The power of colour

A descriptive sense of character in a portrait is conveyed in the way you select and handle specific details. This does not mean that the style of your drawing has to be detailed and realistic – you can capture the essence of a person with a very simple contour if it is very precisely seen and sensitively drawn. The character of the subject is expressed not only in the face but in particular poses, gestures and expressions, and you may choose to feature such aspects in your drawing.

The subject’s age is an important aspect of a character study, and there are various physical elements you can identify that suggest different stages of life, such as the angle of head and shoulders, the structure of the face, and positioning of the features, and the colours and textures of skin and hair.

In the sketch,

The strong contrast of black and red, further enlivened by the complementary contrast of green shadow areas, presents a powerful, almost aggressive study of the face. The mood of the portrait is emphasised by the busy activity of the pencil marks, weaving over and around each other to describe form and texture.

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