Sébastien Del Grosso: The Sketch Of A Life

Sébastien Del Grosso is a graphic designer and photographer currently based in Paris. Combining these two passions, Sébastien has been synthesizing a series of mixed media self-portraits comprised of both photography and sketches. Simultaneously personal and interpersonal, these sketches of a life portray a range of relatable human emotions and experiences. For example, Sketch Your Mentor is a tribute to his grandmother, who taught Sébastien how to draw as a child. Drawing additional inspiration from the imaginative photography of Ben Heine, Sébastien tries to depict scenes realistically, as if the sketches have turned into reality.

As the ongoing series of images has gained attention, others have become motivated to take up similar projects. Sébastien’s been kind enough to share some behind-the-scenes tips about his process.

The images start with photography, shot in his apartment with a Canon EOS 7D and a WA 16-35mm f/2.8 or a Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 and a plain light bulb. The photos are then migrated over to Photoshop for post-processing. Not a single pixel of the original is touched – all the adjustments, such as corrections here and there, color blending, luminosity and contrast, etc., are made on separate layers.

The dodge tool (used in subdued mode) and the burn tool (used in inlay mode) are extremely useful in accentuating or diminishing selective facial details. On average, Sébastien uses about four to five layers with an opacity range of 40% to 50% after applying thick strokes and refining with the eraser to achieve a result he’s satisfied with.

This version of the photo is then printed with a white layer tuned to 90% opacity overlaid so as to allow for hand-sketching on top, usually in rough yet strong lines.

Following that, the cleaned drawing is scanned and placed beneath the layer with the edited version of the image. The eraser tool comes out to play again for the final polishing. Sébastien recommends using one of the sharpest brush shapes possible for this. And to ensure that the final image is really sharp? Duplicated layers of the image are merged through a high-pass filter in inlay mode (between 0.1 to 0.3) to maximize clarity.


With his images, Sébastien tries to not only grab the viewer’s attention, but also to hold it (and hopefully appeal to the viewer’s conceptual imagination enough to understand the story behind the creation). The Sketch of a Life series took home first place at the 2013 International Photography Awards (IPA 2013) in the Non-Professional Fine Art – Portrait category. If you decide to embark on a similar project, Sébastien would love to see the results. Connect on Facebook or Flickr.

When it comes to words of wisdom, he believes that it is most important “to be creative, without trying to copy something already done. Inspiration from other people’s work is a good thing, but you have to find your own style. Therefore, don’t try to imitate the style from someone you admire. You need to be patient, take time to research and learn from other people.”

Some of the individuals who’ve inspired Sébastien include Joel Tjintjelaar, Marc Adamus, Magdalena Wasiczek, Fabien Bravin, Marsel van Oosten, Michal Karcz and Erik Johansson.

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