Portrait Drawing Masterclass at London Atelier of Representational Art


I’m back from a wonderful week in London where I participated in a portrait drawing masterclass at the London Atelier of Representational Art. It was a great opportunity to learn the atelier method and the teacher was awesome. I learned a lot from the course. 


There were eight participants and two models, so four participants for each model. We used the sight-size approach. To draw accurate proportions we used a longer stick, went a few meters back and marked our spot so that we knew from where we have to look at the model. From this distance we could measure angles, etc. and memorise them so we can transfer it onto the paper. The easle was standing very close to the model, but we were only allowed to measure from the distance.

I’m now going to post my notes that I took during the course followed by progress pics.

1) Get the envelope done. Start with major lines and angles. Go back to get the head size right so that it fits nicely on the paper. Mark your spot.

2) Establish shadow shapes –> cast shadows (not the ones which are in the light), for example: neck, under the nose, under the eyes

3) Establish the darkest dark, include the background; Discussion with the teacher because for me the hair appears light at some stages but he says that it is very dark. It melts into the background. When looking at old masters paintings the hair always appears dark. Also treat the hair as one form.

4) Put in the lightest light, use layers: press harder for lightest values, press lighter for darker values;
For example: the forehead is a bit lighter than the tip of the nose.

Special remarks:
Treat the gray of the paper as a value. Leave a space between charcoal and the white pencil;
Never draw over the charcoal with white.
Never place highlights on the edge of a form.

Always distinguish between different shadow types: 
halftones (nearly everywhere in the face)
core shadow: e.g. the “line” between the face and the neck
cast shadow: e.g. under the face/neck

Proper shading: always sharpen the charcoal with sandpaper to a very fine point. Hold it at the end of the stick with the thumb on top for a very light pressure. 
Work on small areas with strokes going only in one direction; 

Sharpen the white pencil with a knife and sandpaper

Take care of:
soft edges
hard edges
lost edges

Squint until you see only shadow forms.

In an advanced state: ask yourself questions; e.g. is the form of the nose right?

What I should practise more: shadows and shading









art course, charcoal portrait, london atelier of representational art, step by step