Tip on Pencil Portrait Drawing – Cropping
Cropping is a presentation technique that displays a subject within the borders of your paper and often involves a truncation of some parts of the subject. For example, part of a hat or an arm may be truncated or cropped.
Cropping is a device that can often be applied to great dramatic effect. It usually brings the subject much closer to the viewer and makes the portrait more intimate. As the viewer you almost feel like you are violated the subject's space.
Here are a few ideas when applying the cropping technique on your pencil portrait drawings:
Cropping immediately presents you with a compositional puzzle. You must exercise good judgment in what to crop and what not. You must make sure that you reserve the balance in the drawing both from the perspective of shape and in terms of values. It is a good idea to stand back a little and judge your drawing from a distance.
You can usually determine by gut feeling whether or not you did a good job. If the result feet right then it generally is right. If not, you should try to determine what exactly is wrong. Mind you, some subjects or situations are not suitable for cropping and are better left whole.
Sometimes it may be beneficial to the overall look of the finished product to use border tape or actually draw in a border. Border tape can be had in any art store and comes in many different colors and various widths. Border tape is generally only used for artwork from which you will make prints because with time the tape on the original will almost certainly losen and maybe even ruin the picture.
An alternative to actual cropping is letting the drawing run all the way out to one or more of the edges of the paper. This often creates a triangular composition with pleasing results. It can also help you in balancing the values if there are no other alternatives to do so.
I regularly use this technique when the subject of upper-body clothing is of interest. I usually draw the head life-size on a 16 "x 20" ground. By letting the drawing run out to the bottom and side edges I am able to gain enough room to also draw the upper-body clothing.
Cropping is an interesting compositional tool. It can also be used to lead the viewer's attention in a particular direction off the page and force him or her to think about what is not drawn in that direction.
For example, part of the back of a horse-drawn cart could be cropped. A smiling good-looking gentleman could be sitting up-front in the cart staring towards the unseen backseat of the cart. In this way, a viewer is invited to wonder what sort of person could be sitting in the back of the cart that can attract the rapt attention of such a fine gentleman. I admit, this example does not leave much to the imagination of the viewer.
Cropping is interesting and adds to the drama of the composition. It is something you must try at least once.