Step-by-Step Drawing of Juan Manuel

By Oliver Sin

Materials: “Stabilo” CarbOthello #645 pastel pencil and “General’s” white charcoal pencil on “Canson” Mi-Teintes toned brown drawing paper in 18x12”

Inspiration: Juan Manuel is the greatest muse who I met from my Mexico City workshop in June 2021. Juan is 82 years young and is my greatest inspiration. He has a great face, framed by his extraordinary mane of white hair and big beard. The volume of his white beard is the motivation of this drawing. I drew this head portrait full of respect for this gentleman and what made him great was his empathy for others. I treasure this priceless friendship very much, such a beautiful addition to my life.


I use Stabilo CarbOthello #645 pastel pencil to block in the shapes and planes changes of the head on paper. Use the tip of pencil to sketch, keep the line quality extremely light. I choose Canson Mi-Teintes toned brown pastel drawing paper in 18x12”, and I draw a bit bigger than life-size as I find it is easier for me. I use the smoother side of the toned paper since the textured side produces a checkerboard look that tends to overpower any subtlety in a drawing. I recommend that you experiment with different colors of toned papers. I chose brown toned paper, which is actually a tan color, that blends well with the color of my pastel pencil. I wanted to create a contrast between a soft full beard and a masculine facial feature. This technique works for all kind of portraits so feel free to experiment.

Don’t use single curved line to fit the contour when blocking in. Using shorter straight lines allows you to observe the subject as a whole and examine the relationship between key blocks and define those relationships correctly on paper. Pay attention because he thrusts his head slightly to the right and lifts his chin up slightly. I drew his facial expressions, expressing pride that reflects the attitude suggested by the facial expression. Then draw the mustache and beard shapes, paying attention on the volume of the beard. During this stage of blocking in, pay extra attention to the proportions of different shapes, re-define the height, width, and length of shapes, and re-examine the symmetry and relationships. I recommend students spend at least 40-60 minutes on this stage and don’t move onto the next until all shapes are accurately defined. The gesture of the head can establish the attitude of an entire figure and hint at the person’s emotion. It is critical to visualize and indicate the gesture in the beginning by indicating the features as simple shadow shapes. Once the features are developed, the gesture will be impossible to change.


All objects have light, middle and dark values when exposed to light. Blocking-in builds the structure of the head. Darken the shadow shapes by using Stabilo CarbOthello #645 pastel pencil. By drawing with the side of your pencil, rather than the tip to apply value to the paper, you will automatically create a soft edge. Hold the pencil as you would hold a paintbrush, as though you were painting with dry pigment. If you hold the pencil as if you were writing your name, this angle will produce a hard and tight line, which is undesirable. Use the side rather than the pointed tip of the pencil to block in the shadow areas vertically to produce a soft and loose stroke, which is desirable. Accentuate the subtlety of your strokes by applying your pencil with a soft pressure, as if you are caressing the drawing surface. Don’t apply single marks with your pencil and be sure to keep the edge soft. Look at the shadow as a shape; think only of shape. Don’t go too dark and allow yourself to refine shadow shapes during a longer period of time without over-rendering.

Hatching is a drawing technique in which one draws close parallel lines to build tone and shadow. The appearance of the single hatch will vary according to point and medium. I recommend either hatching vertically or horizontally to create a pleasing look. I rarely use cross-hatching, which is the application of single hatch marks over existing ones, in a different direction, to darken the tone. I believe cross-hatching doesn’t help to show the form of the head.

For this step, I use a Stabilo CarbOthello #645 pastel pencil for hatching. Shade the shadow shapes with middle value then add the major middle value blocks. Ignore details and hatch all the dark areas at one time. Hatch the entire shadow area of the nose, ignore the nostrils at this point. Pay attention to the cast shadow to make sure it is cast on the top, front and bottom planes of the mustache. Don’t make the dark areas too dark at this stage; instead, replace the dark with g