Portraits of Older Children: Week 1

June 13, 2022

Growing Up
Sanguine and Sepia Conte Crayon
by Jo

I find the age group between about eight and thirteen or fourteen is incredibly interesting. Facial features develop so that the adult in waiting can be glimpsed. All the facial features become larger and take up a greater proportion of the head. Baby noses begin to take on their adult form and facial expressions become more subtle, whether of wonder and delight or perhaps moody, dreamy or slightly rebellious!

In this first session we’ll remind ourselves of the proportions of the head, using conte crayon, pastel pencil or charcoal for some initial sketches before moving on to a more considered drawing. I would strongly advise drawing from a reference of someone you know and meet often. Even when working from a photograph your mind will fill in remembering the forms you have observed in real life that the photographic image may flatten. Try to work as if the subject is really with you as you draw.

Nine Plays Fourteen
in my Mother’s Garden
(and nine is winning!)
Conte crayon and pastel
by Jo

I give the same advice to anyone working on a landscape from photographic reference; try to draw as if you are immersed in the landscape again!

For this first week we’ll draw a head and shoulders portrait that is three quarter view or almost full face as in the drawing heading this post. It will also be useful to have a reference that is strongly lit from one side revealing the forms of the head and facial features.

If you would also like to make a profile view drawing of the same young person, that will really help you understand the form of the head. And what about the view of the back of the head? In a live portrait session I would encourage you to make several warm up drawings looking at the sitter from different viewpoints, so that literally all round knowledge of the head is gained.

I have prepared a Pinterest board of portraits of older children. The link is

Look at some of these examples in detail and imagine an axis running through the centre of the head and whether this is tilted. Note the position of the eyes relative to the top of the head and the chin. Also look at how the artist has shown how the light falls across the head. There are a couple of photographic works among the paintings and drawings. Observe these in the same way. In addition a few profile views are included. Again observe the lighting and the tonal values as well as the proportions and placement of the features. Measure the width of the head in front and behind the ear. This will vary significantly with even a slight turn of the head. Getting the ear placement right will help you make a convincing drawing.

As the first session will be drawing, observing the major areas of tone in your reference will be essential and should be roughly indicated at the earliest opportunity working from the large shapes before homing in on the detail. Indicate the masses of hair in a similar way before indicating a few strands of hair.

Learn to enjoy looking and assessing as much as drawing!

Make sure you have; cartridge paper, some toned paper like a warm fairly pale grey, some conte crayon, pastel pencils or pastel in white, black and sanguine, table easel and drawing board and lastly a good photo reference of your subject.

Your Drawings:

Pastel drawing by Virginia
This is a sensitive portrait showing us Tom’s complete involvement with the book he is reading. Virginia made two subsequent studies one of which was a better likeness, but I didn’t feel the connection between the boy and the book in the same way. A very hard choice to decide which of the two good drawings to include!
Conte crayon drawing by Virginia

So I decided to include both!

Pastel drawing by Virginia
Phoebe did not want her Photo to be Taken
Conte crayon on grey paper by Vivienne
Two very expressive drawings of Phoebe
by Vivienne
Girl after Sir George Clausen
Charcoal and pastel by liz
Boy in a Hat after Walter Langley
Charcoal and pastel
by Liz
Pastel by John
Pencil sketch by John

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.