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A pencil portrait and what goes into it (blog marathon post 13)

This is a portrait in pencil and graphite which I completed  last night. It took me 4 hours and 45 minutes to complete! It is an A3 size which means it is about  30 cms x 42 cms approximately. This is a portrait of a good  friend  Prashant who blogs here and regular readers will also remember that he was also chosen the chief blogger of Royal Challengers Bangalore.

I started making this last night around 10.00 p.m and just could not stop till I finished it. When I put it up on facebook this morning, delighted compliments began pouring in and one person mentioned it was a nice 'sketch'.  The artist in me, could not tolerate a portrait being referred to as a mere sketch and I quickly corrected him. He said he was glad he did as he was a complete layman when it came to art and that he was happy he learnt something new.

That set me thinking. Most people would not know how many tools go into making a pencil portrait. I thought I'd click a photo of the stuff that I use and tell you about it. I usually organise this neatly into a tiny stand which has three drawers. On top are my pencils, in the second one are my blending stumps and the third has my other tools like kneaded erasers and other stuff which I will tell you about shortly. For clicking a picture I spread them out like this, so you can see easily.

Right at the bottom of the picture you can see my grid sheet. I use this as a 'map' to see where exactly the features like eyes, lips nose etc will be placed. Before this I have to study the photo or the person (if it is a live sketch) quite well. I have to observe each thing and see what is it that make that person unique.

You can also see the paper that I use which is really expensive. I use Bristol Board extra smooth drawing paper which is acid free and 250 gsm. ( a measurement of thickness of paper. better quality paper is thicker)

You can also see my tortillons (blending stumps) which are right on top. These are very important tools when you make a portrait in pencil or graphite or charcoal. You can see a small piece of cloth  like thing which is black with graphite. This is a chamois leather piece. It is very useful to blend the graphite  smoothly. You can see a larger paint brush which I use to dust away the erasing. Since it is graphite it smudges easily (after the portrait is complete I use a fixative to spray it) and I 'tidy up' my work by erasing. I don't want to blow into my drawing and so I use a brush.

You can see a white pencil like thing with a brush at the end of it. It is an eraser which can be sharpened! :) I use it to  'lift out' fine lines in my drawing.
I use a kneaded eraser too (the grey thing at the bottom left of the photo). A kneaded eraser is like clay. you can change it to any shape you want!  This is particularly useful for doing fine features like eye ball.

You can  see a stencil of circles which I use for getting perfect rounds for eye balls. Trick here is to know which circle to use as the slightest millimetre of difference can change the picture completely.

Then I have a very cool thing which is a battery eraser.It is again at the bottom left right next to the kneaded eraser. This is battery powered! It is amazing and erases so well. It has a little eraser that rotates at a very high speed when switched on. When it wears out, you replace the end (just like you replace blades in a shaving razor).

Pencils and graphites are considered a very difficult medium to make a portrait simply because you have to get every tone and every shade right without the use of colour and with just graphite.Most people dread working in pencils/graphite.

But me--I love it completely! :-) And I guess that shows :-)

And I bet you thought it was just a picture right?  :-)

Since I got a few mails asking if I will make a portrait of them, I thought I'd add this. Yes, I do accept commissions ('order' for a portrait  in layman's terms :P ) and if you are interested you can mail me for rates and other details.

Current mood video (see right or click on name of song) Starry Starry nights --Don Mc Lean
(one of my absolute favourite  songs)


  1. Amazing portrait :D

  2. O Wow..this is GREAT!! The eyes are soooo beautifully made... :)

  3. Amazing...clear..and very well made!

  4. Amazing talent...keep it up

  5. Thats pretty impressive ... I knew pencils and graphites will smudge easily - no wonder the erasers! :-) I liked the eraser which can be sharpened and the battery one! The potrait is awesome too ... :-)

  6. Ashwini: Thanks! :) I remember you had asked about smudging. I use a fixative after i finish.You can but it in an Art store. And erasers are a very important tool to 'lift out' too.

    Lady,Harman, Life beigins and Chatter box: Thanks a lot!

  7. Preethaka, I used to wonder about how everyone who did pencil sketching got a lot of their picture so clean without having a little of the smudging.
    Thanks for the article it was so helpful, cause I do pencil sketching on and off and did not know about some of the tools that you talked about. I will look for some of these in my local art store when I go there to get my jewelry supplies.

  8. Wonderful insight on what goes behind making those awesome portraits..:)

    Thanks for sharing..:)

  9. Awesome :)

  10. oh wowow...this is awesome!! And a very informative post!!

  11. It's a beautiful portrait...So much of hard work and effort has gone into making it...Great job Preeti.

  12. To make pencil portarit only it will take 4 hrs & so much of wrk & dedication..Think abt the canvas & all..How much dedication & clarity they require..
    They would hv spent more than a day to do a painting..
    I dnt know whether they get recognition & fame for that..

  13. I always knew portraits were hard to make but I just didn't know that other than than skill and the talent of the person making it...there were so many tools involved!

  14. Main kuch nahi bolunga :|

  15. Wow!
    So much passion, effort and patience! I seriously don't know how you do all these things but apparently you do do and do it so damn WELL! :)
    It's a beautiful portrait, I quite like his lips - he sure has a full lower lip :p

    P.S: I dread meeting you in person now, am gonna be such a bore!

  16. And btw, it took me some time to read the post - I had to keep scrolling up and down to match the words with the pictures! But then again, I learned a lot today! :)

  17. I echo everything Sparkling said...including the PS and the 2nd comment;-)

    Thank U soo much for sharing this with us!!!!

  18. gosh! where did my comment go?

    i read this the first thing in the morning and with great interest. I kept scrolling up to match what was written to the items.

    Battery operated eraser, an eraser which can be sharpened? wow...

    and ofcourse the portrait is 'picture' perfect :) i think not many realise the amount of effort, patience, skill that goes into producing a perfect picture!

  19. nice portrait! Can u tell me how self portrait is made?

  20. i'l visit again. The pics are blocked at office.

  21. very informative Preeti ...thanks for a detailed post!

  22. this is amazing preeti loved it :) I can imagine the effort going into this. I did "still life" back in school and that was so tough. We never got so close to real picture. But this is phenomenal.

    I love don mc lean and the starry starry night song is just awesome :)

  23. Wow...beautiful...Thanks for sharing...

  24. i m laughing over myself, what a silly question! :-)

  25. great information for the person who cant even a draw a straight line without scale. I am always in awe of a person who can do anything related to the drawing.
    Superb blog & info too!!

  26. Amazing portrait. You're so talented. I loved to read about the tools and the effort that were behind it.

  27. beautiful sketch!! the best i have seen so far!

  28. Preeti

    What an accurate and well done pencil portrait. I have to admit, pencil and graphite drawing freaks me out so much. Not much room for error! I really admire your talent for this, it is incredible.

    I am amazed at the fine details of the lips and eyes, two of the most important distinguishing features of a person-you've managed to recreate them with excellence.

    I'm so happy for you that you enjoy doing these, because we love looking at them!
    Love Gillian

  29. Wow! What likeness. I went back n forth too, becoming more and more fascinated :D

  30. Meira; thank you :) Back and forth--couldnt help it :P :)

    Gillian:thank you so much for all the encouragement and the wonderful things you say my friend! xoxo

    EM: Portrait, portrait! Not a sketch please :)Thanks :)

    Ariel: Thanks a lot

    Tejaswini: Welcome to my blog and thank you!

  31. Roshan: heheheh..Use your own photo or look in the mirror and draw--thats all!

    Marina: Thanks :)

    Ani-aset: yes--the song is indeed wonderful.Thank you for the compliments!

    Suma:Thank you thank you!

    Reflections: Thank uuuuuuuuu..uuuuuu...uuuuuuu (echo) :P :D

    Sparkling: he is single and eligible :P :D Thanks :)

    Rohit: :)

    Mamta: Oh yes there are and you have to know how and where to use them too!

  32. Nischit: i have made many in colour too and on canvas(see my gallery)They are much easier than me.

    Guru:Thank U :)

    Vinoo:Thank you! :)

    Palsworld: Thank you!

    Durga:Thank you! :)

    Seema; Thanks :)

    Prashant : :-) :-)


    Sandya: left you an offline about the name of the book. Hope you got it.

  33. Hey preeti... you are amazing.
    i do love pencil drawing too. I have a collection in my case. I enjoy doing it.
    Your tools are awesome... The Erasers, particularly the battery one because sometime when I want to erase a small piece without moving the eraser across was too difficult. I think this battery eraser will help a lot in that case.

  34. Btw... your portrait is awesome. The Specs and eyes section is beautiful.

  35. WOW so many sophisticated tools you have. Haven't even heard of many things.. But the credit to all those lovely portraits belongs only to you - instruments can't draw, only you can :)

  36. Amazing portrait. Am amazed at how you get around doing these and managing your house. The passion you have for art is clearly showcased and thanks for sharing the details with us. Once again awesome portrait...

  37. Hey Preeti, awesome portrait and informative post.

    I've been sketching from quite sometime, but never knew about so many involved. now, will buy a few :)

    I just use a HB pencil, a 4B pencil and an eraser.

    check out my 2 portraits here:

    Lemme know your comments,

  38. Hey Preeti, awesome portrait and informative post.

    I've been sketching from quite sometime, but never knew about so many involved. now, will buy a few :)

    I just use a HB pencil, a 4B pencil and an eraser.

    check out my 2 portraits here:

    Lemme know your comments,

  39. Do I need to say it's too good ? ;)

  40. The mischief in his eyes has been captured so well ;-)

    You make it sound so easy with that list of tools. That's the first time I ever heard of many of these things even (battery eraser!). But your art is way beyond just the tools....

    Great work.

  41. Hey Preeti,

    Its a lovely sketch!

    Do you know where can I buy Kneaded erasers in Bangalore? Are there any online stores as well?


  42. Hi Preeti,

    Amazing details..i actually used it as a reference to buy the tools for charcoal portraits...Could you please let me know where to get chamois cloth here in India (any online store may be).


  43. Your portrait is jus superb.


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