Unit 3: Portraiture Foundations

Realistic portraiture is seen by many artists as one of the ultimate skills and challenges.
See how our student Sheila Russell Perry brings together skills learned from earlier units to create wonderful portraiture.

Unit 1 Outline Drawing

This course is the third in a series of six units which together form the Complete Drawing Certificate Course.

Portraiture is often seen as the ultimate goal for many pencil artists. In this unit you’ll see how DrawPj student Sheila Russell Perry takes her first steps into studying the individual parts of the human face and goes right through to creating a wonderful self-portrait. It’s absolutely possible for you to take this journey too and amaze yourself with the self-portrait you will create.

Building step-by-step upon the skills in the previous units

You’ll see that Sheila builds upon the skills she has already gained in the previous units to draw a portrait of a child, and then practices charcoal drawing techniques, before embarking on a self-portrait.

Invaluable instructor feedback

Again, Sheila’s instructor Tannis provides invaluable feedback to help Sheila to improve every step of the way. It’s this kind of expert feedback that can help you make the breakthrough that you are looking for.

The Portraiture Drawing Lessons begin…

Assignment Unit 3: Week 1 – Shade the individual features of the human face


Hi Tannis! Here’s my first week in unit 3!

Pencil drawing of individual human features


Awesome work! Please see the below for your video comment.


Assignment Unit 3: Weeks 2 and 3
– Egg-shaped head with your own unique proportions
– Child Portrait “Isha”


Hi Tannis! Here’s my week 2 and 3. I still am working on my photo. So I will send that soon! But in the meantime, here’s what I think I look like based on drawing an egg-shaped head. Sheila

Pencil drawing of human head placement of featuresPencil child portrait of Isha


This is such a beautiful drawing of Isha:) Wow, you gained an excellent likeness:) I especially like all of the textures you’ve created… the hair, the iris smooth skin, and the sweater is outstanding! Please see below to view your video comment.

Have fun practicing the charcoal techniques next week. The trick with charcoal is that you just use less:) It is quite different than graphite. Have fun, explore… you can create some amazing things with it!

Assignment Unit 3: Week 4
– Create 12 different charcoal techniques
– Create one hairstyle


Here’s my next assignment! I really liked all the different exercises with the charcoal and willow sticks to get a feel for how they work. I have never used anything like that before! I also really enjoyed doing the hair exercise too. I am surprised at how realistic it looks!


Wow, Sheila, you are controlling your charcoal beautifully! Please see your video comment below… Keep going!

Assignment Unit 3: Week 5 – Draw an object in charcoal


Ok here’s my next assignment! I’m excited to work on the portrait now!

Charcoal drawing of an old wooden post


Wow, awesome fence post! You’ve created some fantastic textures here:) Definitely you’ve created the illusion of rope, wood and metal:) Congratulations. You are excelling at this medium:) I just have a couple of small suggestions for you…there are a few places that look a little bit muddy, where white was added. Remember to apply the white conte to the blank page. You can use your erasers to remove any charcoal before laying down the white. It’s ok it if you gently add finishing touches using some fine white charcoal lines overtop of charcoal right at the very end .

Overall, wow… I can hardly wait to see your self-portrait! Keep going!


Final Project Unit 3: Weeks 6 and 7 – Self portrait drawing in charcoal


Hi Tannis! Here’s my final assignment in Unit 3!

Self portrait drawing in charcoal


Oh wow, Sheila! This is stunning! Congratulations. What a huge improvement compared to your preinstruction self portrait! I am very impressed with the progress you’ve made. You are simply blossoming;)

I will prepare your graded document as soon as I can. In the meantime, you can begin studying unit 4 perspective.
Have fun!


Hi Sheila, congratulations again on a stunning self-portrait! Your drawing skills are developing beautifully:) I have attached your graded document and certificate of completion for unit 3. Your graded document includes my comments on your drawing as usual. The comments are just a few extra tips for you.

Congratulations again, I wish you all the best in the perspective unit!

Extract from graded document

At the end of each instructor supported unit, the instructor grades the final project, provides a written critique and issues a certificate. Below is an extract from the graded document for Sheila’s self portrait.


Congratulations on a stunning self-portrait, Sheila!

Your drawing is very lovely. You’ve successfully used everything that you’ve learned so far to create this; the construction method to create the outline drawing, the theory of light and shade to give the illusion of three-dimensional form and mastery of a new medium.

Instructors critique of self portrait drawing in charcoal

You’ve gained an excellent likeness! I am so proud of you! I love how you’ve capture your hair; the direction that it grows and the texture created are excellent. Just at the letter A, the shape of the hair in this area as it goes upward then outward can be adjusted slightly. Perhaps you can study that area a little bit more. And to add a bit more depth to your drawing, darken some areas that are in shadow like at the letter B.

The other thing that I love about this drawing is that the facial features are positioned beautifully, in proportion and nicely aligned. Notice how the pupils are aligned perfectly along the eye line! You’ve drawn the eye line, nose line and lip line parallel to each other, well done! You’ve shaded the eyes beautifully. The sheen of the iris is particularly gorgeous! The shape of the eye openings can be adjusted a bit though. Study the 3 angles a little bit more that make up the top and bottom lids. Capturing the correct shape of the eye opening helps tremendously in capturing a good likeness.

At the letter C, create a more gradual transition from the darkest part of the inside of the nostril. The shape of your face can be adjusted a wee bit, see at the letter D. This was caused by a measuring error but that’ll improve with practice. Remember to double and triple check as you go Your blouse has some lovely folds in and I really like the subtle transition of tones that you’ve created. Notice the shapes of the seams at that letter E. they change shape depending on how the material drapes. Capturing small details like these are what make a good drawing even greater. This is something that you are not expected to know. It is just a little bit of extra information to take you to an even higher level of drawing ability than you are achieving already.

Sheila, you are growing leaps and bounds!! I am so proud of what you’ve accomplished with this drawing. When I look at this drawing and then at your pre-instruction drawing I am in awe! Congratulations!

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