Portrait Drawing with Markers & Pens

Portrait drawing and marker art by Mayra Ruiz-McPherson

I’ve become pretty marker-and-pen obsessed lately.

I drew this portrait of a cherished friend over the holidays as a gift for a dear friend and can’t get enough of how fun the drawing process was while using POSCA markers and a variety of brush pens.

It all began with a simple sketchbook cover.

My friend is an avid sketchbook user so for the holidays, I wanted to highly personalize a standard sketchbook for her future use. The cover of the sketchbook, I had decided, would feature my friend’s beautiful face 🙂 Additionally, the back cover and sketchbook spine would also showcase some kind of personalized art as well.

My cover art drawing process & supplies

(1) After identifying the drawing intent (a portrait of dear friend), I then selected the reference photo I’d use for this sketcbhook cover drawing.

(2) From there, I gathered my drawing tools, which included the following:

  • POSCA markers
  • MICRO brush pens
  • Oil white marker
  • White gel pen
  • Sketchbook

(3) Next, I began to draw my friend’s general face shape on the sketchbook cover using one of the white gel pens. This effort did not come out perfectly on the first try; I made several errors along the way but easily corrected them using a black marker over any white-gel-penned-mistakes. The black marker ink covered up my white gel strokes pretty well and at any rate, I knew I’d be adding in the hair curls and other details which would also cover up any faux pas.

(4) Once I had the general face shape and features drawn, I then began to refine the drawing with my black brush pens. Errors during this phase were corrected using the white gel pen, then redone in black ink.

(5) At this stage, I began to layer in the hair using a medley of POSCA markers. This was time consuming as it took me a while to lock down the hair curls in a way I felt were visually sufficient and ample to portray a certain volume and thickness.

(6) Next, I began to add the “skin color” in white oil pen. I used my fingers to smudge the oil ink around her face. This requires some attention because the ink comes out in thick globs if not careful.

(7) Then, while white oil ink was wet, I used a variety of brown markers to contour. Again, I used my finger while the brown marker was wet (on top of the white skin) to create the contour around the eyes and nose.

(8) I then used black brush pen to better define nostrils around the nose. I also used a blush-colored marker to fill in the shape of the lips.

(9) At this point, it was down to the details such as the highlights in my friend’s hair and eyes, which I used a white gel pen to accentuate. I also used white marker inside the eyes to better define the pupils.

(10) Lastly, I used POSCA markers to roughly suggest my friend’s neck and shoulder area, her clothing and relevant shadows.

The result

Besides having a truly overjoyed and delighted friend, the sketchbook cover, spine, and back came out pretty amazing!

Please see my portfolio details here for more photos.

~ Enjoy! 

Mayra Ruiz-McPherson

Oil Painting: Toast for Breakfast

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Oil painting of toast breakfast dish by Mayra Ruiz-McPherson

In the fall of 2017, I took my first ever oil painting class as part of my MFA in Illustration with the Academy of Art University.

Needless to say, I had never oil painted anything in my life before the class.

But since having taken the class, I’ve become kind of obsessed, but I digress (and will share more about my oil painting medium love in a future post).

This painting was done for a still life assignment.

Our class had to paint an object with a reflective light on it, hence why the knife takes center stage here.

While far from perfect, for not having painted much of anything before this class, this came out much better than I had hoped.

Thinking back on it ….

Looking at it now, there are some definite tweaks and improvements I could make to it but overall, I’m pretty happy with how this turned out!

What do you think?

~ Enjoy! 

Mayra Ruiz-McPherson

Still Life Sketch Drawings: Vintage Bottles

Vintage bottle sketch drawings for still life

Still life thumbnails

I just found these 5-value thumbnail sketch drawings in an older sketchbook I had misplaced at some point last year.

These were some of my visual ideas for a vintage bottle-themed still life oil painting I was working on for a grad school assignment. The instructor at the time, however, felt I needed to use much simpler objects.

As a result, none of these still life drawing ideas ever materialized beyond the sketch phase.

Still, I like to look at these thumbnails from time to time and am so glad I rediscovered them.

~ Enjoy! 

Mayra Ruiz-McPhersonVintage bottle sketch drawings for still life


Female Figure Drawing: Charcoal, Then Photoshop

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Figure drawing illustration created using charcoal before digitization using Adobe Photoshop

Meet my model: Amanda

All kinds of sassy as she sported her old high school prom dress while posing for me.

Amanda, aka “Pandy,” is my phenomenal oldest daughter, illustrated here in her spunky, pink-dress badass mode.

Grad school assignment

Numerous times during my MFA’s Fall 2017 term with AAU, I was in need of a model.

More often than not, there was my Panda, ALWAYS willing to strike any pose I asked, wearing any wardrobe or physically-challenged direction I required.

Reference photo

In my photo reference below, we can see beautiful movement in Amanda’s pink dress while she kicked up her flowing skirt folds.

Assignment: figure drawing wearing clothing with dramatic fabric folds

To achieve dramatic folds, I had Amanda wear an old prom dress of hers and then posed her as you see above, looking into the distance while kicking up her gown.

Here’s my original charcoal drawing before I transformed the illustration into a digital painting using Photoshop

My drawing tools

To draw the above figure illustration, I used the following drawing tools:

(The original drawing shared above was slightly edited in Photoshop to brighten the white in Amanda’s eyes.)

Assignment feedback

My final drawing caused was well received by my grad school classmates as well as my instructor, who commented the following:

“LOVE this character, why not develop her and see where she can take you. Try a series of 10 drawings of her, put them out and see if a publisher picks up on your work. There is something so compelling about this character. “

Another classmate said:

“I totally agree with our instructor regarding this character. She is so quirky and elegant at the same time! There has to be a series or a steam punk graphic novel about her.”

And still another said:

“I think my absolute favorite is this girl! Your drawing of her has an elegance to it that is beautiful!”

So there you have it.

Amanda became famous in my figure drawing class 🙂 and I ended up with a wonderful, completed illustration of a young woman I adore.

~ Enjoy!


Mayra Ruiz-McPherson




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