While some people are fortunately 'gifted' with the talent, it doesn't mean that it cannot be learned. With continuous practice and willingness to learn, anybody can develop the skill.
One of the things to remember is that portrait sketching doesn't only require the practice of your hand but more importantly, training your eyes and your brain. It is helpful to look at different sketches to familiarize yourself with details.
As I've mentioned, I'm not familiar with the different sketching techniques. What I realized was that every artist has his/her own way of doing their craft and there are certain methods that work on some artists which may not work for you. Truth is, there are no concrete rules when it comes to sketching. You will develop your own technique through practice and experience so this post will just give a rough guideline on different sketching techniques that can serve as your guide. Again, this is just a guide so don't hold back if you want to try something else.
Find something that can serve as your reference. I use different kinds of photographs from magazines when I was just starting out. In fact, pictures are still my favorite guide when sketching. Select something simple - a flower or a stuff toy. As a beginner, it is essential to choose a photograph that fits your level so that you won't get frustrated in the end. Note that the process of using a graphite pencil in sketching is a bit different from working with a regular pencil For instance, it is recommended to use a graphite pencil for more emphasis on cross-hatching or hatching (will tackle about these on future posts) and charcoal is your best option for more detailed marks.
Relax your mind and your fingers. Doing some warm up drawing exercises such as drawing cubes or circles can help you focus. Concentration is essential in order to draw your subject well.
Once you're done with the outline of the image, it's time for shading! Each object has different surfaces so it is important to observe your subject. Take note of its texture. Take your time in observing how the texture reflects light, then do the shading. For instance, if your subject is rough, you have to add spots and patches on your drawing (as well as other types of shading) in order to get the right texture and depth.
Practice! If you really want to learn how to draw (and be very good at it), you've got to actually draw. Just like any other skill, drawing requires practice. While it's always recommended to find a spot with good lightning when drawing, you can practice anytime the mood strikes. Always carry your pencils and a small sketchpad anywhere you go. Draw while having a cup of coffee, or just sitting at the park. People watching is a good method in which you can develop your perspective. Observe everything around you - the couple on the next table, the coffee mug and other things that can serve as inspiration.
It is not enough that you've got the talent or you are knowledgeable about the different theories and drawing techniques. You need to work on developing your craft and improve it. Drawing is just like any other skill - if you don't practice, you won't get anywhere.
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