Ancient Greeks – Portraits

Continuing the line of Classical Greek philosophers, this is the bust of Socrates. Socrates is one of the founders of western philosophy and despite not having any surviving writings of his, references by others inform us about his valuable work and thoughts. Socrates was teacher of Plato who in turn was teacher of Aristotle (see BUST – 3); all of them very important philosophers of Ancient Greece.

This bust; as previously; is drawn using charcoal and a kneadable eraser. After tone was applied I just used my finger tips to blend where required. Similar technique and steps were followed as previous pieces of this collection (see BUSTS).


A very rough grid was drawn firstly. To do this I just compared the total length of the bust to its total width (not including the plinth). Doing this helped me define the correct proportions of the main shape of the head. In this case, as the bust is slightly tilted to the left, defining the middle point of the face was not particularly helpful. I trusted my instinct and after measuring the proportion of the forehead compared to the total length of the head I made the first charcoal marks showing Socrates’ eyes and eyebrows. To be as accurate as possible and to take into account the perspective of the “mask” I used a slender needle and plotted on my paper the lines connecting the ends of the two eye brows. In the same step I quickly sketched the outline of the nose too.

Using the same technique (needle to measure proportions of lines and angles caused by perspective) I formed the outline of the head and roughly sketched the hairline. After the basic shape of the philosopher’s face was on my sketch pad, I erased back to the point I was just able to see my previous lines. I then started to define better all lines and make more confident charcoal marks.

…I erased back to the point I was just able to see my previous lines…

When I felt comfortable with the shapes and outlines I had, I moved on to my favourite part…adding tone! First, I added smaller amounts of tone just to define different planes on the man’s face. Forehead, cheeks and chin are probably the ones that will make your drawing stand out immediately. From then on it is a matter of adding detail and showing the shadows and light on the face more accurately.


Final step after I am happy that the amount of detail I wanted to show is there…is to go back and strengthen the tone and highlights where necessary. I quite enjoy this final process as I believe it makes my drawing more vivid and the additional contrasts capture the eye and attention.


Drawing Socrates was very enjoyable and helped me understand better how face lines work in perspective when the head is slightly turned to the one side!

I hope you enjoyed reading this! You can see my previous bust drawings here:

DSC_006923 - Αντίγραφο busts mobile



“Busts is a collection of charcoal drawings which represents my first steps in the world of life drawing and drawing of human figures and faces in general. In these first drawings I am just trying to put in practice the theory that I read in sketching books or the instructions that our tutor gives during our life drawing classes. Hopefully, as I progress and practice more, the quality of my drawings will improve and more confident lines and powerful tone contrasts will appear.”

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