Dave has sent me his painting of Keanu Reeves and has asked for any tips I can give him to improve the image. As I am sure you all know portraits are very tricky subjects and painting someone everyone knows just adds to the difficulty. However I feel Dave has done a good job of this and you would certainly recognise the star.
The first point I would like to make is the shading must be carried through to all the shaded areas, placing the shadow on the neck here would improve the effect (see blue arrows).
The eyes are one of the most important features on a portrait and these need to be slightly adjusted. Both the eyes are looking slightly off to one side and this does not matter as long as both eyes are the same but here there is a slight difference between the two. The way to check this is to carefully cover one eye with your hand noticing where it is looking then switch to cover the other eye and check where that eye is looking (making sure you do not touch the painting while doing this).
With the case above the eye on the right is looking slightly down while the eye on the left is looking straight ahead but to one side. Check this out yourself on Dave’s picture above (by covering one eye and then the other – you may have to try this a few times).
So how can this be corrected? Well the fact that you can now see what the problem is will make it easier to correct. I would leave the eye on the left alone and work on the eye on the right. The pupil and the iris here needs to be raised slightly under the eyelid and then the bottom of that eyelid needs also to be raised a fraction. Repeat the eye test and see if more work can be done if it is not right.
The tip of the nose could be shortened a little (white arrow) this would make quite a difference even though it is a rather small adjustment.
I hope this advice helps Dave and anyone else tackling portraits using pastel pencils. If you would like advice on your own artwork and to learn how to draw using pastel pencils, view our membership plans.