Portraits Hand Drawn from your Photos

A few years ago I had the good fortune to be in the audience for an intimate concert. As the singer performed, her look was quite intense. I just knew I had to capture the moment with a portrait. When painting portraits I go through many decisions and stages. Enjoy this very brief overview.

NOTE: you can click on each image to see a larger version.

Portraits painted from your photos
The Finished Portrait

Hand Drawn Portraits: The Stages Involved


The first stage when I draw a portrait (as opposed to a caricature) is to start on a mid-tone grey background with an outline. This is when I start to think about the composition and what elements I need in the portrait to make it have some impact. Sometimes, less is more!

In this particular portrait I knew that I had to capture the intense look as the performer sang some distance from the microphone. But, I also knew that I had to bring that microphone into the composition so that viewers would know what is happening and so that the portrait would make some sense.

For client portrait I will send a proof at this stage to ensure the composition is correct. It is always best to get this stage correct before moving on to the block colour stage.


I now start to lay down some base colour. Sometimes I may work completely in greyscale and then tone it after. However, on this occasion, I opted for colour from the start.

It is a simple case of identifying areas to block. The portraits looks quite ‘ugly’ during the first few hours but persistence pays off as you can see from the finished product at the top of the page.


Once the blocking in has been completed I move to the blending stage. This is the stage where the portraits starts to take on some life and start to resemble a real person!

There is still a lot more detail to add in terms of skin tone, freckles, wrinkles, blemishes, more colours etc. This portrait was fairly straightforward as the singer had a beautiful complexion. Often, when drawing portraits for older clients there is more work involved due to the aged face. Not an issue this time!


With the face almost complete I turned my attention to the hair. I usually dread this part as it can take many hours of work. 

The singer has a hair band on her head which just broke up the hair and added a little more detail to the portrait without distracting attention from her gaze. 

Drawing portraits of bald men…no problem!  However, those with beards…now that requires a lot of work!


I began to work on her shirt and went through several iterations before I settled on something fairly plain so that it did not become too distracting. 

I also started to work on the microphone and the whole composition could finally be seen.

When working on portraits for clients I try, where possible, to get feedback at the early stages. However, during what I call the ‘ugly’ stages it can be quite off-putting for some clients. 


With the incredibly fine details of the microphone complete I went back to the shirt and changed my mind about the colour. There was something just not right about the blue. So, I toned everything down and went much darker to give a sort of silk sheen to it.

I also played around with the background to add just a little interest with some toned colours. I knew it had to be kept plain and simple.

Client portraits are drawn with an insane amount of detail. Clients do not always understand how colours play off one another. Luckily, my clients always trust my judgement. Every single one of them has been blown away by the finished product. I must point out that the images on a screen just do not do justice to the portraits when they are seen in ‘real life’ on a stunning exhibition quality canvas or framed print.



Final stages and time to add the details to the hair band. I just love the colours of the flowers in the hair band and how they complement her hair colour.

I could have (and probably will at some point) worked on this for a few more hours. However, paid commissions were calling so I had to put it to one side.

So, what do you think? I would love to get your comments in the form below.


If you are interested in commissioning your own portrait then please get in contact with me.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Stunning! How long did it take to draw this?

    1. Thanks, Paul. I can’t remember how long I spent on this one. Probably about 6 hours or so as it is not as detailed as my commission work.

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