I tend to devour books by authors whom I respect and the Lee Hammond selection of Art instruction books are no exception. I contacted Ms. Hammond some time ago when I first learned of her technique for Art instruction and discovered that she had several books on the market and I wanted all of them! As brazen as I can be at times, I sent off an email to her through her site and inquired about whether I would be able to purchase some of the books she had published that weren't yet available in book stores in my area.
Ms. Hammond's response was an open, warm and generous one and suddenly I found myself with several of her books at my doorstep, all signed and each containing a message of encouragement as well as belief in my future success.
One such book was How to Draw Life Like Portraits from Photographs. This book which is available now in both Hard and soft cover, outlines 20 step by step demonstrations to allow you to achieve realistic likenesses using the "Hammond Blended Pencil Technique". Ms. Hammond steps you through the materials needed to accomplish Smooth blending, which is a key to creating realistic portraits as well as any other drawings you may wish to create. Although the list of materials appears lengthy, many tools are those that you already have available. The key tools include smooth bristol board or sheets, a 5mm mechanical pencil with a 2B lead, Blending tortillons available at any Art supply store or you can make your own but why bother, they are inexpensive to purchase especially if you do so online at an Art Discount store. A kneaded eraser, typewriter eraser, Horsehair drafting brush, pink eraser and workable spray adhesive to fix (seal) your work along with a ruler and some reference material such as magazines, photos etc., are basically all that is needed. I've purchased all of these products for a grand total of about $15.
All of Lee Hammond's books come with a Beginning lesson that includes a numbered grid and an image that is made up of black and white shapes, also numbered. Like a jigsaw puzzle, you draw the shape for each numbered section into the adjacent numbered square on the blank grid and once completed, you have a completed image that actually makes sense in it's finished format. This is a warm up to help you train your eye to see shapes as they are rather than trying to read the entire image as a whole. Ms. Hammond utilizes the gridding system in her work and has taught her Blending system to thousands of students through her studio and her books to draw easily and realistically by combining the proper shading/blending techniques with the accuracy that gridding helps to achieve.
You're walked through the 5 Elements of Shading and learn what Cast shadows, Half-tones, Shadow Edges, Reflected light, full light is and how to achieve it and you build your own gray scale using this information which then can be referred to throughout the book and your future drawings.
In this particular book you are stepped through Correct Placement and Proportion of the face, eyes, nose, mouth and ears, how to graph each and create different expressions for expressive eyes, mouths and faces, hands. Detailed instructions are given for each of the areas and by practicing the steps you learn, in no time you are able to create some very realistic work that encourages you to move forward and continue to create full portraits. I still use the Blending techniques used in this book and the amount of realism that is achievable makes things come alive...water, ice, glass, all can benefit from using the simple techniques from this book in almost any work you are interested in doing in the graphite realm.
Throughout the book you receive Important Points to Remember and Lee Hammond's method of encouraging you every step of the way, is part of the reason her books and her Studio are so popular with many new artists and even those who aren't so new.
Filled with lots of reference material, before and after images by students, some as young as 11 years old, you get a sense, very quickly, that if you didn't think you could draw? This book will show you that you can!
I highly recommend any of the Lee Hammond books available, but for anyone who is interested in creating realistic portraits from photographs, this book is a must have to add to your library and your practice sessions.