Self-Portrait in a Checked Shirt

I am having a lot of fun drawing portraits with varying patterned tops

Portrait drawing with a twist

You know how much I love drawing portraits with pencil. I enjoyed the self-portrait with a striped shirt so much that I decided to continue in that vein, with another portrait inspired by the art of Ingres (if you missed the first portrait inspired by his drawings, have a look at this project). I have drawn quite a few portraits of people wearing a patterned top by now,  and I am having a lot of fun varying the pattern of the shirt.

Madame Armand Bertin, née Marie-Anne-Cécile Dollfuss, by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, 1843. Graphite on wove paper. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, gift of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 2012.

Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres, a French artist (b. Montauban 1780, d. Paris 1867) who was a pupil of Jacques-Louis David, was steeped in the academic tradition. His portraits were also influenced by Italian art, particularly the work of Raphael. He became director of the French Academy.


For this drawing, all you need is a pencil, a sharpener, an eraser and white paper.

For this drawing, you don’t need a lot, just:

  • a pencil (I use 2B)

  • a sharpener

  • an eraser

  • white paper (I draw on 250 gsm/90lb grained A4 paper).

Once again, I wanted to draw a self-portrait from a photo. Let’s say that I am a bit too shy to ask anyone to model for me, so it is easier to be my own model . But getting a reference picture of myself definitely requires some more organization. You may already have a photo you want to draw from, or you may know a nice person who is willing to take that photo for you.

That is the simple way. Which is not mine, of course! I did not want to take a selfie, so I switched, once again, my camera to video mode, put it on a table, focused and went to the other side of the table. I struck different poses, then went back to the camera to stop the video. Back at my computer, I chose my favourite pose and extracted a picture from the video. It’s a bit like taking a thousand pictures to be sure there is one you like!


Step 1 – Laying the groundwork

As a first step, I did not innovate but employed my usual method of analysing my reference picture as an arrangement of abstract shapes. It is very much a trial and error process, in three steps:

  • I look intently at a small part of the reference photo, as if it were some abstract shape.

  • I try to reproduce it on paper, looking back and forth a lot between the photo and the drawing. Do the shapes look the same? Yes: keep it. No: erase and repeat.

  • Then I look at my drawing again, not as geometrical shapes but as a portrait. Does it look like the person in my reference picture? Yes: keep it. No: erase and repeat.


Step 2 – Drawing the face and hair

Then I draw the face and hair using the same method. As usual, I use a very light touch for the face, allowing myself to erase a lot. As far as the hair is concerned, my model (me!) has quite a few grey hairs on a brunette base. It took some careful observation to capture the subtle shadows and lights reflected in her hair. I did not try to make it too realistic, but I wanted to show movement and light. I used large, free strokes, and went a bit darker in a few places where there was more shadow.


Step 3 – Spending a lot of time drawing little squares

The last step was a lot of fun, but it was also very long. I listened to a thousand podcasts while drawing tiny little squares!

I began with the places where the squares were more visible, with a clear contrast, on the collar and on the left of the picture. I took extra care to draw the lines realistically and, using only the pattern, to suggest all the wrinkles and shadows.


Then, I tackled the other parts:

  • the squares that were in the shadows: I drew them like the first ones, where the pattern could be seen very clearly, and then I added colour on top to darken the whites and turn them into grey;

  • the squares that are in plain light: the details on the right of the picture are bleached almost white by the bright light and I wanted to capture this effect. So I chose to draw fewer and fewer details, until all that were left were a few grey dots.


And voilà!

And voilà! It took a few hours, but it was a very enjoyable process. I really had to find new ways to draw the pattern and the effect of light on the little squares, but I love how it looks with the natural grey tones of the pencil.

I hope you enjoyed this post. As always, I do not pretend to be a teacher, a seasoned artist or an expert in anything. I am just a very motivated learner who finds a deep joy in regular art practice. 

The finished drawing | Self-Portrait in a Checked Shirt, by The Daily Atelier

The finished drawing is ready to frame or gift |  Self-Portrait in a Checked Shirt , by The Daily Atelier

The finished drawing is ready to frame or gift | Self-Portrait in a Checked Shirt, by The Daily Atelier


This is the course where I share my personal formula for drawing a portrait or a self-portrait with pencil, even if you don’t have a lot of time or haven’t drawn in a long time.

This is the course where I share my personal formula for drawing a portrait or a self-portrait with pencil, even if you don’t have a lot of time or haven’t drawn in a long time.

If you want a step-by-step guide to how I draw a self-portrait, with even more detail, check out this course, a simple guide to creating an elegant portrait or self-portrait, which will be ready to frame or gift in only 7 days.


If you liked this post, you will almost certainly like some of these other self-portraits. Enjoy!