Like many other artists skilled in the art of sketching, self-described “pencil snob” Nettie Wakefield often dabbles in portraiture. Rather than depicting people's smiling faces or distinctive profiles, however, the British artist has a unique approach to the age-old artistic practice. As evident in her one-of-a-kind Reversed Portrait pencil series, Wakefield peculiarly prefers to portray her subjects from behind.
Wakefield's unique series features studies of individuals from all walks of life—from school-aged girls with playful ponytails to young men clad in hats to older women with done-up do's. Using only graphite pencils and presenting merely the backs of their heads, the artist is able to produce detailed depictions of real people. Each portrait showcases both her amazing drafting skills and her remarkable knack for capturing an individual's identity—all without including his or her tell-all facial features.
Wakefield's decision to draw people from such a unique angle initially arose while she was studying Art History as a graduate student. One day, during a not-so-exciting lecture, she spontaneously started to sketch a student sitting in front of her. To Wakefield, it didn't matter that she couldn't see her face—in fact, that's what intrigued her.
“There was this girl sitting in front of me and I couldn't see her face,” she told The Jealous Curator in an interview. “I was sort of left imagining who she was, and I thought that the mystery of it was quite interesting.” Since then, the artist has been sketching reversed portraits of strangers, friends, and clients. You can see her process and follow the progress behind the series on Instagram.