As I mentioned in my last post, I wanted to start focusing on drawing faces or portraits. I have two courses as resources for learning plus all the free videos on YouTube. I decided to start with Fabulous Faces course by Tamara Laporte. You can find it here under her art classes. This is my version of the first week’s front facing portrait.
This lesson did not use a reference photo and was focused on proportions and placement of facial features it is not meant to be a realistic drawing. Her instructions also focused on shading. What I loved most about this lesson was learning how to use layering to add depth to the shadows instead of pressure on the pencil to darken the lines. Her explanation of how using pressure can cause distortion in the paper making it difficult to erase or even to blend out helped a lot on learning how to apply her technique. I feel it has improved my ability to create contours in the face.
I then decided to use a reference photo to practice the shading techniques I learned from Fabulous Faces Week 1 class. This is the reference photo I chose from online when I searched for front facing women’s pictures. I liked this one because it gave more contrast for the shadows and showed clear highlights.
This is the result of my second sketch. When looking at my drawing I couldn’t see the wonkiness in the eyes (the eye on the right is slightly lower than the one on the left). It wasn’t until I took a picture that I saw it. I tried fixing it but I lost something in it when I did. The thing I like about this drawing is how my shading is improving. I was using a mechanical pencil when I drew this but by the end I realized I need to use better graphite pencils which I do have just didn’t use them for this drawing or the previous one.
I have another course called Let’s Face It, you can find it here. I purchased Kara Bullock’s “Let’s Face It 2016 – Kara Only” classes since it provides instruction for front face, 3/4 face, profile, bust and up portraits, and also the figure. I am on the first lesson and the first exercise is to do a drawing or painting from a reference photo to see where your skill level is right now. This is to help track your growth as you progress through the classes. I decided to draw another face using the same reference photo. This is the result using a better set of drawing pencils. I can definitely see a difference between this drawing and the previous one when I used a mechanical pencil.
I know faces are not exactly symmetrical but again the eyes are off, though better aligned, one eye is larger than the other. I say this as a constructive criticism. I do this so I know what to work on for improvement. In the first drawing where they were wonky, I realized I didn’t see it because of the way I sit and draw and how I hold my sketchbook. I hold my book at an angle like I was taught to place a piece of paper when I’m writing. I’m learning that when I do this when drawing, it is difficult to see when something isn’t in its proper alignment. Tonight when I drew the last sketch I made a point of holding my sketchbook straight (not on an angle). This helped a lot with getting the eyes aligned properly.
I need to work on the hair more, however, that will come later. My main goal with this last drawing was to get alignment and proportions more accurate. I printed up a copy of the reference photo and glued it to the opposite page in the journal I am using. This helped a lot . Not only did it help to have the reference photo right there but with it sized to fit the page, it helped with working out the proportions and placement.I’m considering my drawings complete at this point. Mainly because if I messed with them any more I know one of two things could occur. I will either become frustrated because my perfectionist would come out of the closet and start nagging me about how it doesn’t look right and isn’t perfect which could put me off of drawing for several weeks if not longer. Or I could screw up something which I feel is pretty good at this stage of my artistic development. Since this will be used as a reference for my growth, it shows clearly that I’m not skilled with hair yet and though I’m fairly good with placement and proportions I still have a ways to go for realistic portraits. So this is a good drawing to use for this purpose.
I have learned several things from this exercise.
- Take pictures along the way as I’m drawing to help me see anything that might be out of kilter or needs adjustment. Taking a picture helps me to see things more clearly quicker than it would setting it aside and looking at it later.
- Be kind when I’m looking at what I have created. It is okay to point out to myself the things which I need improvement on but above all else give myself credit for how much I have improved.
- Using pencils, meant for drawing, work a lot better than mechanical pencils or pencils meant for writing.
- Greater dimension and depth can be achieved with drawing pencils using light layers than pressing firmly with one pass or two passes.
- I have also found I like using a blending stump or tortillion better and a kneaded eraser than my “fat” fingertip (“fat” only to describe how much larger the tip of finger is when compared to the tip of a fine point tortillion).
- Paper has a big influence on the feel and look of a sketch. There is an obvious difference between the two drawings I did from the reference photo. The first was drawn on very smooth paper and the second was drawn on a heavier and more textured paper.
I may continue to use the same photo for a while but that depends on the next lessons in the two courses I mentioned here. I plan on doing both classes in tandem. I think it will be interesting to switch from a more whimsical style that Tam does, to the more realistic style that Kara does. I naturally tend to draw realistically however I love learning how to create something completely from my imagination.
It can be rather daunting to step out of my comfort zone to draw a face. All too often I hear my inner critic tell me it is too complicated… faces are too difficult… I’ll never get it right… it will never look like the person or photo I’m drawing… and if I let the voice continue… and I let myself believe what it is telling me… it will hold me back from picking up the pencil or making any marks on the paper, or it could cause me to quit in the middle of what I’m creating because it isn’t exactly like the person or image I’m drawing.
If I ignore the voice, or better yet, if I allow myself to hear the voice, acknowledge what lies beneath the words, I usually can move forward with my drawings. Most times as I move forward and progress into what I’m creating, see how it is developing, it can quiet the voice. Because, I know I still have areas to improve, that voice will still be there letting me know where those improvements are needed but another voice becomes louder. That new voice often says things like… see, I can do it… yes, it isn’t perfect but look at the eyes, look at the shading, look at how realistic it appears or how much I’ve improved in a month or a couple months… and so on.
This is my journey and I am loving it.