Photo of Jennifer Gennari

Traditional Portrait Drawing Techniques

with Jennifer Gennari
Traditional Portrait Drawing Techniques
Draw an expressive charcoal portrait using the time-honored techniques of Rembrandt and da Vinci!

Discover the methods of classical realism and harness value and proportion for a striking portrait in the style of the Old Masters. Guided by professional artist Jennifer Gennari, you’ll unlock strategies to accurately depict a human likeness, including how to use a plumb line and the sight-size and butterfly methods. Complete a Charles Bargue lithograph exercise, then progress to a charcoal portrait by blocking in basic shapes. Watch your portrait come to life as you develop and refine tricky areas like the lips, nose, eyes and ears and carve out highlights with a kneaded eraser––plus, enjoy an advanced lesson on white chalk and toned paper, further honing your ability to create dimensional portraits defined by value.

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Lesson plan


Lesson 1. Introduction to Sight Sizing

  • Meet your instructor, Jennifer Gennari, and learn the basics of the sight sizing drawing method that you’ll use throughout the class.


Lesson 2. Introduction to Charles Bargue

  • Referencing instructional prints created by the artist Charles Bargue, Gennari teaches realistic drawing through copying. You’ll use a plumb line and a range of pencils and leads to accurately mark anchor points, create gesture and block out shadow and light masses.


Lesson 3. Proportion and Accuracy

  • Discover ways to improve accuracy and proportion as Gennari walks you through techniques for using reflected images to see your subject in a new way. Working from life or a photograph, you’ll develop tones, accurately depict shadow and light with the help of mirrors, and work with fan brushes to blend planes.


Lesson 4. The Transfer Drawing

  • Learn how to prepare transfer drawings to use as foundation layers and compositional guides for painting. Gennari’s close-up instruction guides you through the best tools to use and what line elements to emphasize as you transfer the drawing, ensuring that your proportions, shadows and anchor points are all carried over to the painting surface.


Lesson 5. Value

  • Dive into value and the impact it has on your work as you learn to train your mind to perceive and recreate sculptural form as shifts in light and shadow. Gennari demonstrates how to employ simple methods to find and recreate value shifts, with helpful tips on how to create subtle, complex value changes with skill and accuracy.


Lesson 6. Edges & Atmosphere

  • Explore techniques for identifying and separating large masses into smaller planes as you focus on edges, dimension and atmospheric perspective. Gennari explains how to identify and recreate reflected light, shadow and background areas, creating contour and dimension in the process.


Lesson 7. White Chalk & Toned Paper

  • Learn how to use toned paper, white chalk and a kneaded eraser to create highlights exactly where you want them, blending light and shadow gradations skillfully. Gennari explains how to use the chalk to your advantage, troubleshooting mistakes and blending as you go.

“I love this class. I have recommended it to several other people that are trying to expand their drawing skills. Great job!”
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For $24.99 you get:

  • 7 HD video lessons with anytime, anywhere access
  • Downloadable class materials, including reference images and recommended supplies
  • Over 3 hours of close-up instruction
  • Answers from Jennifer in our virtual classroom
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