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Quick & Dirty Portraits
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Last updated 01/05/13


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 Why "quick & dirty"? The expression is often used for events at Boat Shows as in "quick and dirty boatbuilding" where, having been given a couple of sheets of ply, some softwood plus glue and basic tools, teams will design and build a boat in one day and the next, will launch it and race across a lake - it usually ends up with a lot of wet people and bits of wood floating aimlessly around the lake! But it's good fun and is an excellent way to get people into boatbuilding and design.

 Here I hope to do the same with portraits - we wont get too complicated or serious but simply offer a starting point for those who may like to eventually do a portrait of a grandchild or even their loved one.

 There are so many tupes and styles of portrait - take a lok at the work by Rembrandt, John Singer Sargent, David Downton and Charles Reid to study the enormous differences in approach and style. Some are full colour formal reditions, others much looser but still with a lot of colour and others are more caricature in style. But all are relevant and you must work towards your own style as you practice.

 My own style uses a bit from each area - loose, formal and caricature.
Quick and Dirty portraits 01


I often admire artists who simply take a piece of paper and, out of their own head, sketch a portrait. It is not aas difficult as it seems, so as a start to portraiture, let's try a simple face on sketch :-

  Very often artists will start with the eyes and then add the nose followed by the mouth and finish with the outside contour of the face. Having done this, a good look at the sketch will show well drawn features but an image which, for some reason, does not fully resemble the subject.

 Often the reason for this is that, whilst the individual features are correct, they are not in the correct relative position to each other. The best way to overcome this problem, is to start from the outside and work inwards.


1. We will start with a simple front view level face—draw an egg shape and divide this with a vertical line.

Quick and Dirty Portraits 02
Quick and Dirty Portraits 03

2.  Now draw a horizontal line half way down for the eye line. Then divide the lower half into thirds for the bottom of the nose and mouth line.


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