The illustrators are always hard at work in the studio here at Letterfest HQ, creating books, art prints, house portraits, wedding venues and pet portraits! Now we have our newest member to the Letterfest team, Chris, we have people portraits now available.
Chris talks us through how he creates these impressive drawings and a little insight to his passion behind it all…..
The first process for any drawing is finding a good reference photo. This is a collaborative process between myself and the client as we pick through a number of photos to see which will work best as a drawing. Photographs of people pulling a funny face, or a photo which has been taken at an odd angle won’t translate well into a drawing. When we look at a photo at a weird angle our minds automatically correct it and ignore the fact that the eyes look strange or the nose looks really wonky. Even if the same image is drawn with 100% accuracy, our minds don’t recognise it as a photograph, and therefore those weird angles and obscurities will stick out like a sore thumb. The best types of references pictures are ones which are taken straight on, profile, or at a 3/4 angle. The photos should have even lighting with no harsh shadows or over exposure. The photo also needs to be a high resolution which has a clear, crisp image.
PENCIL PORTRAIT TURNAROUND TIME + AMENDS:
Depending on how many subjects there are, pencil portraits usually take anywhere between 10 – 30 hours to complete. I usually start with the eyes, then the nose and mouth. I then complete the shading on the cheeks, forehead and chin. I usually leave the hair until last (which is my favorite thing to draw!) Limited amends can be made once the portrait has been completed, such as lightening or darkening some shading. I don’t usually allow amends during the process as the client may request changes to an area which is not finished yet, therefore I usually wait until the project is near completion before sending through a proof.
PENCIL PORTRAITS MATERIALS:
Windsor & Newton 250gsm Extra Smooth Bristol board – A thick paper which has a very smooth surface. It’s very durable, therefore you can build up many layers and also erase pencil strokes without the risk of damaging the paper. There isn’t a lot of tooth on this paper as it is so smooth, which is perfect for creating smooth blending.
Faber Castell 9000 series Graphite pencils – These pencils are probably the best drawing pencils in the world! They are manufactured to such a high standard, they are incredibly smooth to draw with and the different values in the range are excellent. I prefer this brand of pencil over any other because they are not grainy, therefore you can create perfect blending without the risk of little specks or grain from the pencil.
Faber Castell Polychromos pencils – These are coloured pencils and for black and white portraits I use the cool grey set 1 – 6, paynes grey and black. These pencils are oil based, are lightfast (meaning they won’t fade over time) and have a strong lead, which prevents the lead from breaking. They are excellent because they can be sharpened to a fine point, which is perfect for adding in fine details.
Caran D’ache Luminance pencils – These pencils are super expensive so I only have a couple of the white pencils, and they are the best white pencils ever! These pencils are waxed based so the lead is super soft and has a smooth, creamy texture. I use this pencil for blending the polychromos to create a really smooth texture. This white pencil is also really opaque which is perfect for adding highlights onto of darker colours.
MY FAVOURITE PORTRAIT:
Each drawing I do usually becomes my new favourite, but I think my favourite portrait to date has to be the a portrait of a horse and jockey, which was given to my grandpa as a Christmas gift. He was a huge horse racing fan and the drawing hung proudly on his bedroom wall.
The best reaction I received from a portrait was from my grandma in 2009. I had drawn a portrait of her mum from a photograph taken in the 1920s, and gifted it to my grandma for her birthday. It was a complete surprise and she absolutely loved it. She opened it and immediately started crying (this was the first time I had ever seen my grandma cry). Then because my grandma was crying, my mum started to cry, then because they were both crying, my sister started to cry, all while I’m just stood there confused wondering if she was crying because she didn’t like it or because she liked it. Thankfully she loved it and it was put up on her living room wall that afternoon. Seeing her reaction from something I had created was a great feeling, and something that keeps me inspired today, knowing that something I have created can have an impact on that persons life.
Over the last few years, the majority of the portraits I have drawn are for people who will be giving them to a loved one as a gift. I have drawn portraits of couples to be given as a wedding presents, children to be given as christening gifts or for mothers day and fathers day, and families to be gifted to the parents at Christmas. I also draw many pieces which I give as gifts, usually at Christmas and birthdays. I think original drawings make perfect gifts as they spark an emotion, they can be treasured for a long time and the person who receives the gift knows there is lots of thought and lots of time has been invested in it.