Anatomy of a Drawing


The goal of this page is to show you the different steps in the creation of a one of my drawings, the portrait of Anakin Skywalker/Hayden Christensen you can see in the gallery devoted to Star Wars. Everyone has their own method and mine might seem a little strange to you, but when you learn how to draw by yourself, you tend to see the practical side instead of the "academic" one. ;P

I hope what follows will interest you.

Click on the thumbnails to see the bigger images.


WIP Anakin Skywalker - Tools

Before starting the explanations, here is the list of the tools used to make the drawing:

- paper: Bristol (brand Canson), size 24x32 cm
- pencils: mechanical pencils (also called lead holders) 0,5 mm: 2B, B, HB, H, 2H and for the classical pencils: 6B, 4B, 3B, HB, H, 7H, 9H
- to erase: plastic rubber, Blu-Tack
- to blend: Kleenex, mechanical pencil 2mm

And a little explanation on what I call the "Kleenex blending"

Kleenex is a famous brand for paper hankie often used as a common name to designate it.

First, paper hankie has the advantage of being cheap and always within reach. ;) When the surface to blend is important (ex: clothes, parts of the face like forehead or cheeks), you can wrap a Kleenex around your finger and use it as a blending tool. It’s more problematic for little surfaces like lips or eyes. Here is what I do: I cut pieces of Kleenex (about 1x2cm). I fold down an edge of the longest side on 2mm and I do it again and again until the piece of hankie is entirely folded. Then I fold in two what I got before and I place it in the mechanical pencil 2mm. That way I have a very precise blending tool as easy to handle as a pencil and that I never have to clean, I just have to cut and fold another piece of hankie.

What is Blu-Tack? It’s a kind of paste usually used to hold posters on walls but it’s also a kind of magnet for graphite that does wonders when it comes to create lighting effects. I recommend you to visit Mike Sibley’s site (site in English) and especially his tutorial entitled "Blu-Tack as eraser", to see all you can do with it.

Step 1 Time: 7 hours

Pencils used: 7H, mechanical pencil H

Art Drawing – Tutorial - Making of Anakin Skywalker Portrait - Step 1

Here you can see the result of the first step which consists in drawing a preliminary sketch as precise as possible. This is, for me, the most difficult step and that’s why I use a grid (2x2cm, drawn with a 7H pencil) to keep the proportions.

Once the grid is done both on the model and on my paper, I start drawing the most important lines in a rough way (outline of the eyes, of the nose, of the mouth and of the face, the hair, the costume). Then I start working more precisely on the face until everything is perfectly placed. This step is essential because if I don’t manage, right from the beginning, to render expressive eyes or to draw the nose as it should be, I won’t go further. All along this step, I erase the lines of the grid as I go along, being careful to place the main shadows (around the nose, the eyes and the mouth) that will be my new marks for the next steps.

Then I begin drawing Anakin’s hair. I usually only place the main hair locks but in Anakin’s case, I worked with a high resolution picture (a real pleasure!) that allowed me to make a precise sketch of the locks right from the start. I keep the simplest thing for the end, which is the costume, once again being careful to place the main shadows as future references.

And now, as Anakin would say, "Let the fun begin!" It’s time to get going on my favorite part: the shading work or to be more down-to-earth, the coloring.

Step 2 Time: 7 hours

Pencils used: mechanical pencils 2H, H, HB, B, 2B and classical pencils: 4B

Art Drawing – Tutorial - Making of Anakin Skywalker Portrait - Step 2

You may be surprised by the drawing evolution during the steps that will follow but I’ll try to explain my way of doing it. ;)

Having a preliminary sketch as detailed as possible allows me to tackle the filling in a surer way and also allows me to start wherever. A lot of people start by drawing the eyes, the nose and have a kind of progression from the centre of the face to the outside of the drawing. What do I do differently? I know that if, in step 1, the main features of the face were well done, there’s no reason they will become a problem later and, being right-handed, working on the left part of the drawing, I risk ruining all the work I might have previously done by rubbing my hand on the graphite. So I prefer moving diagonally on my sheet in order for my hand to (almost) never be in contact with a finished part.

Anakin’s hair

I first draw the darkest locks with a 2B pencil or even a 4B if I need a really dark tone. Then, I draw the other locks little by little decreasing the rank of the pencil: B, HB, H. Even the lightest hair locks are not totally white and contain little pencil strokes done with 2H. All the locks are made up by pencil strokes more or less long and more or less close, there’s no "coloring". If I think the hair lacks relief (because I haven’t made enough light locks for example), I use some Blu-Tack to create some light effects within some locks.

As you can notice it, around the mouth, the drawing is a little dirty. As the quality of the printed version of the picture was not good enough, I sat in front of my computer with my drawing on my knees just the time to place the main lines with the 2B pencil. I had forgotten to protect the drawing (big mistake) and without paying attention, I rubbed my hand on the sheet. It didn’t really matter as it was only a few lines but what if I had spent several hours working on the eyes and the nose and I had ruined everything just for half an hour spent in front of my screen. It illustrates pretty well what I said before.

Step 3 Time: 6 hours

Pencils used: mechanical pencils (noted mp) H, HB, B, 2B and classical pencils (noted cp): HB, H, 7H, 9H

Art Drawing – Tutorial - Making of Anakin Skywalker Portrait - Step 3

First thing to do: clean the stupid thing done in the previous step. ;)

During this step, I (finally!) start working on the face. I have first accentuated Anakin’s scar with a B pencil so that it won’t disappear under the layer of graphite applied on the forehead. With a cp HB, I color the parts of the forehead included between the hair locks as well as the darkest shadows of the forehead. I blend and I apply a second layer of HB that I’ll blend as well (in order to get a more homogeneous effect). I color what’s left of the forehead, but also the inside of his right eyebrow, his right temple as well as the space between his eyebrows with a cp H (blending + 2nd layer + blending). I can now finish the scar by making little strokes with a B pencil first then with a 2B pencil to accentuate and give it a little relief.

Then, I accentuate the outline of the eye (mp H for the lower part, B for the upper) and the eyelid (B). I place all the shadows around the eye starting by the darkest ones (B, mp HB) and finishing with H. (blending between each tone). With some Blu-Tack, I made little touches of light under the eye, once again to give a little relief.

The inside of the eye

With a mp HB, I accentuate the inside corner of the eye and with a mp H, I draw again the lower outline of the eye as well as the shadows in the outside corner (7H). If the shiny part located in the inside corner of the eye is covered with graphite, I create it again with Blu-Tack. Then, it’s time to work on the centre of the eye. With a B pencil, I draw again the outline of the iris. With a mp HB, I make little pencil strokes within the iris (+ blending) and then I fill it with a mp H making little strokes from the centre to the outside (+ blending) and being careful with the little blanks (I can recreate them later with Blu-Tack but it’s better to pay attention to it right from the start). I draw the pupil with a 2B pencil (blending + 2nd layer). And to finish, I color the white part of the eye with a 9H pencil leaving little blanks that will give the eye a wet aspect.

Eyelashes and eyebrows

I draw the eyelashes with a B pencil being careful not to darken too much the lower ones. For the eyebrow, I use 2 pencils, a mp B and a mp 2B in order to create an effect of thickness. As I like little details, Hayden has a scar (a real one) in his right eyebrow so I paid attention not to darken the eyebrow too much in that place in order to easily recreate the scar with Blu-Tack. While I’m there, I finish the shadows between the eyebrows.

Before coloring the cheek, I draw the ear with a B pencil for the dark part and mp H and 2H for what’s left. The little reflections on the cartilage are made with Blu-Tack.

I draw the lower part of the scar with a mp B. With a mp HB, I accentuate the outline of the cheek et I apply a first layer of cp HB for the darkest part on the left as well as all along the nose and I start working on the shadows of the neck (upper part). I darken the outline of the face with a B pencil (+ blending) and I color in with a mp HB all along this line (+ blending). Then I color the inside of the cheek (HB + H and blending) trying to respect the shape of the face as for the direction of the strokes, same for the neck on which I let more pencil strokes appear in the Adam’s apple region.

When the shading work on the cheek and on the neck seems to be finished, I work on the nose. Once again, I start by accentuating the outlines with a mp B and I place the darkest shadows with a mp HB (blending + 2nd layer + blending) respecting the shape of the nose. I colour the nose with a mp H (or 2H for the lightest part like the end of the nose to give an effect of light) reproducing the rounded shape of the nasal bridge. Then I draw the nostrils with a B pencil.

Note: the darkest shadows are always made first because it’s easier to remove the surplus of graphite when the lightest parts haven’t been created (otherwise, risk of ruining the shading work).

Step 4 Time: 5 hours

Pencils used: mechanical pencils (noted mp) H, HB, B, 2B and classical pencils (noted cp): HB, H, 7H, 9H

Art Drawing – Tutorial - Making of Anakin Skywalker Portrait - Step 4

I place the main shadows like the rings under his eyes with a B pencil. Then, I start working around the eye and on the eye itself as well as the eyebrow as I did in the previous step. Afterwards, I color the cheek up to the line between the cheek and the nose with a cp HB (blending + mp HB + blending) for the darkest shadows and a cp H for what’s left (ditto).

Note: I don’t know why but for the largest surfaces (the cheek in this case), I prefer applying the first layer of graphite with a classical pencil, I have the impression that it’s done in a more homogeneous way. On the other hand, for the second layer, as I make a succession of pencil strokes very close to each other, the mechanical pencils are not a problem.

Work around the mouth

I draw again the inside outline of the lips as well as the corner. Then I color the part located above the lips starting by making the darkest shadows with a mp HB: under the nose, the hollow above the lips as well as all the shadows above and under the mouth. Then I finish the shading work above the lips with a mp H. It’s only after doing this that I begin working on the lips. I start by making a lot of little pencil strokes with a mp HB following the shape of the lips, then I color the inside of the lips with a mp H (+blending). I draw again the little strokes and the darkest shadows and I create the reflections of light with Blu-Tack. Once the lips are done, still using Blu-Tack, I create lighter parts right above the lips to accentuate the effect of relief of the mouth.

Now, I can finish the lower part of the face. I draw again the outline of the cheek and of the chin with a mp B and I place shadows along that line (+ blending). I make the shading work on the chin (with a mp HB and a mp H) respecting its shape. I try to let some lighter parts where the light is reflected on the chin otherwise I’ll create these effects later using an eraser or Blu-Tack.

Last things to do in this step: the beauty spot with a B pencil and the little scar (yeah, one more) on his left cheek.

Step 5 Time: 3 hours

Pencils used: mechanical pencils (noted mp): H, HB, B and classical pencils (noted cp): 4B, 6B

Art Drawing – Tutorial - Making of Anakin Skywalker Portrait - Step 5

The goal of this step is to finish the shading work on Anakin’s neck in order to start coloring the costume. As there’s no reference for the contrasts, I try to make a tone as close as the one desired and I’ll adjust it later if needed.

I start by drawing again the line between the costume and the neck with a mp B. I make the central part of the neck (the left part being previously done in step 4). As for the face, it’s important to respect the shape of the neck when applying the graphite (as my sheet is not fixed on my desk, I spend my time turning around to be in the best position). On the other hand, as the skin of the neck is less smooth than the face one, for the shadows, above all in the Adam’s apple region, I allow more pencil strokes to appear. Then I place the darkest shadows on the right side using a mp HB as well as the very dark shadow located at the root of the next with a 6B pencil and a 4B pencil that I blend. I color what’s left of the neck with an mp H (+ blending). If need be, I use Blu-Tack to make little lighter marks.

Step 6 Time: 5 hours

Pencils used: mechanical pencils (noted mp): 2H, H, HB, B, 2B and classical pencils (noted cp): 3B, 4B, 6B

Art Drawing – Tutorial - Making of Anakin Skywalker Portrait - Step 6

With the same pencils used in step 2, I finish Anakin’s hair.

Now, it’s time to make the costume. I start with the upper part on the left by drawing the darkest two lines with a cp 6B, and I color the folds above his shoulder using a cp 4B (+ blending) for the darkest part and an mp 2B for the lightest part above his shoulder, as well as between the 2 lines previously drawn.

Then, using a 6B pencil, I color the upper part of the costume respecting the shapes of its different elements and I accentuate the first 2 folds from the left. I blend a first time, and I apply a 2nd layer + blending to get something as regular as possible. Then, still in that part, I place the shadows with a cp 4B (+ blending) and at last with a cp 3B (blending + another layer that I don’t blend so that the fabric doesn’t have a too uniform aspect). Still using a 6B pencil, I draw the next fold in 2 steps as previously and I color between the folds with a cp 6B for the darkest part (+ blending), then cp 4B and at last cp 3B for the lightest part. I blend pressing on my mechanical pencil (re "Kleenex blending") to give a patina aspect because the fabric in this area is leather; I use Blu-Tack to create the shiny part on the edge of the leather, same thing for the reflections on the fabric. For the next element, whose darkest part has been previously colored, I draw a kind of cross-ruling (with lines following the shape of the element) in order to create an effect of texture on the fabric. As for the other parts, I begin with a cp 4B (+ blending) then a cp 3B (blending + another non blended layer). I first create the shadow on the right with a cp 4B before making the lightest part of the fabric with Blu-Tack. Otherwise I risk going over that part while blending the layer of 4B. For the last part done in that step, I start by drawing again the shadow created by the junction of the fabrics with a cp 6B and I color first with a cp 4B then with a cp 3B as previously, respecting the shape of the fabric.

Note: we can see at the end of that step that Anakin’s neck needs to be darkened.

Step 7 Time: 5 hours

Pencils used: mechanical pencil (noted mp): B and classical pencils (noted cp): 3B, 4B, 6B

Art Drawing – Tutorial - Making of Anakin Skywalker Portrait - Step 7

First thing to do: with a mp B, add a layer of graphite on the edges of the neck on both sides while still paying attention to the shape of the neck.

To finish the costume, I work the same way I did in step 6 (that is same pencils, darkest parts done first) from left to right. When the costume is finished, I check if the shade of neck needs to be adjusted once again.

There are only 2 things left to do:

- To clean the sheet all around the drawing to remove the dust of graphite created by the rubbing and/or the blending with Blu-Tack and eraser.

- To put the final touch: the signature! I have the habit of always writing it once the drawing is completely done because it allows me to better choose the size/the design of the signature in order not to overload the drawing.

Now, after 38 hours of work, I can at last say that the drawing is finished!

I only have to scan it and send it to my dear webmaster.

Note: to fix the drawing, I use a spray called "fixative for crayons, charcoal and pastels". Even if graphite is not a medium as dusty as charcoal or pastel, it is necessary to apply a layer of fixative if you don’t want the drawing to be spoiled when you place it in a portfolio, when you frame it or when you simply touch it. I apply the fixative on the artwork only after scanning it cause if a little "accident" happens, at least I have a saved copy of the drawing. From experience, I know sometimes the spraying of the fixative happens to be irregular or I can apply a too important layer of fixative and it can cause stains on the drawing.

Another example, the portrait of Jodie Foster, in the "cinema" gallery of the site, was first surrounded by 2 frames drawn with a simple black ball-point pen. Apparently the fixative was not compatible with that kind of pen, hence the blue frame to hide where the pen had leaked.