Tip on Pencil Portrait Drawing - Stumping and the Kneaded Eraser

By: Remi Engels

Tip on Pencil Portrait Drawing - Stumping and the Kneaded Eraser

Once you have blocked-in the large value masses of your portrait it is time to stump and "take out" the lights with a kneaded eraser. A stump is a cylindrical tool tapered at the ends and usually made of rolled paper.

Stumping then is to smudge or blend pencil your hatchings with a stump. The purpose of stumping is to produce gradations and halftones and to give certain value areas a softer look.

Blending can be done in other ways. You can use tissue paper or even your fingers or both. When using your fingers be sure to wipe off any oily residue with a tissue.

Stumping must be done in a painterly manner. You should literally carve out the form while keeping in mind both the structural anatomy and the plane changes. As you draw identify each anatomical detail. This is especially advisable when you work on complex structures such as the nose and the eyes.

In a similar fashion you can use your kneaded eraser to "take out" graphite to lighten certain areas. Again, go about it in a painterly manner. Use the kneaded eraser as if it is a brush.

Now and again you may want to make use of the concept of "closure". Your mind has a tendency to fill in the gaps in your observations. That is, the mind has a need for "closure". You can make judicious use of this tendency and leave certain parts of your portrait unfinished. It adds interest to your drawing as the viewer's mind will involuntarily finish the portrait for you.

After you have done a good bit of stumping and taking out graphite with your kneaded eraser it is time to further articulate the forms and planes by cross-hatching with a harder pencil (e.g., a 2H pencil). However, there are a few things to look out for at this stage.

Care must be taken to not render the light side of the face too darkly or it will look like a bruise. The smile line is also tricky. If you over-emphasize it you will end up with a sneer. It is best to under-emphasize it and let the viewer's sense of closure finish it for you.

An important consideration must be made when drawing from a photograph. A photograph should only be reference material. That means aesthetic decisions must be made. For example:

- What kind of emotional response are you after? When people view your portrait what sort of initial visceral response do you them to have to your drawing. Good technique is absolutely necessary. But it will count for little if it is cold and dry.

- Make choices. You should not draw every little detail but only the important ones. Use your sense of artistry to make the choices.

A hard 4H pencil can be used to make the already dark areas even darker with cross-hatching.

Careful attention needs to be paid to the edges of the forms in your drawing. For example, as a form turns away from the light source its value progressively gets darker and takes on a soft edge.

A cast shadow has a hard edge. The shape of a cast shadow is determined by the shape of the object casting the shadow and the form upon which it is being cast.

Finish the drawing by paying attention to the important details. You also want to further tweak and balance the constructed tones. Your drawing must always read as a cohesive whole even if you choose not to bring it to a high finish.

These few simple guidelines will set you on the right path. Apply them correctly and soon your pencil portraits will greatly improvement.

About the Author:
Remi Engels is a pencil portrait artist and oil painter and expert teacher. Visit his Pencil Portrait Website or the sister site Remi's Oil Paintings.


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