4 Days of Portrait Sketching

4 Days of Portrait Sketching

A few years ago when I was first learning drawing, I did 100 portraits as close to once a day as I could manage.

In fact, most of the portraits you’ve seen on my blog have been due to this work period. Obviously, I made a lot of progress! It was difficult to stay determined and some days were a regression. Sometimes, I would advance in skill by leaps and bounds seemingly overnight. The most important thing to remember about the brain is: It is not a computer. It responds best with iteration, time, and practice. 

Ever really look at an artist draw? The artist makes lots and lots and lots of lines. Most them are completely the wrong shape, not perfect. But…then something magic happens. The artist’s brain warms up, it start making adjustments, lines go over other lines. Some lines are used as reference points for larger shapes. The features and the overall composition of the drawing start to show through the application of actively working, of keeping the lines and workflow loose, by being open and revising as material is being added. This is how the brain works: with averages, with shapes, intuitively, from other references, with something to look at, hold onto, and then craft from. The more “into it” you get, the better your end result. I’ve heard this state called “flow”. It might even look like mastery. It certainly is doing rather than a forcing. After drawing 100 portraits, it got easier for me to get to this place with art, emotionally, and with profound physical results.

I’ve stepped away from portraits for a long time. I’ve gotten pretty rusty at daily sketching. Putting hours and hours into a succulent or a digital image is a lot of fun, and yields a shiny, polished outcome. I enjoy it a lot, and will continue to do so, but I really missed the spontaneity and growth of focusing for an hour (or less) with a pencil and paper and doing a daily sketch! So, here I am again, returning to that practice.


Here are four days of sketching.

Already my progress and coordination is visible. I have a lot of relearning and familiarity to do. There will be backward and forward days, but I’m looking forward to the progress overall, and for advancing my art in this approachable way.

Day One

The first day of sketching. Note the incomplete facial elements and hesitancy making lines.
The first day of sketching. Note the incomplete facial elements and hesitancy making lines regarding features. The mouth is unfinished, the chin is elusive, and the eyes are overworked. Not too bad for a quick-draw — this is my first day — my entrance baseline of what’s to come. Excellent.

 

Day Two

The second day. Of note is the thick outlined features lacking in gradient -- particularly lips and upper eye. The nose is more realistic and structured in this sketch.
The second day. Of note is the thick outlined features lacking in gradient — particularly lips and upper eyes. The nose is more realistic and structured in this sketch. The entirety of the face, and the space between facial parts is firming up in my mind. Gradient awareness is coming along well.

 

Day Three

Day Three - Portrait Sketch
The third day. Trying a more difficult facial angle. The proportions are askew, but the lines are loosening up. Even though the mouth is still a problem area, the nose is looking respectable. I’m getting a grasp of space, angles, gradients, and composition.

 

Day Four

Day Four - Daily Portrait
The fourth day. My light and darks are getting bolder. My lines are looser and more expressionistic. Facial elements still need some strengthening, but clearly show a face. My work with lips is slightly better in this study. The nose is weaker. Eyes are far set and awkward, but the glint and shading of them is an improvement from previous sketches. I’ve scaled better to fill the paper with the image, and my initial gesture sketches were closer to the completed work. I’m can feel myself getting into a workflow.

Filed Under: Art

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