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Drawing Faces and Portraits

Faces and portraits are hard to do. At least, I find them so.

But, sketching/drawing/painting faces is something that I have always been fascinated with, even though I have no aspirations to become a portrait artist. That's why some time last year, I took on the 101 Faces project.

The drawings and paintings I did for the project were stylized faces, though, for the most part. So, even though I've learnt a few things doing those faces, I know that my skill level in this department is still not at a level where I am pleased with.

That's the reason that I still don't do faces on a regular basis in my sketching or painting practice. 99% of the time, I'm just not happy with the results. So, to avoid feeling discouraged, I avoid doing them too.

Big mistake.

You see, some things that I have learnt as I got better at sketching more regularly are:

1. It's good to challenge yourself to draw subjects that scare you.

Maybe not all the time, to the point that you get completely overwhelmed. But, definitely often enough to surprise you and to make you see that you can do more than what you think you are capable of.

There were many times I took on a sketching challenge thinking: "Why on earth did I do this?" And, by the end of it, amazed myself with the outcome.

2. The more you do something, the more you will learn something in the process. And the more you learn, the better you will be at doing it.

It's like that old adage, "Practice makes perfect." Except, I have long discarded the idea of reaching 'perfection'. As Salvador Dali pointed out, it's just not going to happen. And, I'm okay with that. ๐Ÿ™‚

3. It's okay not to get an exact likeness. Just draw/sketch/paint what you see, feel, and experience - and give it your own flavour.

With these in mind, I started playing around with the idea of trying to include faces in my daily sketching practice.

Earlier this month, I was ending up with sketches like these (based on a photograph of an actor):

Daniel Di Tomasso Sketch

Not quite Killian from Witches of East End.

So, so unhappy with them. That's why I still couldn't bring myself to do them everyday. However, I kept on trying every couple of days or so. Just looking at faces and sketching them. Usually, in loose sheets of paper instead of my sketchbook because I wanted the freedom to be able to throw the sketches away. Haven't thrown any of them out yet, but if you follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook/Flickr, you'll know that I tend not to share these sketches there. Not at the moment anyway.

In any case, even though I am not into 'fan art', I started sketching photos of actors because my earlier attempts of trying to sketch people I know were frustrating me so badly. I figured, at least, if I sketched actors, no one would mind if I didn't get the likeness. Unless the actor saw them, perhaps. But, what are the chances, right? ๐Ÿ™‚ I especially like doing them while they're in 'character'.

So, after a couple of weeks of trying to sketch faces every few days, that face above became this:

Daniel Di Tomasso sketch

Another attempt at sketching Daniel Di Tomasso. Maybe channeling Felix Scheinberger - with not much luck. ๐Ÿ™‚

Still not great, but there was something about it that I liked. And, I have always told myself that that's all I want from learning to draw or sketch faces. I'm not aiming for Portraiture Prize standards. Just something that would make me happy when I finish the sketch.

And, last week, I had a breakthrough and ended up with this sketch:

Santiago Cabrera's Aramis from the Musketeers

Finally. A sketch that made me feel like I CAN draw a face that looks vaguely human and not some strange life form.

Not sure if you can tell who it is or which TV show it's from. But, he's definitely one of my faves in one of the TV shows I love right now. That is why I was so excited to see this sketch take shape. It's still not 100% likeness, I know, but it was the first time that I actually didn't feel like I failed big time at drawing faces.

I wish I can tell you that I have become much better at drawing faces since then and that I no longer produce dud sketches of faces. Happily ever after.

But, I would be lying.

I still have many many more misses than hits with this face sketching thing. Like this very strange self-portrait sketch that I did today (based on looking at a mirror):

Self Portrait in Colour Pencil

Mirror self-portrait in colour pencil. Though I seriously don't know who this person is. ๐Ÿ™‚

Doesn't quite look like me, yes?

The difference? I feel like I am finally slowly making peace with drawing faces and I am definitely learning way more as I draw/sketch more of them.

That's why I told myself that even though I may not always like what I see at the end of each face-sketching session, I will be kind to my creative self and not despair. Just keep on going and hope that I will have many more times where I'd end up feeling happy and amazed with my sketches.

And so, today, I am committing to a daily face sketch for my August Daily Week-long Challenge of the Month. Hopefully, in a few weeks' or a few months' time, I will be able to share my sketches of faces/portraits with a lot more excitement.

About the Author Shai Coggins (MTeach, MSoc Sci App Psych)

Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.

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