If you follow a lot of amateur artists online, you’ve probably seen this drawing a lot.
I drew that particular set of lips, but it’s certainly not my design. Why is everyone drawing this particular mouth, or some variation of it?
The answer is easy – a Mark Crilley instruction video!
Videos are a good resource to learn from, even though I’m not a huge fan in general, but it’s important to keep in mind that thousands of other people are seeing the same video, and at least a few hundred will attempt the step-by-step. It’s not a bad thing for practice, but don’t try to market off the results of watching that video. As I already said, other people are posting the exact same thing!
The experience is valuable, but don’t forget that nothing is more valuable than finding your own way to learn what works and what doesn’t.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
My grandfather was a good-humoured man with an enormous heart. He had a boyish sense of mischief to him that carried over into everything he did, from his love of fishing to the extensive volunteer work that he did in his community.
My focus in this drawing was to capture his good humour, which can be seen in the glint in his eyes in the portrait. His closed-mouth smile draws out a sense of calm about him, though his eyes belie that beloved mischief.