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portrait artist sketching a subject

“Drawing is freedom, expressed through graphite…”

“Drawing is freedom, expressed through graphite.”

A North Yorkshire artist with a difference...

I'm Karen - a portrait artist with a slightly geeky obsession for putting pencil crayon to paper.

Truth is, me and the humble pencil crayon go WAY back; as a child, you'd often find me brandishing my Crayola, poised, and ready to graffiti the first piece of blank paper I could lay my hands on - preferably cartridge. Although, I'd like to think I'm past the Crayola stage by now.

In my time as an artist, I've designed everything from greeting cards to wallpapers, and worked with some of the UK’s largest brands. Only I’m yet to find anything that gives me such a buzz as portrait drawing. I guess it makes me a people person. Either way though, you could just say I’m That Portrait Artist.

portrait artist sketching a subject

Eager to know more about me? Here's a quick FAQ...

If anything, I’d probably say it was freedom.

Like most kids I started drawing by joining the dots, and ploughing my way through countless colouring books. In fact, to this day I can still remember whittling down my pencil crayon with my Grandma’s kitchen knife – perks of being a girl guide, I guess.

And yet, as great as this was, for me it always felt a bit restrictive. You can’t really put your own stamp on a colouring book, can you? Neither can you be fully expressive throughout education, as your work has to tick boxes on-top of being creative.

It was only when I graduated Art College with a dream of becoming a North Yorkshire artist, that I truly got a taste of what it’s like to draw for myself. And you know what, it was a freedom well worth waiting for.

No – I’m not the hating type.

However, over the years I have come to realise that pencil crayons are the medium that best compliment my style. One that’s not so much abstract, but more focused on realism. If it was the reverse, watercolours and pastels could well have been my forte. Although you can’t deny that pencils are by far the most flexible medium for portraiture. Here’s why…

Accuracy – Out of all the ways I could do a portrait, pencil crayons are by far the most accurate. Providing they’re properly sharpened (which mine always are), you can achieve extremely fine levels of detail – far more than what you could, by using a chunky pastel or a soft watercolour brush. So much so, that in the event I do dabble in watercolour, I still use pencil crayons to work in that extra bit of definition.

Depth – Another perk of the humble pencil crayon is that sheer amount of shades that you can eek out of just one pencil. Now granted, watercolours and pastels do allow for different tones too, however when it comes to adding defined depth, pencils rule the roost. They’re also ideal for shading too!

Control – For me and practically all portrait artists, our work’s a representation of our skill. A large part of which comes down to control. Another reason why you can’t fault pencil crayons. Unlike your average pastels, they don’t produce endless clouds of dust. Neither do unexpectedly run down the page like watercolours. With a crayon, the artist is in full control.

That all depends what you look for in a portrait.

You see, while realism is great, it’s not necessarily the only thing that makes for a good picture. With portraits, the real knack comes in capturing a likeness, be the artist abstract or more realistic in their approach (like me). An easy way to think of it is like this…

How a well a likeness is captured = the artist’s ability

How it’s captured = their personal style

Aside from that though, I’d say what makes a good picture is actually quite hard to put your finger on, as really it’s subjective. The only thing I’d say from an artist’s perspective, is not to overwork it. Do so and a portrait can quickly go flat and loose a lot of it’s depth. It’s like what they say, sometimes less is more.

I know it’s stereotypical for an artist to say this, but my ‘go to’ music is pretty much anything classical. I can’t quite put my finger on why though – there’s just something about it that puts me in the zone.

Really, the only reason I can think of, is that it’s more like background music. So while it’s there, it doesn’t become a distraction. More a tool to drown out any unwanted background noise if I’m honest.

Not always, no.

While drawing has always been a part of my career, I actually entered the art industry through calligraphy; I used to do the hand lettering for major greeting card company. After which I started designing my own cards, and even dabbled in watercolour painting too.

Quite a lot of my own cards incorporated hand drawn portraits, and were even praised for it, which is part of the reason I thought drawing portraits was something to explore further. At first, they began as a side hustle, but I soon came to realise that there was more to this portrait drawing than I initially thought. So much so that I decided to create this website and go become a North Yorkshire artist full-time.

Some of you may say that my daily routine is a bit all over the place, but for a portrait artist like me, it’s perfect.

I rise early to (hopefully) catch the sunrise and welcome in the day with a cup of coffee. Strong Italian blends are my favourite. Then in my dressing gown, I retreat to the drawing board to spill any fresh inspiration onto the page.

After a short break around 11 o’clock, I lace up my walking boots and go out on a trek to refresh my mind. Ask me and there’s no better way to recharge than soaking up fresh air.

Come 1pm, I’m back at the drawing board where I stay until it’s tea time. On the odd occasion I might venture out into the garden too, to draw under some more natural light. But after tea is when the real work begins. I’m a night owl you see, so once the plates are clean, I’ll be more or less glued to my drawing board until midnight.

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