Skip to main content

Pencil Portraits

Many of you have mailed me asking me about my Portraits, and so I thought I'd do a post to answer all the FAQs. (That way, I can point those who really want to know to this post and save the trouble of explaining same thing each time) :-)

These are the last three portraits that I did and I am very pleased with them. (I have done about 21 so far) . [Click to enlarge] Some of you must have already seen these portraits on my Facebook account and on my Art site. To many others these must be new :-) Click here if you want to see all the portraits I have done so far.

Most people who draw agree that Human body (Life drawings) is one of the most difficult things to draw, followed by Human Portraits. In a human body, it is indeed hard to draw a realistic figure. In a human portrait it is hard to get a good likeness.

Portraits have always fascinated me because everyone has 2 eyebrows, 2 eyes, a nose and a mouth. The combinations of these shapes produce millions and millions of different faces! The art of Portraiture is as old as Human civilization itself. As a child I used to find it amazing. As an adult, faces still fascinate me.

I use mostly pencils for my portraits. Yes, the very same pencils that you used in school for writing! :-) You get pencils with darker leads like 2B, 4B and 6B . I have a collection of these. I work mostly from Photographs. In my portraiture course, we use live models. This means a person is posing for you and you have to sketch that person live. I find this slightly hard because the time available is limited, as the duration of the class is just two hours. The models take a break every twenty minutes. Within two hours, one has to complete the portrait and I always find myself needing more time. In a photo, I can use the grid method. I would recommend this method to anyone who wants to learn how to draw or sketch.

It takes me about 4-5 hours to complete a portrait. Yes, it is a lot of hard work but I enjoy it so much. The biggest I have done is the first one that you see above, which is Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra. That is an A3 size (29.7 cms by 42 cms). In the second photo you can see how small the reference photo is and how I have enlarged it.

When I drew my first portrait which was a sketch of Satish, there was hardly any resemblance to the original photo. I was so disappointed. Satish was one person who told me not to give up and that I can do it. He reminded me of my earlier sketches and said he did not have the slightest doubt that my pictures would surely improve. So did a good friend. (The third portrait is him). So did my children! They said " Mummy, you can do it. Try mama, that is what you tell us to do." :-) I felt they were all just saying it to assure me and it seemed impossible to me to get a likeness. But gradually, as I worked really hard, my pictures started improving and I began getting stunning likenesses as I practised more and more.

Now I can get a really good likeness from any photo and people have been asking me if I would do it professionally. (And yes I indeed am!)

The key to learning anything is simply hard work, practice and determination, once you read up or study or observe the basic techniques. One should never give up. Also it is never too late to learn anything if you have set your mind to it.

H.W Longfellow had said so beautifully,

"The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they while their companions slept
Were toiling upward in the night."

It is a quote which is very true. There is indeed no substitute for hard work.

In case you have any more questions about the portraits that I have not answered in this post, I'd be happy to answer them in my comment box :-)

Even if you have no questions I'd be happy to hear what you have to say too :-)


  1. Hi Preeti

    Looks like I am the first one to comment this time :))

    Love the portraits you've made..I see them on FB and each time I do, I am even more inspired to work harder at whatever I am doing. If someone can draw so well something so complicated, then there is almost nothing that I can't do too.

    Keep sketching...



  2. I keep wondering when will I stop being lazy in each of your portraits!....I really admire your determination!
    Keep it up!

  3. Wowie zowie Preeti! Just marvellous and awesome potraits. I always admire your hard work and your sincere determination in your work. Also, loved the encouraging quote that you added to this post. Very apt. Thank you for sharing them. Keep up this great talent!

  4. You are one talented woman! Love the ones you have up here. Keep them coming! :)

  5. Laksh: thank you for the enouragement :)

    Gayu: Thanks. :)I loved your pics too!

    Vinoo: Well, it helps me forget my pain for a while. I guess you'll know what I am talking about.

    Ayush: Thank you so very much and wishing you loads of luck in all you do.

  6. Great going PS! I am not a silent admirer of your work coz as your work got better and better, I don't have better words to suit! Do keep going and soon enough, we ll all have an art show to go to, right? :)

  7. Superb work P. U really r a genius. Wish u all the best in all u do.

  8. I was typing my words and it disappeared :(
    anyways, what I was saying is I loved all ur art works in the site as well as fb.

    everything you put up for us to see is so inspiring. really.

    i wanted to ask something - you took a course to learn this. what do you think for anyone who wants to try their hand at it.. how much taking the course help? if someone wants to learn on its own how diff does that sound?

  9. The pictures are stunning....and I dont really have much to say except that I admire U Preethi:-))!!!

    Wishing U the very best Life has to offer!!!!!!

    p.s: who is the person in the 2nd pic????

    p.p.s: And oh almost forgot...tell Satish he sounds awesome;-D

  10. Nice ones. I've heard that portraits are one of the hardest, to master.
    That makes it even a bigger achievement. :)

    Judging portraits is difficult when you haven't met/seen the original. But of the link you posted, I like portrait3( I assume, of your daughter),portrait 6 (not strictly a portrait),and portrait 10 particularly. They seemed the most lifelike.

  11. I have a lot of friends who paint and they all tell me that doing portraits is really the toughest to master. Its awesome to see the portraits you have done and though I know nothing about judging its quality, I can see how much effort and hard work and detailing have gone into making them so real.

    And yes, the portraits look very real.

    Keep up the amazing work, all the best.

  12. OH-MY-GOSH!! The one of Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra is an exact replica!! Mindblowing Ma'm!! I have never attempted something like this. As a child I used to wonder how and why people look different from each other, when they've all 2 eyes, eyebrows (except Ms. Mona Lisa), nose! The same thought!!

    You are SUPER talented Ma'm. I doubt if there is anything you don't know how to do!! WOW!! I am speechless :D

  13. I'm also a fan of portraits n sketching.. But unfortunately I'm toooo lazy to practice it :( But of course your works are always my inspiration and hopefully I'll shed my laziness and take it up soon..

  14. Great portraits Preeti...And Longfellow's quote is apt as well...All the very best for your future portraits...May you achieve all the professional success you wish to.


  15. Totally agree with DH Longfellow. Another quote along the same lines -
    "Many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired and discouraged men who kept on working. " - Unknown author
    And congrats for this post getting chosen by blogadda :)

  16. really liked ur paintings.nice work.As there is a saying there is no shortcut to sucess.

  17. Wonderful portraits :)

    I taught myself how to do portraits using the the Teach your self book... and I had done a few before working. Now I think I want to do some animal sketches.

  18. Absolutely fantastic potraits !
    As always a very inspiring post :-)

  19. Hey ! Awesome portraits !

    I'm really inspired to get back to my easel now after almost two years...

  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

  21. Hi,
    I just checked out all your portraits..I think that portrait #6 is absolutely brilliant ! Every emotion, the hesitency, the passion, the impatience have been brought out so beautifully in the sketch...its almost alive and breathing..I just loved it!

  22. Dear Preethi,

    You are such a wonderful and talented person.Hats off to you. Your Potraits are simply great and you are such a fast learner.

    Wishes Always,


  23. Hey Preethi,
    Good to see that you are in good health and doing good..
    Really nice work with the portraiture
    (hope its spelled correctly?? :D) I kinda remembered the last time i sat down to draw something with a paper and some pencils, must be some 14 years back and i was just 8 yrs old.. Me and my cousins sat down to draw some animals..i wanted to draw a horse..and draw i did..but alas!! it looked more like a cross between a donkey and a bull... and i have never drew again(unless you can count those creepy things you draw for your Biology lab records...)

  24. Flitted here from Nancy's..(second time to your page). Liked your portraits! It so happens that I loove painting & attempted my first portrait yesterday (of myself). I used the usual pencils too. I haven't had professional training. It kind of looks like me ;-) Don't ask me how I did it, I managed to make myself look older! LOL. I am trying to get in touch with a professional in Blr to help me out. Was also wondering whether you can take a look & suggest (any tips/tricks?). In case you're hard-pressed for time, I totally understand!

    Cheers, rohitha

  25. Yes drawing potraits arent easy, but with some hard work u sure can master it and I see your lines are so perfect :)

    All the best!

  26. Only two words came to my mind, after seeing your sketch and reading your post:

  27. Wow.. very nice portraits.. You really rock Preethi..

  28. Awsome potraits preethi...i keep seeing them on facebook.. I do have to tell that ur hard work and determination has paid off for sure :) Congrats.... Keep up the hard work... wish i could also get rid of my laziness and get bac to my paintings and art...

  29. Enigma: thanks so much! I do hope you get back to your art :)

    Never ending memories: Thank you so very much.

    Nandagopan: :) Thanks :)

    Srivats: oh no--lots to go before perfection is achieved .But since you yourself paint beautifully I guess you know what I am talking about.

  30. Lostworld: I did visit your blog--but I did not see any portraits. Do send me link. I find two books really good. Mail me in case you're interested and I shall send u exact details.

    Shantharam: :) Everyone is born with an ability to draw. Some people develop it. Some don't --thats all :)

    Inder:Thanks so much!

    Mistress of Art: I liked No.6 a lot too.

    Ruch:Thank you!!

    Aathira; Thanks so much! Do upload or mail me link.I'd love to see. Do you find portraiture hard or easy? I have done loads of animal sketches but havent uploaded. I find them easy.:)

    Jyotiajay: thank you :)

  31. Ajay: Nice quote--on the lines of Churchill's quote, isn't it? And thanks :)

    Palsworld:Thanks a lot :)

    Dhanya: if you upload I'd love to see.

    Tranquility: you are really very kind :) Thanks so much :)

    Swapna: true. Getting a likeness is hard. Thanks a lot!

    Elaimarichi: yes--but even if you dont have the original one can make out the shadow, tones etc to judge the quality of the picture and skill. In second one I have indeed put a reference foto next to the pic. I too like the ones you mention.Thanks :) Yes-the little girl is my daughter.

    Reflections : :-) Will tell him :-) Second one--i used a reference fotu from the Internet. It is an extreme close up and a very different angled shot of Deepika padukone.

  32. Mindspace: only four classes are over of my course! It is a very long course. Most of what you see here has been learnt from books, not from the class. It is not difficult to learn from books. The thing is when it is a class, one takes it more seriously and practises. Also tutor pushes you. If you want the names of the books I can recommend the ones I used . Mail me for details.

    Chandni: Really really appreciate all the support you give me.

    Thoughtful train: Thanks so much! :) Art show will be in Norwich :) Will you come? :)

    Really very nice portraits.... u surely do not need any more training now :)

    All the Best!!

  34. Woow! Great stuff ps..n yes..i remem seeing ur very 1st portrait uploads in FBn the ones now.. there is no doubt that ur getting better with each sketch!

    Yes..Love, will power and motivation can take a person to unimaginable heights!

    I have heard a lot about using charcoal for sketches. Do u do that too?! I find the charcoal painting very fascinating!

    All the Best! Keep 'em coming!

  35. Pavi: thanks a lot :) Today's class I'd be making a charcoal sketch :) Yes i have used charcoal. Good forgiving medium :)

    Life begins: Thanks--but oh i have LOTS to learn :)

  36. hmmmmmm nothing to comment.. keep the good work going on..

    just wished ur blog had "like" button which i would have clicked it lazyly.. may b m in that mood today...
    anyways.. good work should continue.. perseverance will exhibit its better fruits.

  37. your talent to sketch is as good as your writing...maybe better. :)

  38. Thank you very much Preeti :-) Oh I haven't posted it in my blog ..yet! I shall click a pic (of my sketch & the photo) and send you an e-mail. Have a good day!

  39. **bow-bow; claps-applause**
    To the one of the most most enthusiastic and totally totally creative artist! :) :)

  40. Always love your posts.

    I would like to tag you.

  41. Hi, Like i said, I was so inspired by your post that I completed my first sketch in 6 years's the link

  42. They're all lovely especially the one of Liz Taylor. Dad has a similar talent which he talked about for years. One day my Mum challenged him saying she has yet to see this so-called talent and he took her up on it. Now we have an awesome portrait of the both of them which he drew from their old passport photos - using the grid method. My brother and I have been arguing for years now as to who would inherit it :D My argument is, since bro has inherited the talent to draw, the drawing should go to me.

  43. i used to sketch a lot when in school. and i used to love reproducing figures/faces. and i remember a time when i sketched rohini hattangady and it actually looked like her!!! and the best reaction was my mom's - she was convinced that i was a talented artist!
    this post brought out that memory! :)

    your portraits are really really good!

  44. Mine is very crude..some I have uploaded in flickr. here is the link
    would love to hear ur views..

  45. I loved these :) .. esp. the second one - the smile, the eyelashes .. really nice!

  46. kudos for the sketch. they are great. I am back. Again. this time it was a trip to homeland (not in literal terms). I went to meet my parent and when i come back i see some great sketches.


Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate your leaving a comment! Okay--I appreciate your leaving a comment if you have something nice to say ;-)

Popular posts from this blog

Life is so unpredictable. Stop judging! #Sridevi

This morning I woke up to the news of the legendary Sridevi, being no more at 54. I have grown up watching her movies. She is a tremendously talented actor.

I have been reading so many write-ups about her. There are whatsapp forwards, blog posts, news reports, status updates and so much more.

What I do not understand is how people comment on her personal life. They have watched her movies, or met her at an event, or know her through 'friends of friends' etc. They talk about how she 'tried to hold on to her beauty', how she went under the scalpel, how she was stressed etc etc.
Everything about her is open game --no matter what the truth is.

I am saddened reading these discussions.

I lost my father to a cardiac arrest. He was healthy,  fit as a fiddle, had none of the age related ailments and looked so much younger for his years. He had twice the energy of someone half his age. Even on the day he passed away, he had gone for his usual 6 km walk. He was just 66.  It was…

Re-store : A delightful little shop in Whitefield, Bangalore.

All of us are guilty, at least to some extent  of hoarding stuff. We hold on to old things--be it clothes, books, utensils, footwear, knick-knacks or some such, that form the minutiae of our daily lives. Many a time these add to the the clutter too. Rare is the home which looks like the above pic.

I am a huge fan of Marie Kondo, and I highly recommend her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up  which is more than just a book.

It is an entire philosophy, and a new approach. I read the book back to back, and immediately put into use the methods described in the book. I must tell you how wonderful I felt! I never thought that I could be that organised.

Clearing clutter, and the stuff that you no longer have use for, does release 'blocked energy.' There is no scientific or rational explanation for this. I only know that it works for me. Any Feng Shui practitioner and  loads of Eastern Schools of belief will confirm this.

I always make it a point to give away things I no longe…


Be that man Who looks his woman in the eye when he gets home And says ‘You look beautiful, darling.’ And means it. Because this thing you have going is Sacred
Be that man Who offers his woman a back rub, a glass of wine Or coffee Or simply some time and space Where she can be herself. Because this thing you have going is Sacred

Be that man Who doesn’t make jokes about his woman, behind her back Because she is too precious, too dear Some things you do not joke about Because this thing you have going is Sacred.
Be that man Who would drop everything in a jiffy to be beside her Not because she cannot manage But because you know how much she hates to do it all by herself Tell her she is strong and brave, And hold her hand Because this thing you have going is Sacred ______________________ **************© 2018 Preeti ShenoyFor more poems click here. Some poems have already appeared in print. Kindly do not reproduce without permission.Buy my books: