Samuel Silva created quite a stir last year with his stunning photo-realistic portraits, all done with ball point pens. Even after careful investigation, it is difficult to convince your eyes that you are looking at a drawing. Samuel pays attention to the minutest of details, such as individual hairs, spots of light and the pattern of freckles. It could take up to 45 hours to complete a portrait .
Despite the jaw-dropping result, Silva uses a simple cross-hatching method to slowly build up values and create the illusion of light. Here are some ways you can use classic drawing techniques to create beautiful, detailed, ballpoint pen portraits
1. Draw what you see. Much of drawing is about intercepting the relationship between the brain and the eye. When you see a thing, your brain stores that picture of it, so the next time you see it, you know what it is. This is great for everyday life, so we’re not constantly distracted with the mountain of details that we’re presented with. If we see a furry animal with pointed ears, whiskers and round eyes, we think, “cat”. That’s why children’s drawings look the way they do. They start off thinking, “What does a tree look like?” Then they make a stick with some bushy stuff on the top.
Drawing what you see means you look at shapes, curves and lines, rather than eyes or noses. You also look at the relationships of things. For example, “How far is this line from that one? Where do they meet?
2. Notice what isn’t there. The space surrounding objects or people is called negative space. Just like the forms within it, it changes shape. Observing negative space is a great way to measure proportions and get a more accurate likeness in a portrait.
3. Build slowly. Noah Bradley said the other day on a facebook status that ‘You work faster when you work slow’ (paraphrase). I agree wholeheartedly. Working slow allows you to catch mistakes before they happen and you make incremental progress, which in the long run is better than working fast and having to go back and fix mistakes or just start all over again. By using cross-hatching and slowly building up from light to dark, you drawing will start to “pop”.
4. Values are important. In drawing, values are the relationship between light and dark. On a value scale, the shades go from light to dark. You can practice making value scales to see how many different shades you can get in between. A good drawing should have at least 3 different values (Light medium and dark) to create tone. When you make a value scale, always start with the darkest one first.
These are just a few a many tips that can be helpful in achieving jaw-dropping results. If you find this helpful, I’d love to hear your feedback. You can posts your drawings in the comments too.