“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” – Stephen King
As you can tell from a few of my recent posts, I am in a portraiture phase. I imagine most artists go through a period of wanting to draw the exact likeness of a human face. All of our artistic paths start by drawing stick figures and smiley faces. That might be the best time as an artist, as we draw and paint with reckless abandon. We don’t care whether the eyes are in the correct proportion to the nose and mouth, or why hair is just so bloody hard to capture. We just draw.
But eventually, the urge for accuracy takes over. This may be the point when artistic curses take hold. We try to draw the shape of a head, and wonder why it looks more like an alien’s than a human’s. We can’t understand why the nose is just so hard to place properly on the face. And it certainly doesn’t help that artists like John Singer Sargent and Jonathan Yeo make it look so easy.
As Stephen King advises, to get better, we are left with only two methods, study and practice, with practice being the most important. Included here is some of my recent practice.
I once read that when you are learning to draw portraits, you shouldn’t practice drawing famous people, as others will know when you’ve messed up the resemblance. Drawing unfamiliar faces is safer and will build your confidence. There’s definitely not much room for error when drawing a self-portrait. I asked my son whether the sketch above looked like me. He said, “No. Your neck is too skinny and your head looks like a balloon.” Apparently, children also criticize with reckless abandon.
P.S. Stephen King suggests that would-be writers should read to become better at writing. This would-be artist likes reading too. So Stacie, please feel free to surprise me at Christmas with Jonathan Yeo’s new book, “The Many Faces of Jonathan Yeo.”