• Wendy Barratt

Getting Johnny in line!

Over the years, I have amassed images of people that I would love to have a go at drawing... and it's only now, when faced with not being able to work from life models and having a bit more time on my hands, that I have started searching through my archives.

The image I used is one downloaded from a website (not sure which one - or who to attribute it to - sorry!) but it's a great image of a face full of character and true Johnny attitude!

I LOVE to work in line and wanted to demonstrate how to get character and the sense of the 3D structure of a form without having to work in tone... or 'shading in'.

Charcoal is a great medium for working in line as it responds very directly to your touch and pressure on the paper. You can also create a wide range of marks from very smudgy... to light and fragile... to dark, precise and dramatic. When working in line think about changing the pressure of your mark to help to describe where you can see the form is coming towards you and away from you. Experiment with the way you hold your charcoal and play with twisting and turning it as you move your charcoal across the page.

Look for the big shapes to start with and then work your way further into those shapes, refining them and also finding the smaller shapes within the larger ones. The shapes you are looking for are describing the FORM - think about contour lines around the edges of who you are drawing but also contour lines which appear when one plane changes to another - you can usually see this as a change in tone but think about representing this change in plane with a line instead.

For this study I worked on a sheet of pale grey Fabriano pastel paper, willow charcoal and a putty rubber.

1. It is a good idea to start your drawing by just placing the big shapes, marking out the proportions and checking angles with some simple, light lines in charcoal. Be bold, simplify your lines right down and check and double check. This is the scaffolding of your drawing and you will build on top of this, so it's important it is correct. Keep stepping away from your drawing and look at it from a distance - or if you are working in a small space, take a photo of your drawing on your phone. You will then see your drawing at a small scale - as if you are looking at it from the other side of the room. Alternatively look at your drawing in a mirror.

Notice how I have marked the main central axis of the head, the general shape and proportions of the outline of the head, the brow line, the level and angle of the eyes (don't always assume they appear on a straight line - especially when viewing the head from a tilted or 3/4 angle), the base of the nose and the line of the mouth and how it wraps round the underlying curvature of the teeth and front jaw. At this point, also look for the angle and width of the neck and the height and angle of the shoulders.

2. Once I was happy with the first sketch, I started to look at the shapes of the eye sockets, eyes and the facial structure around them. The structure around the eyes, like the eye socket, cheek bones and nose, help you to double check that everything is in proportion and fits into the framework of the head. Look at the facial features as abstract shapes. They alter with each one of us so really look at the shapes and try not to draw your version of a nose or an eye, but the shape that you are seeing in front of you.

3. Be aware of the shapes and structures of the face around the features - these are just as important as the main features and they are things that often get ignored and forgotten to the detriment of a portrait. A portrait is more than just eyes, nose and mouth.

4. Keep building up your shapes. Look and look again. Walk away from your drawing from time to time and have a cup of tea. Come back to your drawing with refreshed eyes and go in at the weakest point.

5. Some of the lines I drew were too dark and took away from the form of the portrait. At this stage I just dabbed on the darker lines with a putty rubber to lighten them slightly until I was happy with them.

You may want to try this exercise with different media. If you are feeling brave, why don't you start with building your foundation with pencil and then move onto ink?

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