M2M Day 35: Whoa, that escalated quickly

This post is part of Month to Master, a 12-month accelerated learning project. For December, my goal is to draw a realistic self-portrait with only pencil and paper.

Today, for the third day in a row, I spent 2.5 hours on my Derren Brown drawing. However, unlike the other days, today, I feel like I made a lot of progress.

Finish blocking in the features

Picking up where I left off, I continued to block in shapes for the features.

I added in the center line of the lips and the shadow on the nose.

I then finished the lips and added a line for the chin.

Lastly, I blocked in the main structures of the ear and added an outline for the beard.

Drawing in shadow/highlight shapes

With the features in place, I next blocked in shapes for the shadows and highlights.

With these tonal contours in place, I darkened the shadow areas slightly, giving the portrait some roundness and three-dimensionality.

Detailing features

With the features and shadows blocked in, I detailed the features, starting with the eyes.

Left eye done.

Right eye done.

Nose done.

Lips done.

Finally, I finished up for the day with the ear.

After 7.5 hours of work (2.5 hours over the past three days), I’m finally hopefully that this portrait will resemble Derren Brown.

Tomorrow, I’ll starting adding tonal values (i.e. shading) to the drawing.


Observation about today’s session: Based on the output from today, it may seem like today’s drawing was the most technically challenging. But, in fact, I found just the opposite.

Because I spent the past two days meticulously locating and blocking in the features, it was very easy to add the incremental detail. (Trying to draw big shapes is much harder than trying to draw little shapes. Little shapes are a lot easier to visually understand and replicate)

In fact, I suspect that today was least consequential to the outcome of the portrait. If I mess up the shape of the head and the location of the features, I have very little chance of capturing a likeness. If the features are not quite accurately detailed, but in the right place, I still might have something…


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Max Deutsch is an obsessive learner, product builder, guinea pig for Month to Master, and founder at Openmind.

If you want to follow along with Max’s year-long accelerated learning project, make sure to follow this Medium account.