Painting Portraits with Sanguine Conte Pencil

I learned something new this week!

Not sure why I never heard of it before.

It’s an Old Masters technique using Conte pencils or Chalks with the colors Sanguine (red), White and Black. No other colors. Pretty cool!  This week I was inspired by the drawings of Susan Lyon using this method.  I decided to give it a try and was delighted with my results.  Now I want to share what I learned with you.

The surface I used is new to me.  It Rives BFK print making paper in cream color. I used  a Sanguine Conte pencil and a Conte pencil #31 for some extra dark areas. This is all you need plus a paper towel for blending and a kneaded eraser for lifting lights. That’s all!!

The subject I chose was my granddaughter. I had taken the photo a few years ago intending to paint it in watercolor, but never got around to it.  This turned out to be perfect for this experiment. So I began.

First, I converted the photo to a value only graphic so I could compare my drawing as I went along. Values are more important than color and I took several photos of my work along the way to be sure I was on track. Here is my original photo and the graphic of the values:

Original Photo                               Value Graphic

The graphic image helped me to see the values more clearly. You can convert any image to a graphic like this with photo shop (that’s what I used) or a free phone app. With this in mind I began.

Here’s my first progress shot and graphic of my values:

As you can see, I am off to a good start but there are not enough dark values ,so added more as I went along. Here’s my next progress photo:

Things are looking better and the values are looking balanced. At this point I added the Conte #31 to darken the values more, in the hair particularly.

Next step:

I am very happy with the drawing at this point and the hardest part is deciding where to end it! I decide not to add many more details. I am happy with the results and hope you will give this a try.

Conte Sanguine and #31 in photo
Finished Portrait!
Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top