Lessons from the One Week Portrait Challenge 01

I took part in the free One Week Portrait Challenge hosted by Paintable this year. Thank you for the short and entertaining course. I went in with the intention to watch my process and learn from the process(es) I would be presented to improve my digital portrait drawing skills in the future. Whereas some of my friends seemed to bored because the tasks at hand did not challenge them enough (lucky them), I got a lot from returning to the basics of the basics and I’m going to share this with you!

Day 01

This day was all about perception & measurement. Think about it, if nothing is to be taken for granted, not even *seeing* like an artist and understanding and translating what you saw – then often a portrait is doomed from the start, even before the pencil has hit the paper. If you, like many other artists (including myself) fail to instantly see and understand the facial planes and proportions of the individual face before you, you will not achieve likeness in your drawn result. I am not saying that you can’t do a good drawing. You might just feel this nagging unease that you don’t know what went wrong and don’t really know how to fix it to make it look more alike to whatever reference you are using.

I have included my own visual notes from that day. The reference picture I chose is an obscure low res photograph of young Jeremy Dufour. Whatever it is not, it is more than enough to study proportions and perception.

My most interesting finding was that up until then I had ignored angles. Angles are fantastic to tame out of control geometry. Do you know the situation when you have drawn a face and it has all elements of a face you remembered a face should have – you even considered perspective and anatomy – but it’s wrong. It’s not what you want and you can’t lay your finger on it. Your result feels so off from the reference (or worse, from your own imagination), but everything that should be there, is there! Not always, but often enough, checking your angles helps to bring a drawing back into the “proper” shape. The “right” facial features do not help when they are placed in the wrong position at the wrong size. Relying on geometry alone (such as planes of the face) can trick you, because geometry does not solve your placement and size problem – you can still see or remember the wrong things and then have a wonky result. But bring the angles in and suddenly your geometry doesn’t have as much wiggle room.