Top tips for drawing minimalist portraits
And for my next trick, I'm going to take you on a private guided tour of the House of Minimalism.
I know from experience many of you enjoy having a go at creating portraits in my style, because it looks so easy. And I very much enjoy seeing the results.
The surprising thing is, it's not actually that easy at all. Yes, you can make it minimal, but will it work? Will it have that seamless flow with the negative space?
It works inside my brain, probably because I'm good at inclement decisions with the amount of detail I deem vital to capturing the essence of the subject.
This is all very hard to explain in words alone, so I'm going to employ some images to illustrate the difference between reference photo and completed drawing.
Below are two recent commissions showing the original reference photos which were provided to me and the minimalist pencil portraits which I created from them:
My minimalist portrait 'rules'
- Rule number one is, I'm going to be bending over backwards to make the eyes take centre stage and bore holes through yours and right into your soul. And this is precisely how I ended up with my distinctive style, trying to make it all about the eyes and making it a challenge sometimes to see how little else you can get away with in visually describing a face.
- Rule number two is, lean into the negative space and make it your best friend. Negative space can hint at so much. Loss, yearning, hopes, bits of a life yet unlived. From a technical standpoint, the human brain is so good at filling in information that isn't there. I may leave the final curve of a cheek undrawn, or most of the hair implied, but your brain will know exactly what's going on.
- The rest depends so much on the individual attributes of the person I'm drawing. With some people, you just have to draw their hair, or do full shading on the nose. That's part of what makes my job so much fun, determining what works best for each face to make it truly shine.
For your edification, above I give you the journey of 'Fragments.' From the questionably composed reference photo I took of Thia, to the final art piece, which has made it onto T-shirts, book covers, and has ended up defining my work.