How to Draw an Ancient Egyptian Portrait

 

PORTRAIT OF QUEEN NEFERTARI

PORTRAIT OF QUEEN NEFERTARI

Our portrait is based upon a painting of Queen Nefertari from her tomb in the Valley of the Queens. Queen Nefertari is usually shown wearing the Royal Vulture Crown of the goddess Nekhbet, the protector of Upper Egypt. Nefertari was the favourite wife of the greatest of all the pharaohs, Rameses II, and she bore him at least six children. She probably died after his 30th year on the throne, about 12 centuries before the birth of Christ.

The artistic process used to create the time-worn effect of this Ancient Egyptian portrait is a mixed media technique called Paper Batik. In this lesson we will guide you through this technique from the initial drawing to the completed portrait explaining each step of the process as we go.

 

QUEEN NEFERTARI SKETCH

QUEEN NEFERTARI SKETCH

You can click on the link or sketch above for a larger image to help with your drawing of an Ancient Egyptian head.

If you wish to choose another image, you could try our Ancient Egyptian Gods or Ancient Egyptian Crowns pages where you will find a range of suitable alternatives.

 

ART MATERIALS FOR THIS LESSON

ART MATERIALS FOR THIS LESSON

The art materials you will need to produce this are a charcoal pencil or stick, a heavy grade paper, a paintbrush with tempera blocks (the cheap paint discs you get in schools) and a bottle of waterproof Indian ink.

As a result of experimenting with various water based paints, we have discovered that tempera blocks produce consistently good results with this technique. Tubes of tempera paste and other water based paints have produced inconsistent results and acrylics do not work at all.

 

STEP 1. DRAWING AN EGYPTIAN FIGURE

STEP 1. DRAWING AN ANCIENT EGYPTIAN FIGURE

A traditional Egyptian image shows the head and lower body viewed from the side, with the eye and upper body viewed from the front.

At first look, the figures drawn by the Ancient Egyptians may seem wooden and flat, demonstrating a limited understanding of the human form. However, you need only look at their sculptures to realize that this is not the case. Their drawings are simplified and stylized images which represent the eternal spirit of the character that they depict, and as such, are quite sophisticated images.

In our drawing above we have focused on the upper half of the body.

The image was drawn in line without any shading using a charcoal pencil on a heavy-grade white paper.

 

STEP 2. DRAWING THE CROWN AND PECTORAL DECORATION

STEP 2. DRAWING THE CROWN AND PECTORAL DECORATION

In the second stage of this drawing we have added a headdress, a pectoral decoration and a tunic.

Any solid black areas, such as the hair are shaded in with charcoal.

Do not worry if the charcoal becomes smudged as this can add to the texture of the work in its later stages.

The headdress worn here is a version of the Royal Vulture Crown.

 

TUTANKHAMUN'S PECTORAL JEWEL

TUTANKHAMUN'S PECTORAL JEWEL

Pectoral decorations are large ornamental necklaces which are worn over the chest. These necklaces often supported a large piece of jewellery like the one in the drawing above. This image is copied from a pectoral jewel discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamun. Its design is based on the hieroglyphs from his cartouche.

 

STEP 3. ADDING A HIEROGLYPHIC BACKGROUND

STEP 3. ADDING A HIEROGLYPHIC BACKGROUND

At this stage you can decorate the background with an arrangement of hieroglyphs. The hieroglyphs in our drawing have all been taken from our Hieroglyphic Alphabet pages.

Try to arrange your hieroglyphs to create an interesting composition. In our drawing, they have been composed around the figure into a rectangular form that echoes the shape of the paper.

Next: Painting your Ancient Egyptian Portrait

Ancient Egyptian Art Lessons

Learn about the Ancient Egyptians through our Egyptian Art Lessons. Discover the mysteries of Egyptian art, gods, crowns, and hieroglyphics.

  • Test your knowledge of the Ancient Egyptians on our Quiz Page

 

 

Page Banner Image

 

A painting from the tomb of Queen Nefertari, the wife of Rameses II.

A painting from the tomb of Queen Nefertari, the wife of Rameses II.
© The Yorck Project