Portrait tutorial, a Stars Portraits tutorial

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Portrait tutorial

by JRFortson

Portrait tutorial

Author : JRFortson

Tutorial submitted on May 20, 2009

Here is an excellent pencil portrait tutorial by Rick (JRFortson). In 11 very detailed steps, Rick explains how he created this amazing Gordon Ramsay portrait. Thank you Rick !


Hi it’s Rick (JRFortson on stars-portraits) I'm going to show SEVERAL step photos along the way on this one. This is Chef Gordon Ramsey. I chose THIS photo because of it's RICH content, and it's HIGH amount of TONAL VALUES, CONTRAST as well as it being a high resolution file, which believe it or not, are rare to find on the web for some reason?!?!? Finding JUST the right photo is half the battle to a good drawing. NEVER EVER work with a low quality photo!!!

FIRST, I start by cropping the photo so that the face is as big as I want it to be when I PRINT the photo. I personally like to ALWAYS draw on a 1 to 1 ratio scale. That's just how I taught myself to draw? (by the way, I am 100% self taught. I never went to art school or took any classes. I did read a few books 30 years ago though).

Then I convert the photo to Black and White, so I can see the tonal values more clearly. Look how sharp and clear this photo is, and all the details? That's actually both good AND bad in a way. Good, because I can see them. Bad, because I have to draw them. Some features I feel I can reproduce, via techniques, but others I'm not sure about, but I think it will come out decent?

First, I determine the "source of light" and which direction it is coming from. I take mental note as to how difficult it will be to draw this photo, and approximately how long it will take me. If I didn't take the time to write all this out, it would most likely take me 6-8 hours to do this one? I am convinced of something...and that is that the "quality of my work, is limited strictly to the amount of time I want to invest into a single drawing”. I get bored fast!

I notice there are NO teeth to draw (good). But his hair is fine, and wild and light colored, which means to really draw the hair correctly, will mean to draw the shadows in the hair, not the hair itself (this is called Negative Space Drawing). I will then bend it all to a believable texture, and bring out the highlights last.

I notice how many wrinkles there are. Wrinkles are harder to draw than they look. They are not just lines, but valleys, with un-even shading on both sides. Ears are hard to draw and make look real. Ears and hands are my current weakness. Gordo's ears are exposed. I see a WIDE range of lights and darks. I find it better to shade dark, and then remove the graphite to pull out the highlights in the end. It takes patience and vision.

I note his clothes will be easy to draw (white with a little shading). I notice his meat cleaver and the pattern on it, which alone would take a week if I tried to draw all those cross-cage makings. I believe I can reproduce steel by using certain lighter pencils, and pulling out shiny highlights. I'll save the knife for last, along with the shaded background.

Gordon Ramsay

Step ONE

First, I draw an light outline of the entire subject, and determine the borders of the drawing. I ALWAYS start with the eyes, because in order to get the whole drawing right, you must get the eyes correct. I do a little shading around the eyes, and the FIRST layer of eyebrows. In this case, because he has dark eyes, I drew them dark around the edges of the cornea, careful to preserve the "key highlights" (white reflections). I draw the first layer of bottom eyelashes. They eyes themselves here are about 90% complete, but there is MUCH to do surrounding the eyes (wrinkles, etc)

Gordon Ramsay

Step TWO

Next I decide to lay down some over-all shading. I also start shading on the lips. Lips take several layers with several different pencil types and darkness's. This is the first layer. I set the top lip line dark. I'm careful to leave the left side of his face white, for the bright highlights. You can start to see depth in the eyes. (Note: the photos of this drawing were taken at night with artificial light. I always take photos of the final drawing during the day with natural light, and avoid the reflections in the darker graphite) I also lay down some dark graphite around the edges of his face, in order to establish the dark end of the shading spectrum, so that I can measure all other shading against the extremes of both. I ALWAYS save the hair for last, for a lot of reasons.

Gordon Ramsay


There is not any certain order that you NEED to work next. I basically go wherever I feel led. In this case, I chose to apply the FIRST layer of shading to the entire face (shown below BEFORE blending) and to darken the forehead wrinkles. The wrinkles will be accidentally lightened when I adjust the shading on the skin with a blending stump, and usually have to be re-drawn many times, so I need not bother shading both valleys on either side of each wrinkle just yet, because they will get smudged while shading the forehead. I pull out highlights with a kneaded rubber eraser last, after the whole face has been finally shaded, so you will not see that yet (More on that in a later step). His hair bangs lay across his forehead, but I will create them later using the rubber eraser, and "negative drawing" (drawing around the object, NOT the object itself).
For now, I will just hold a #B pencil sideways, and lay down a fairly even layer of graphite around the whole face, before rendering, and blending it together. Certain key areas will later get more layers (along the edges and under the hair) and then finally erasing the highlights in the skin last (fun part). Also, some areas are getting more shading now than others, and I try to make lines with my pencil IN THE DIRECTION OF THE SKIN in order to create a sense of three dimensions.

Gordon Ramsay


This step simply shows the after effects of blending the FIRST layer of graphite on the whole face. MUCH more to do yet...

Gordon Ramsay


In this step, I added a couple of more layers to the nose, blended it, and rubbed out some highlights with the rubber eraser. I will come back to do more on the nose, but for now, I'm moving on to the lips.

Gordon Ramsay

Step SIX

In this step, I darkened the top lip line with a 3B and shaded lip lines with a B pencil. Then I used a very small "torchillon" (blending stump) to blend shades into the lower lip, then I formed my kneaded eraser into a knife-edge and pulled out some highlights. I then added some B pencil to the chin, blended it, darkened the wrinkles, and used the eraser again for highlights. I also took a 3B sharp tip pencil, and made some pores on the nose, and beard stubble to the lip. I'm realizing at this point, I could spend a month of Sundays drawing all the pores, whiskers and pot marks. My goal here is to merely simulate his face. After all, it is not meant to be a photocopy, but an artist's rendition of the subject. MORE to do there too, but on to the eye area...

Gordon Ramsay


In this step, I work on the eyes. LOTS of details to do here. I have now ONLY worked on the right eye (his left) and realize I need to re-size and shape the other eye (later). The eye on our left now looks smaller because of the missing details I've yet to add. I'm happy with the way the scares on his chin, and how the photo I took of the drawing came out so much better during the day in natural lighting. I still have to bring out more details under BOTH eyes. At this point...I'm not even 50% completed with this drawing. I will work on it at various times, over the next few days, and send out the remaining steps soon!

Gordon Ramsay

Here are the FINAL 4 stages I took

Gordon Ramsay

Now to start the hair and background...

Gordon Ramsay

Hair ALMOST done...Next Knife, clothes, finalize background an trim it up...

Gordon Ramsay

Here is the final drawing. I didn’t choose to draw the “F” in the middle of his knife.
I drew this on Strathmore Bristol board in about 7 hours?
Hope this helped some beginners. See ya’ll on Stars!!! – Rick (JRFortson)

Gordon Ramsay

see the finished portrait | all Gordon Ramsay portraits

 Add a comment
0 20483
rajagopal1 - 7 years ago

mass thanku

0 20636
adistantearth - 7 years ago

Thanks for this tutorial. :hi:

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