid on an overhead sheet. An 8 x 10 print of the photo is also needed. Tape the grid on top of the photo. Lightly draw a grid with the same number of squares on the 11 x 14 paper. The scale of the image will change depending on how large the squares are drawn. Now, looking at each box individually, outline the shapes. Shapes are defined by light and dark values. HELPFUL TIP: If you are working with a color image, it is helpful to squint your eyes to distinguish between light and dark values. When the layout is complete, observe the final result and make any adjustments. When you are satisfied, carefully erase the grid lines, leaving the outline of your drawing. The grid may also be removed from the photo reference. NOTE: Drawing grids on paper has the side effect of leaving shiny marks where the grid was erased. Graphite will also adhere to these marks differently from the parts of the paper that weren't erased.
My First Portrait
First Drawing
If I can do it, you can too!

5 Value Grid Step 2: Shading
Like brush strokes and building up texture with paint, there are several different ways to draw with pencils--line drawing, contour drawing, stippling, cross hatching, and blending/shading. Shading will give the most realistic results. Shading uses the gradual transition from one tone or value to another and is accomplished by applying different amounts of pressure when drawing. To make the many values in an image more manageable, break them down into five  basic values--cast shadow (black), shadow edge (dark gray), shadow edge transfer (medium gray), reflected light (light gray), highlight (paper white). For shading the lighter values, hold the pencil further away from its point. This will help lighten the pressure. Another important tip for shading is to shade in the same direction (in other words, not back and forth like a scribble) with the lines as close together as possible. Also the shading direction should follow the contour of the object that is being shaded.

Step 3: Blending
Blend the values using a paper stump. This will smooth out the pencil lines and make them almost invisible. The blending direction should be from dark areas to light areas. Make sure to use a clean stump when blending the light areas. Stumps can be cleaned with very fine sand paper or a nail file. HELPFUL TIP: A dirty blending stump can be useful in applying very light values instead of shading them in with a pencil. Note: The process of blending with a paper stump has the result of burnishing the graphite. The more the graphite is rubbed with the paper stump, the shinier the graphite will appear. This gives the finished work a nice look. When drawing on top of a burnished area, the graphite will not stick as easily.

Step 4: Highlights
In this step, any highlights that may have been lost during the blending will be added back into the drawing. This is done with the kneaded eraser. The kneaded eraser can be shaped into a point, wedge, or whatever shape will work best to produce the desired highlight. The kneaded eraser can also be used to lighten or smooth out areas that need additional work. When it comes to hair, the kneaded eraser is indispensable. To create realistic hair, shade in the appropriate value for the hair and then blend it in. Next, add lines in the direction of the hair. Gently blend these lines and then add highlights with the needed eraser. Continue to add lines, blend, and highlight until the desired look is achieved. The blending and the highlights created on top of the lines is really what makes the hair look realistic. With large highlight areas in the hair, draw the lines toward the highlight so that the line will feather out into the highlight area.
5 Min. Sketches
Warm-up with 5 minute sketches. Relax, loosen up, and have fun. Rulers and grids not allowed. Observe the subject, focusing on shapes, proportions, and light. Then draw the subject,
making every line count (in other words, only draw the details that are necessary to create a likeness of the subject).
Art Tools

A Trip to the Zoo
A fun place to make sketches is at the local zoo. That is where I found the subject for this drawing.
Step 5: The Finishing Touches
To protect the drawing when it is completed, use a workable fixative. This will cause the graphite to resemble ink. Workable fixative will also allow you to draw on top of the fixative if desired. For example, when colorizing a drawing, workable fixative will prevent the graphite from muddying the colors.  

Additional Reading for the Art Enthusiast
(The starving artist should check the local library for availability.)
  • Light: Science and Magic by Fil Hunter, Steven Biver, and Paul Fuqua
  • The Art of Perspective: The Ultimate Guide for Artists in Every Medium by Philip W. Metzger
  • Lee Hammond's Big Book of Drawing by Lee Hammond
  • The Story of Art by E. H. Gombrich