People seem to highly value classic portraits of their children, even if they are not particularly interested in art. I do a lot of drawings for friends from digital photos given me, for me they are good practice and save me forking out on Christmas and birthday presents. For me children all look very similar but I'm sure their mothers don't see it this way. For this reason I always draw a grid on the piece of paper and on the digital photo and transfer the image square by square. It doesn't take very long and I usually draw the grid while I'm watching something on tv or listening to the radio, then it's very easy to transfer the photo onto the paper and one doesn't have to worry about making the baby look like sombebody else's baby, or worse...ugly and yet recognisable enough to be the couple's offspring. I can see the parents going around for days worrying 'Does everyone see him like that?'. All this lining up the paper does remove some of the expressive quality but there are plenty of other things to worry about after you've got the proportions correct: too much shading can give that horror movie edge to the child. I find turning the photo upside down and squinting at it can help me see the overall areas of shading and avoid over doing bits. Saying all this, it isn't really hard to achieve a likeness and I would imagine almost anyone could achieve something they could be proud of.
To shade the drawing in I begin with a hard pencil, maybe a HB, I then work in progressively softer pencils, becoming increasingly careful not to smudge the graphite. By the time I'm using a 8B I usually have to put a sheet of paper between my hand and the drawing so as not to smudge it, by this time the harder pencil lines (and the grid) are almost invisible. I use a putty rubber to remove the remaining grid lines and add the occasional highlight. Finally I fix the painting with hairspray.
Of the two drawings I've provided in today's post, the first is of my English student Mariana Galan's granddaughter, and the second is my driving instructor Oscar's baby. I just passed my driving test in Spanish so as a thank you for putting up with me I drew his baby.