Art challenge: Drawing with dots

Jacob Whitacker tried his hand at stippling, a form if art using dots.

In this week’s blog, I will be using something called the stipple technique in a pen and ink drawing. The stipple technique refers to making all the line work and the shading out of a series of dots, rather than using lines. 

Stippling is commonly used in pen and ink drawings as well as in tattoo work. I’ve done a number of ink drawings, although this technique is something I have never tried before. 

I decided I wanted to do this with a portrait, so the first thing I did was hop on Pinterest to find a reference photo. Once I found a cool picture I liked, I started by creating a pencil sketch to work from, since there’s no way I was jumping straight in with the dots. 

Once I felt I had a good foundation, I started stippling in some dots around the eyes, nose and mouth, and worked my way outward. I pretty much just kept adding more and more layers of dots, slowly expanding the shading to fill the face until I felt it had started to come to life. 

The reference photo for Jacob’s artwork.

One part I really struggled with, however, was the hair. I found it really difficult to be able to separate strands of hair using only dots, since the natural shape and look of the referenced hair is pretty straight and thin. Due to these struggles, the hair in my drawing is composed more of bigger chunks, which gives me more of a dreadlock vibe rather than the straight hair I was going for. 

Overall, this drawing definitely tested my patience. I naturally draw very scribbly and messy, so having to abandon that a bit and work at a different pace was a bit of a challenge at first, but I still found myself able to adapt. 

Once I began expanding the shading and building up on the layers, I found myself more confident in just sort of spamming dots around the paper rather than being very technical with it, which is where I think the messier style of my sketching started to show itself. 

If we ignore the neck pains and the destroyed pen tip that came with this drawing, I really enjoyed making this, and for a first attempt I’m pretty proud of how it came out.

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