Because my illustrative style uses basic shapes and flat clean colour, it can often hide the more organic part of my creative process. So today I thought I’d share the journey I take when making a portrait.

Idea
Before the pencil hits the paper, I begin by having an idea. I need to ensure I have the focus required the get me to a finished piece at the end. It could be a clear idea of who I’ll be drawing. Sometimes it’s about a series of images, like my project for The Many Faces of Prince.
Research
Once the idea is established, I use a lot of time researching my subject. I try to find as many photos as possible, from many angles – despite the fact I always draw face on. It helps me take note of the details of the face and features.
Thumbnails
The next thing I do is to create a series of little thumbnail sketches. Here I try to work out what basic shapes I will use to create the portrait. My proportions can be all over the place at this point, but each sketch takes a few seconds and allows me to have some freedom before refining later.
Sketch
Once I have a sketch I’m happy with, I increase the size of the thumbnail and use this as the basis of a full sketch. The free-style approach is the same as creating a thumbnail, except I start to hone the shapes and refine the image. I try to use as many clean shapes as possible—circles, ellipses, triangles, rectangles and straight lines.

Computer image
I then scan my sketch, which allows me to take it into my drawing software. Here I start to overlay shapes to match my sketch as closely as possible. Even though this is using shapes on a computer, I still use a digital pen to do this so I can have the control and creativity I have with a pencil and pad. I try to make every image as simple as possible, often removing detail or using the fewest number of shapes possible.

Finalising the image
Once I’m happy with the general look of the image, I start to add colour. I usually use flat colour, but for Saul, started to experiment with a few simple gradients. I also check my sizing and proportions – adjusting if necessary. I have even been known to totally change proportions once on the computer. But I like that. It can fee like sculpting. Moving shapes to find the person within.

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© Martin Homent