Starting a Sketch Pt 1

By Lauren Albury

29575255421_2a1e201d3c_oConfession: I am an English Major and I hate blogging

To give you an idea, just last week I systematically went through every single post I had ever written since I joined Facebook in 2012 and deleted all except maybe two posts. Don’t get me wrong, I can write academic papers for dayyzz, but when I try to sound colloquial it’s cringeworthy. Like, totes lame fam.

hhhhhhhhhhhhhi^^^^ See what I mean?

Okay, now that my disclaimer is finally out of the way, let’s actually go somewhere with this post.

Starting a Sketch

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. A number 2 pencil (I prefer retractable)
  2. A sheet of 9×11 printer paper

Oh look! Everyday items everybody already owns! Who says being an artist has to be expensive? What’s your excuse now?

  1. A picture you want to draw. Duh.

Before I go any further, it is necessary that you and I make a pact, dear reader. Can you keep a secret? The portrait I’m using to demonstrate today is a wedding gift for my lovely cousin Catherine Albury and her Fiancé Ben Cash. The problem is, their wedding isn’t until June and this needs to be a surprise. Promise?

Here’s the picture I’m drawing, cropped and edited to my specifications:


What I always do first is create an outline of as much as I can of both shapes and shadows on my paper. The more you outline, the clearer your direction will be. It’s going to look freaking weird, and that’s ok.


The important thing is to make sure proportions are correct. Here are some tips:

I can still hear the voice of my old art teacher as I draft each project: “Measure! Measure! Measure!” Use your fingers to measure the distance between two given points. For example, Ben’s head length.


Now, without changing your finger’s shape, move your hand to the desired point on your paper and hold it there while you draw in the lines at the exact width with your other hand.


Practice this technique on AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. Measure the distance between the eyes, the width of the nose, the length of the hair, etc. The more you measure, the more proportional your portrait will be.

Helpful Hint: A typical human face can be divided into thirds.  The distance from the forehead to the top of the eye marks the first third.


Using the same finger measurement, start at the top of the eye. Where your thumb falls should mark the bottom of the nose.


Move your fingers down to the bottom of the nose, and your thumb should fall at the bottom of the lips.


However, while this is a good way to check proportion accuracy, it is important to note that not every face will follow this model, i.e. some have longer noses or larger foreheads etc.

Don’t worry too much about the strangeness of your outline. Put some faith behind your painstaking measurements; the transformation is revealed through shading.

* Lauren’s post is the inaugural publication in a series of related posts on drawing that will be released in conjunction with the spring 2017 SLAM drawing and sketching contest. For more information about the contest and how you can submit your own work, please visit here

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