Progression

It’s so easy to get frustrated when a certain drawing just isn’t working out.  I used to get to the point where I’d erase so much that the grains of my paper would start to lift off the page, and then I’d give up because it would be a matter of redoing the entire thing at that point.

My first ever portrait.
My first ever portrait.

Sometimes it’s helpful to take a step back for a while and come back with fresh eyes.  It can be a difficult thing to do, especially when all you want is to get that drawing finished and showcased, but it’s totally necessary.  Why are those eyes not looking right?  What is going on with that mouth?  It kind of looks like who it’s supposed to… But something isn’t right!

The best way to figure out what’s going on is to simply stop looking at it.  Stop thinking about it.  Give it a break for a day or two, then go back to it.  Suddenly, it’s like everything that wasn’t working out has an obvious reason!

Second Attempt
Second Attempt

The biggest make it or break it parts of a portrait are on the face.  The facial shape can be a little bit off without huge detriment, even though it’ll never look quite right, but if the eyes, nose, mouth, or even eyebrows aren’t right, the entire face looks wrong!

 

 

 

 

Second Ever Portrait
Third Ever Portrait

That’s why it’s important to practice seeing.  It sounds funny, because for most people, we think that we’re seeing every day.  A person doesn’t realize how much is missed in every day life.  Since I started doing portraits, my entire view of the world has altered.  I’m cognizant of shadows, of the shape of a person’s nostrils, or how the light reflects in a person’s eyes.  When I watch movies, I see how the sweat moves on the actors’ faces and which areas of their faces shine the most.

Eventually, something just clicks, and it becomes a natural movement to put those observations into portraits.

Work in Progress
Work in Progress

Are the teeth perfectly aligned?  Where is the reflection in the eyes?  Can the nostrils be seen?  How does the light hit the hair?  It all becomes important.

 

 

 

 

 

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Eventually it all comes together and starts to make sense.  There is nothing more important in a portrait than contrasts, and when the eye is able to see the contrasts without struggling, drawing becomes much easier.

Ink

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Ink can be a super cool medium for drawing and shading (we’re talking on paper here!), but it is a little bit more on the difficult side to use effectively.  It takes some practice to learn the proper pressure to apply, and how to avoid those awful gummy spots that ballpoint can leave behind.

Calligraphy is a popular art form all to itself, done using the type of tools photographed above.  I’m hoping to one day soon integrate ink art into my repertoire, because I believe that it brings a special kind of effect that can’t be achieved through any other medium.

What do you think of ink art?

Painting

I get asked all the I time if I plan to start painting, and the truth is that I have dabbled in painting. Admittedly, I would never attempt to market any of said paintings at this juncture, because I’m just not super great at it. Like all new skills, painting will take some time to master, if mastering is even possible. For now, I will comfort myself with the whole, “I did my best,” slogan.

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Tutorials – Video or Image

(Click here to see a ‘how to draw hair tutorial!) It’s true that everyone learns differently. My husband will turn to YouTube for everything, and he’ll have the subject down in one view. When he’s done, he’ll look at me and say, “Let’s do that!”
Ever watch the Peanuts cartoons where all the adults make funny blah blah blah noises when they’re talking? That’s what I hear with YouTube. Blah blah blah.
Stop talking and just show me what we’re doing, piece by piece. YouTube is supposed to be a visual resource, right?

So what is the best way to learn to draw?

Well, the obvious and not so obvious answer is to do. The best way to learn to draw is to actually do it. You need to feel the texture and movements, and you need to learn how to keep a steady hand.
Some people believe that tracing is the way to get that experience; tracing is not usually a valuable learning technique. You can’t learn to eye up and measure a drawing by tracing, and those are very valuable skills for an artist to have!

So, where to begin?

Some artists will say to find a photograph and just start drawing what you see, but that isn’t effective for everyone. How do you draw that weird curve? How do you get the hair highlights? (Find out about hair here).

I started with instruction books, but not the step-by-step kind. They’re the type of books that give a starting point, a middle point, and an end. These books gave me a great starting point where I could learn to draw basic shapes, and then try different shading techniques until I found what I liked best.

Here are some of my recommendations:

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Some of Lee Hammond’s books come with a DVD that contains basic instructions, but I wouldn’t pay the extra money for it. Notice that the cover says ‘step-by-step demonstrations.’ That’s not really an accurate description, but if you’re a somewhat experienced artist, you might feel like it’s step-by-step.

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Lee Hammond again? Yep, you bet. I really enjoy her methods and suggestions. The only book of hers (that I know of) that I would not recommend is her book about drawing pets. The reference images are way too dark and look like big blocky black photocopies. Not cool.

Yup, YouTube. Didn’t I just post a diatribe about how much I don’t like YouTube? Yeah. But, I do like Mark Crilley!  He does talk a lot, but he sounds friendly, he has funny dad jokes, and he draws the entire time he’s chatting! He also has very diverse drawing styles, from hyper realistic to manga and chibi. He’s talented, and he’s an excellent teacher!

Those are my top three resources for the time being, but I’ll add more a bit later.

Ciao.

Basic Drawing Tools

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Basic art tools are pretty simple.  In order to get started on some really basic sketches, all you need is paper (a little practice sketchbook is great!), a blending stump or tortillon (we won’t get too fussy on this in the beginning), a kneadable eraser (you’ll see why), and a mechanical pencil with 0.5mm 2B graphite.  You can also use a hard eraser, but make sure it’s good quality – you want to be able to erase mistakes without tearing up the grain on your paper.  Starting off, though, you should be drawing lightly enough that you can erase your mistakes with the kneadable eraser.

wp-1451423479297.jpegThis is a small size blending stump (virtually, paper squashed together with a pointy tip).  This is your new finger – never again use your finger to blend!  Your hands have oils all over them that can destroy your masterpiece.  Use a tortillon (for more textured drawings) or a blending stump (for smoother blending).  You can also use a shammy (chamois leather), mobile device cleaning cloth, etc.  It all depends on the texture that you want!  Avoid tissues if you can, as they leave behind little fluff that can get into the grain of your graphite and mess things up.

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Blending stumps and tortillons come in a variety of different sizes.  Choose the size that will let you work the most effectively.

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This little guy is a tortillon.  Notice how the tip is textured – that’s because it’s just rolled up paper!  You can buy these little gaffers in bulk at any art store.  I’m not sure about Wal-Mart, but you can look there if you’re super curious.  Tortillons are great for textured blending, such as for hair.