Pen Work – Mangal Singh

Another part of the Portrait series I did a while back. If I’m remembering correctly this guy took me the longest out of the four (shocker, right?). His beard alone killed about 6 pens! I think I timed myself around 45 hours from start to finish on him.

With the previous portrait I used a sort of “squiggly” technique, never really lifting my pen but using very light and even pressure to build layers of shadow, but that didn’t seem to fit this image. I started out using that style after loosely sketching the image, and you can see it in his right eye.

I quickly decided that it was too messy of a look for him; that I needed to find a way to separate the texture and shadows of his skin and his crazy-enormous-beard so instead I began using cross-hatching. On his skin, since that was the first part that I did, I was a bit looser with the type of lines I used, changing from long to short and not grouping them very well.

By the time I got to his coat I had realized that cleaner, more ordered lines were much better and I began grouping the lines into rough pairs of 4 or 5 letting them get larger and farther apart to create the gradient.

To give myself a break from the straight ordered lines of the rest of the piece I went into his beard bit by bit, section by section, as I did the rest of the shading on his coat, face and turban. To get the look of hair (and not just a crazy squiggly mess!) I used clumping. First I roughly sketched out the overall shape of the beard, then used long overlapping strokes to create smaller shapes within the beard. By going in and deepening the shadows where those strokes crossed each other it created the effect of overlapping hair.

By the time I got to his turban, you can see how much stronger and more confidant my pen strokes were, and how much more evenly the cross-hatching is used. The best part though, is that you can still see the original loose sketch underneath. It may seem sloppy to leave something like that behind, but I really enjoy being able to see the stages and growth of an image, just as much as the rendered final product. Without those mistakes this would be a fairly boring portrait, but with them it tells a story.



  1. joelrden · October 10, 2012

    Amazing and fascinating. Wonderful to see; wonderful to read. Thank you.

  2. eyemnkogneeto · October 12, 2012

    You have some skills! nice work

  3. Magill · October 15, 2012

    I love being able to see the process in a piece. Wonderful work, wonderful writing. You’re an inspiration.

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