Realistic Child Portrait in Graphite

by Wendi OBrien
Child Innocence


Fabriano Artistico Extra White Hot Pressed Watercolor Paper (you can use other papers but I find this one gives me the smoothness I like with portraits.  Choose a paper that has a smooth surface but you can also layer on.  Layering is very important with this piece.)

Derwent Graphic Pencils – 2H, HB, 2B, 4B, 6B, 8B (I prefer the Koh-I-Nor Toison 8B as I feel it is a bit darker than the Derwent)

Kneaded Eraser

Tombo Mono Eraser


Blending Stump

Taklon Paint Brush (optional, you can just use a tissue or blending stump)

Pencil Sharpener

Focusing on Value

This project goes back to basics and focuses on values.  The use of value is so important in every piece of art created.  It sets tone, depth, defines structure and the list goes on.  Pushing the value range in your piece is so important to create the my dynamic and eye pleasing piece possible.

Some pieces will have a less of a value range than others, but taking the extra time to push it as far as you can without changing the tone and message makes a difference between a good piece of art and a great piece of art.  

Today’s Project

In today’s project I went back to my roots….graphite.  I love working with graphite and charcoal and doing this project was like wrapping up in a soft cozy blanket with a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter’s day.

I didn’t realize how much I missed working with this medium until I started in on this project.  Do you ever go back to a medium that you absolutely love and get those warm fuzzies and wonder where have you been?  Let me know in the comments your experience and feelings and why you decided to work in different mediums.

My Approach

My approach to graphite is to use the grades of the pencil to build up the layers.  I constantly layer starting with a harder led, usually 2 or 4 H and moving to the softer and darker grades.  This method allows me to use the least amount of pressure, but still gradually build my value.  I am able to avoid white specs in the paper by using this method.  I don’t really put any pressure on the pencil until I get to me final layer and only if needed.

Blending Stump

I also tend to work a lot with my blending stump with portraits to maintain the smoothness of the of the skin and softening the pencil application.  Since it is easy to go back in to the darker areas with he pencil I will sometimes also use the darkest areas to pick up just a bit more graphite on my blending stump and move into the lighter areas to tone.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed revisiting my graphite roots and plan on making it a point to spend more time with this medium as well as charcoal. 

If there is a subject or medium you would like me to cover more in depth or do a focused study on let me know in the comments.

Until next time…keep on arting!

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