Monthly Archives: August 2012

How to improve your portrait drawing skills!

Let’s face it, this is probably the most intimidating endeavor for budding artists.  We are often asked by friends and family to sketch their portrait, and this is when we question our level of craftsmanship.  We are suddenly inundated with self-doubt wondering what if we are not able to capture the likeness (along with other what if’s) How do we get over it?  How do we build the self-confidence where we are excited at the opportunity of drawing somebody instead of being intimidated?

1) Sketch often and frequently.  Don’t worry about the results, just draw, with time YOU WILL GET BETTER.  Read my blog: Start sketching people, on the go.

2) Draw people with salient features:  This means prominent nose, lips, eyes or lines on the face.  Senior Citizens fit this category quite well.   Even inexperienced artists will get the likeness of old people most of the time.  I have found this to be very encouraging, I can draw any old person in a matter of minutes.  Why is it easy you say?  It is because they have wrinkles and character lines on their face, their nose and lips are pronounced and very distinct, therefore it is easier to compare proportions and sizes.  Young people are harder to draw, their faces have very few lines and generally don’t have features out of the ordinary, therefore it is harder to get a likeness.  If you have been drawing/sketching people for a while with discouraging results, give this a go.  For every 1 young person you draw, draw 4 old people.  You will see your confidence soar and in no time you will be seeking out younger people to draw.

Old gentleman with distinct features

3) Draw from a head bust.  Below is a sketch of John-the-bodyless.  He is a permanent feature in my garage and I often draw him.  Again, John never judges me and I don’t have to share this with anybody.  These portrait drawings are mine to keep.  I take my time drawing the bust,  often comparing proportions and I am noticing that with time I am drawing with ease and my confidence has quadrupled.

Drawing John in Graphite

John drawn in Charcoal









4) The most important rule is rule 1)



Oil Bottle – Slightly different technique

This painting was once again done in my sweltering garage, in Texas.  The dang fan just blew hot air, but I guess it is better than nothing.

I found this clear 5″ bottle at Hobby Lobby.  I filled it with cooking oil and could hardly wait to start working on it.  I am planning to do a few more of these.

The one regret I have, with this painting, is I did not pay attention to the dimensions, all it would have taken is a little measurement, that is all.  I was too eager to get into the painting stage.  It is only after I was done, and after a little break that I saw that the bottle was lopsided.  Oh! well, live and learn.

I used Cadmium Yellow light, Burnt Umber, Titanium White, Cerulean Blue & Ultramarine Blue.  This was done on a 5×7 panel and took 2 hours to complete.

1) I used the Artisan Paint thinner for this job.  I did not pre-mix my paints.  I painted thin and left the final fatty layers (using linseed medium) for the final few touches.

2) I started out by doing a value based underpainting, using Burnt Umber and white.

3) Once the underpainting was complete I slowly snuck colors, where needed into the painting.  I love this approach very much and I will be pursuing this technique for a while.

4) I created my warm and cool blacks using Burnt Umber and Ultramarine Blue.  I created the yellowish-green using Cerulean Blue and Cadmium Yellow light.  I always kept my colors unsaturated using the blacks, I created, and white.  Remember to leave the saturated colors for the very end when you need bright colors.