Diego Velázquez - Las Meninas or The Family of Philip IV

Ways to Improve Portrait Drawing Technique

If you are an artist, you’ll at some point find the portrait market to be quite lucrative. But, how can you improve your portrait drawing technique? There are actually several things you can do to improve your technique, and we all know, the closer you can get to full time art, the sooner you can “quit the day job”.

Treat it like a job

That may seem like a very unromantic view of art, but if you’re going to make a living at it, you have to work an 8 hour day. It’s the same with musicians – in college, as you’re training in performance, you practice 6 to 8 hours a day. Any job requires a 40 hour week, and art is no different. Whether you’re going to be a concept artist or illustrator, you’ve got to draw. Draw from models, from other art, and from your memory. No, you don’t have to sit at your drawing board and do it, as you would with an 8 to 5 desk job, but the time spent drawing makes you better and more prepared for the workplace.

Take lessons

You never stop learning. Or, at least, you shouldn’t. Take lessons every week. Life drawing lessons are crucial to polish your skills and to keep you fresh. You get new ideas, new skills, and new perspectives with different teachers. You may even find a master who continually inspires and instructs you. Your drawing classes will probably take 3 to 4 hours per session, and prices vary.

Draw everything

Your skill in drawing portraits can actually improve with practice in drawing everything you see. It has to do with values. Draw items that have different qualities of reflection, such as a shiny Christmas ornament, a ball of twine, and a satin sheet. The skills you gain through these activities will transfer to your portraiture when drawing skin tones, hair, draping, and other elements in your portrait.

Study the masters

Find a portrait artist you admire, and copy him or her. As you copy the master’s works, you’ll gain an insight to his techniques. You may start to see the subject through his eyes. Select several masters, and you’ll learn even more.

Think dimensionally 

You’ve got to remember to think dimensionally. Nothing in nature is flat, but so much artwork is flat. The human face is not a plane with features on it. Imagine the location of the back of the subject’s head, even if you are drawing the face. If you’re drawing a profile, you should picture the other side of the head as you do your artwork.

Use a variety of mediums

If your chosen medium is pencil, switch to charcoal, brush pen, or graphite. Use different tools, and you may find that you learn a whole new appreciation for the forms you are recreating. This will stretch your skills, if not your patience, and in the long run, make you a better artist. If you can keep this up for a couple of months, you’ll be amazed at how much you improve. You owe it to yourself to give it a try.

Article by Laura Green

Laura Green enjoys her health and hobbies, when she isn’t writing about how to enjoy your spare time, she tries to help promote online drawing courses.

2 comments
Stacy
Stacy

cool tips! thanks for sharing!