I haven’t shown progression on a piece in a while, so I thought I would share it with this small portrait – a drawing of two sisters. Each portrait allows for more learning and honing of my process. Just when I think I’ve got it all down, I hit a snag (and that is a good thing.) It keeps me on my toes.

I’ve found my preferred method on the last few portraits (especially the pencil drawings) to be to develop the background first, and then the figures in the foreground. Maybe it’s psychological, but I feel like that helps to push the background back and bring the figures forward (since I’m creating them on top of the existing background.) Certainly in painting this is the case. With drawings the pencil doesn’t override what’s underneath it like paint does, however I also find this method helpful, because it minimizes unnecessary smudges and smears on the figures. I can fill in the background information, clean up any smudging with an eraser, and then work on the figures.

So, in this case, I went ahead and drew the space around Erin and Bev (that plaid couch!!)


I proceeded by systematically filling in details for the hair and skin for both girls, leaving their light-coloured clothing for last. My reasoning for was that this way, I wouldn’t lose my work on the white shirts to smudging as I worked on the skin around them. However, what happened was that when I got to the lighter coloured fabrics, the skin was too light to contrast with them, and the image looked completely washed-out. I wish I had snapped a photo to show what I mean, but you will have to use your imagination.

To resolve the issue, I had to very carefully darken both girls’ arms, faces and hair, so that there were little to no white highlights on their skin. This was achieved primarily with my handy “H’ pencil and a lot of patience. The end result:


I should add, the reason I did this portrait was because Erin (the sister on the right) had won a gift certificate for a 5×7 drawing that I donated to a Brooke Valley School fundraiser. She generously gave it to her sister Bev, who used to be my neighbour in Perth. Sadly, Bev reecently passed away, before she was able to cash in on her portrait. Both women are/were extraordinarily kind and lovely people, and I wanted to go ahead and honour the donation and also honour Bev’s memory. Rest in peace, Bev.

xo Melody

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