AN EXPERT GUIDE TO HELP YOU
Capturing the innocence and beauty of a child’s face can make for a spectacular portrait. Their big bright eyes, cheeky smiles and fun personalities, when drawn well, can melt the heart of anyone. So practicing this type of subject can be extremely rewarding once you reach a high level of realism with your drawing skills.
I have put together a few tips that may help you progress your skills, if you have done a portrait drawing before, then maybe once you have read this article, give the same drawing another go and see how you have improved. Getting good at anything in life is about practice and art is no different, practice makes perfect.
CAPTURE THE UNIQUE ASPECTS OF YOUR CHILD PORTRAIT
As with normal portraiture, every subject will have very unique characteristics, whether its their hair, eyes, cheeky smile or simply the shape of their face. Its essential to recognize these and capture them exactly as this is what will give your child portrait its individuality.
When trying to establish what these features are, look carefully at each facial element, the eyes, nose and mouth, as well as looking at these elements in relation to the size and shape of the child’s head. Although children all have the same basic anatomical features, these will be quite different when comparing them to another child. These slight variants in their bone structure as well as the shape and size of all the facial elements is what makes each child unique, capturing these elements perfectly will give your child portrait a life-like realism.
CHILD PENCIL PORTRAIT – UNDERSTAND THE PROPORTIONS
When looking at the basic proportions of a child’s head, the standard anatomical proportions set out using the ‘canon of proportions’ can be of some use, but has limitations as it has quite a general rule. When drawing a child’s head, as they are in a stage of dramatic growth, some of their facial elements may be out of proportion to each other, until fully grown. So using the ‘canon of proportions’ should be used loosely.
With a child, particularly a baby, their forehead is larger than an adults proportionally. If you look at an adults face the half height is at the base of the eyes, with a baby this will be slightly lower. As the base of there head and jaw extend down as they grow, this will come more balanced with other facial elements.
CHILD PORTRAIT FACIAL FEATURES
In principle you can establish the features of your child face the same way you would with an adult portrait, starting with a lightly drawn ball for the head, with horizontal lines to position the eye areas. When drawing the area for the eyes, a lot of artists choose to do three horizontal lines one for the top, middle and base of the eye height. This can also help when adding the vertical lines to position the nose, as the intersecting areas will almost give you squared up areas for each facial element. Once the eyes and nose are lined up, add another horizontal line for the base of the nose and the top, middle and base of the mouth and your basic structure is in place.
Once you start to outline each individual element, such as the shape of the eyes and nose, use light touches with your pencil until you are completely happy with all the proportions and positions of each element. This way it will reduce rubbing out and allow you to adjust shapes and position as you go.
THE BEST MATERIALS FOR YOUR CHILDREN’S PORTRAIT DRAWING
Starting with the paper, you ideally want a really smooth paper for your child portrait. Using a coarse paper will visually add texture to the skin and you will find it particularly hard to capture the smooth skin tones that give your child portrait their innocent pure looks.
And remember its a marathon not a sprint, take your time at each stage of the child portrait and use light touches until your completely happy with things. As mentioned, this will also help you avoid too much rubbing out, which is important on lighter paper as you can damage the paper and rub holes into your drawing. Even if your using thicker paper, you may not damage the paper, but too much rubbing out will stop the bright white of the paper showing, and create a flat greyness to the area, this will make it quite difficult when trying to capture highlights, and bring the portrait to life.
WHAT SIZE SHOULD YOU DO YOUR CHILD PORTRAIT?
It’s important to decide what size your wanting to do your child portrait drawing, take into account that if you choose a small size such as A4, you may find it hard to capture enough detail for a photo-realistic finish. A drawing at this size may be more of a study with a looser style, which has its appeal as much as highly detailed drawings. I always try to work to at least A3 size, this allows me to capture the smallest of details and create a photo-realistic finish to my work.
CHILD PORTRAIT DRAWING – LESS IS OFTEN MORE
When drawing any portrait, not every facial feature has to be defined and outlined, this is more so the case with child portrait drawings. For instance the structure of the nose, the eyelids and other delicate features, will be defined far more subtly by simply gentle shading of the surrounding skin tones to shape them. When shading the child portrait, if you use a broad enough range of shading tones, all the elements of the facial structure can be created perfectly, with no use for harsh outlines.
For example on the eyes, and lips, where the light hits these features, leave them free of any shading, this will accentuate them as highlights, especially when all other areas are shaded to create a beautiful contrast.
CHILD PENCIL PORTRAITS – TIPS IN SUMMARY
When taking a photo for your child portrait drawing, try not to use a flash on the camera, this can flatten the bone structure of the face. Taking a photo in natural daylight at maybe a 3/4 angle can give a beautiful shape and tone to the photograph and make excellent reference for your portrait drawing.
Avoid bad reference. If you photo has very little detail or is fuzzy and low quality it wont be of much use, as you can’t draw what you cant see.
Always start off with soft flowing lines, don’t press hard until your sure your 100% happy with elements of the child portrait.
Choose a heavy very smooth paper – rough paper will add texture to your child portrait you don’t want.
Have a good range of pencil grades, start with a grade F or H, and when shading the skin use a very light pencil grade with very soft strokes, this will capture the pureness of the child skin.
Don’t outline the highlights, the facial highlights will display themselves once you have shaded the other tonal areas on the face.
Don’t rub out too much, work lightly, otherwise you will flatten your drawing tone and potentially damage the paper.