Kill Art Block NOW with Variations on a Portrait Study

Portrait warm-ups are part of many artist warm-up exercises. Today we’ll look at expanding on those warm-ups by using distinguishing facial features from a photo reference to give us interesting character variations. Let’s start with the photo below:

Photo by Gabriel Silverio

I drew a quick sketch of the photo (in red). On a separate layer, I re-drew the character, keeping the eyes and nose, while varying the hair style and mouth. Multiple variants can be generated in this manner.

By mixing and matching accessories and hair styles, we can develop multiple takes based on a single photo reference.

When I’m looking for face references, I look for visually unique and interesting faces that have a sense of character and personality. Unsplash is a pretty solid resource for finding good reference photos to begin sketching from. Let’s try it again with another photo reference.

Photo by Parij Borohain
Start with your base sketch and use it as an underdrawing to create variant characters. The only limit is your imagination!

Like everything, you can mix and match from the reference as needed. The main idea behind this exercise is to give you a method to expand from a starting point.