“Hilda”: graphite and gouache illustration

I feel like I am getting a good handle on drawing graphite portraits at the moment. I have completed a couple of successful (in my mind anyway) drawings in a row now. There is something to be said for sticking to a theme until you (almost) perfect it! What’s that theory… 10,000 hours to become an expert? I have such squirrel tendencies it’s impossible for me to stay focused on any one thing for an extended period!


For this piece I used a reference photo from Zara online.  I don’t know who the model is but she is very pretty of course.  I’ve named her Hilda simply because I suck at giving my artworks titles so I thought I would work my way through the alphabet!


Even though I had a good reference photo I must admit I found this angle of her head quite challenging. I realised I draw a lot faces straight on and to have a head titled back and away from the camera, and shot from underneath, was unfamiliar territory. At this angle her nose was foreshortened and her chin and jaw, being closest to the camera, appear quite big and ‘chunky’. At one stage in my drawing she was looking rather Roger RamJet (remember him?!). I really had to work at getting the shadows in the right places.

I am still using the Daler Rowney paper which I’m kinda falling in love with.  I used my Tombow monos drawing pencils for the bulk of the graphite work, Staedtler Mars Lumograph black 6B pencil for the very darkest areas and then a HB and 2B mechanical pencils for the hair.

work in progress copy.jpg

work in progress 2.jpg

Version 1.jpg

I super happy with how this has turned out so far.  I am a little disappointed with her eyes. They look a bid dead and flat to me. I would have like to have got a bit more detail in them, but you can’t have everything!

I was going to leave it here and call it finished but my original plan had always been to add some gouache paint as I did in my last portrait, “Grace”.  I was feeling perhaps overly ambitious and wanted to create something a bit more …”elaborate”.


I can’t even begin to explain the process I used to create these little gouache triangles.  Let’s just say it involved some complex trigonometry, lots of little bits of blue painters tape, an overly complicated paint by number scheme, and a level patience well beyond what I possess.  It took me days just to do half of the sleeve!.  I pretty much had to tape and paint each triangle individually, one by one, and then wait 24 hours before I could tape the adjacent triangle.  It was great fun … for all of about 45 minutes….

paint colour





At this point a whole bunch of issues with my technique came to light.  Primarily the time it was taking.  I was going to be at it for next six months at this rate (in squirrel years this is like sixty years!).  It was virtually impossible to match up the edges and angles of each triangle accurately.  And no matter how much I “de-tacked” the masking tape it was still lifting little bits of paint off.  When I came to taping it over her hair the problem became even worse as it lifted so much of the graphite off!.  Grrrr!!. Time to abandon ship!

I will have to settle for Photoshop and the scan I made before I took to it with my paintbrush!



6 thoughts on ““Hilda”: graphite and gouache illustration

  1. Beautifully done! And yeah, I’ve also found graphite isn’t a fan of tape. Neither is most high tooth paper. Cold press reacts a little better than most in my experience. Either way you got the likeness down and the shading/lighting is amazing.


    • This was my first experience with tape and graphite. It never even occurred to me that there would be an issue! Since I like hot press paper and graphite I perhaps really need to reconsider my use of tape !

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re really nailing the shading, I think the eyes look alive.

    Funny story though, bet you’re glad you had that earlier scan.

    Yesterday I was having fun and games on that End Sheeran portrait. It was all going well trying something out but in the space of less than 10 seconds I’d managed to break three expensive pencils, shattered a load of wood chippings all over the chair and floor, creased the corner of the picture and had a drop of oil soak straight into the paper 😫

    It was always intended to scan it in for printing but now I’m going to have to just get my own decent copy (with the oil stain photoshopped out).

    Experimentation is great but one day I’ll learn to do it on scrap stuff first 🙁


    • Isn’t Photoshop such a wonderful thing 😂
      Someone invited me to participate in an exhibition recently- I suddenly realised I don’t have too many final pieces that haven’t required a little tlc from Photoshop!


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