Thursday, February 08, 2018

Drawing people

Given I've been commenting on other people painting portraits in my reviews of the Portrait Artist of the Year series, it occurred to me that maybe those who aren't aware of my background might think I had some nerve!

So I thought I'd better establish some credentials! 

I don't paint (I'm a "dry media" person) but I do draw.

I've also been drawing people for years.

Over the years I've also studied very many old master drawings - which is how come I like to hatch when I'm drawing in pen and ink and coloured pencil.

Plus I've commented on very many drawings and paintings of people by contemporary artists over the last 12 years as part of my reviews of exhibitions of portraiture eg the BP Portrait Award

A drawing in pen and ink in 45 minutes
no contour lines and no underdrawing
all hatching and eyeballing the model

Before my tenosynovitis in my drawing hand got bad (Don't EVER interview all day for two weeks non-stop!) I used to go to a weekly "Drawing a Head" class at the Princes Drawing School (now Royal Drawing School) - not so much for the tuition as having models to draw.

There I used to "eyeball" the models and in TWO HOURS used to progress through a series of personal challenges which went a little way beyond drawing the head

Draw two people, full size, in graphite on a large sheet of paper

The interesting thing about drawing two models is getting the perspective right
and making them look as if they are actually sat in the chair (or on a cushion)

I always drew in the backgrounds as it gave me a scaffolding matrix
against which to measure off parts of the body!

Draw the models and the other artists

Then there was two models and the artists on the other side of the room......

I spent many weeks doing this until I decided I now needed the challenge of pen and ink.....

Man on chair on plinth, woman on sofa - and two artists drawing

Drawing in pen and ink (i.e. NO ERASING!)

One of my favourite exercises which I made up as a challenge was to draw the head of one person from three sides in pen and ink in two hours. I had two x 45 minutes time slots and one of 30 minutes. I preferred the 45 minute ones - 30 minutes was a just little bit too short.

These three heads are on a sheet of A3 size cartridge paper

Three perspectives on Ben
pen and ink, no underdrawing
(45 mins, 45 mins and 30 minutes)

Drawing in pen and ink - with no underdrawing and no contours!

This I decided was the ultimate challenge otherwise known as how to make myself REALLY LOOK!

So the challenge is to draw a head and
  • complete the drawing in pen and ink - using hatching
  • with no underdrawing
  • ABSOLUTELY NO CONTOURS i.e. hatching up to where the contour would be if there were one!
See the top image for one such drawing which was completed in 45 minutes on a sheet of A3 cartridge paper.

Drawing in colour

Every now and again I would bring in my coloured pencils and draw in colour; optically mix colours on the paper - and erase his highlights using my battery eraser! (Buzz, buzz!)

Another perspective on Ben
coloured pencils and battery eraser
A long time ago, before I wrote Sketching 365 - my book about drawing and sketching - I wrote a blog post 10 Tips for How to Sketch People - which became one of the most popular blog posts on this blog.

You can see more of my drawings of people and groups and artists on

You can follow my Facebook Page about Drawing and Sketching at Katherine Tyrrell: 365 Tips for Drawing and Sketching


  1. Incredible Katherine.
    Obviously the work of a dedicated artist with a sound work ethic.
    I have always thought your observations about the Portrait Artist of the Year competition, absolutely were spot-on. Thank you.
    This latest in the series included several who were obviously struggling. Possibly due to lack of knowledge.
    I wonder if are they coming to the bottom of the pack? Or are more talented people not applying?

  2. Just wanted to say how much I love your work and your unique style and voice. Always recognizable as yours. Those are amazing challenges you gave yourself. How hard was it to accept that your drawing had to stop or be limited because of medical condition/pain? That could be an interesting blog topic for those of us learning to accept the losses and/or ways bodies are changing as we age.


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