Leo ballpoint portrait

Ballpoint portrait of Leonardo DiCaprio on A5.

I was undecided whether to add anything to the background, leaving it for now but I might come back to it at some point.

Here’s some progress shots. I thought it would only take a couple of hours but it was more like ten in total.

I did a light pencil underdrawing first just to mark out the main features and shadows.

I see this as creating a scaffolding for the ink drawing to be built on. Better to have the proportions adjustable at this stage when you can erase rather than later on and you realise something’s out of place and you’re stuck with it.

As you can see, I started with the face first, and within the face it was the eyes first. Unless I can get the eyes looking reasonable then there’s no point carrying on with anything else.

I know other artists have other methods but this seems to work well for me.

More progress shots, here he’s keeping company with a much simpler watercolour cartoon I was doing. I don’t think I’m ever going to be accused of being fixed to one specific style 🙄

Working my way down doing a section at a time and taking note of the overall shading comparing one part against another constantly.

The piece of white paper stuck in the pen is only to identify this particular biro from all the others. You’d think that the ink colour would be consistently black between every Bic ballpoint but on a previous one I found a slighter bluer tinge from one to another.

Ballpoint ink is dried in seconds when writing but I’ve found with this that after a few days the finish seems to level off so I don’t know it sets somehow, the darkest point under the jacket looks better now than in this photo.


  1. Fantastic! Thanks for showing the progression, too. I’m not confident with ink, so having a pencil framework would be a necessity for something this detailed! It’s really brilliant!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Meg.

      It definitely saves on wasted drawings, whilst it’s an obvious thing to do I’d never really done it before Inktober last year. Now I’d say I do it on the majority of them.


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