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

Composition Practice Sketches In Vine Charcoal

Practicing composition in my drawings

Anyone serious about illustration (or art in general) recognizes just how important composition is to one’s drawing.

Prior to attending the MFA in Illustration with the Academy of Art University, I had not formally studied composition.

I had a natural yet untrained instinct for it, but now with several grad school courses under my belt, I recognize just how unrefined my composition work had once been.

I’m still working on improving the composition of my illustration work.

For example, in my charcoal thumbnail sketch (A) above with the square-shaped, white plastic bottle to the left, my instructor said I had good composition but he had wished I hadn’t cut off the box off to the right.

Practicing composition in my drawings

In the composition above (E) with the two smaller jars on the left and large jug to the right, my instructor said this charcoal thumbnail sketch had the most interesting overlapping forms and shadow shapes.

Composition is critical.

I need to keep at it.

In addition to my grad school assignments, I’ve also been taking an online composition course (Pictorial Composition with Nathan Fowkes) on Schoolism that’s been helpful. A little advanced but helpful nonetheless.

“Great art requires great composition; our work cannot achieve its full expression without a practical knowledge of pictorial composition.”
Nathan Fowkes 

I feel fortunate to be learning from so many talented folks.

Until next time,

Mayra Ruiz-McPherson




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A Child’s Portrait Sketched with Pastel Pencils

Young child sketched using charcoal pencil

I drew this young girl’s portrait (in value only) using CarbOthello Pastel Pencils on toned paper.

This portrait was for a grad school illustration assignment and drawn from a photo reference.

It’s always a challenge to capture the likeness of a person, no matter their age.

For this assignment, the goal was to better understand that a child’s head and facial proportions differ significantly from that of an adult’s.

Mayra Ruiz-McPherson

Let's stay in touch!

Sign up to receive occasional insights, tips, and bonus content! Plus subscribers receive a link to my FREE ILLUSTRATION STARTER GUIDE.

I won't spam you. And you can unsubscribe anytime. Powered by ConvertKit