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Sketching Souls: My Introduction to Portrait Drawing Workshops

A short drawing demo and explanation on face structure

Last month, I conducted the Live Model Portrait Drawing Workshop for interested individuals at My Art Space. It was split into 2 lessons, each lasting 2 hours.

I understand that portraits can be intimidating for most people, including myself. Since my youth, I wished I had someone who could teach me how to draw human faces, but those around me knew nothing about drawing, let alone drawing portraits.

Whenever I casually brought up the topic of portrait drawing, I could see people recoil, even though they wanted to give it a try. However, the launch of the life portrait drawing workshop sparked some interest among art enthusiasts at My Art Space, and I was delighted to share my knowledge accumulated over the years.

Begin By Drawing A Well-Structured Head

portrait drawing demo

Most of the students are beginners. To help them understand the steps in drawing faces, I demonstrated some drawings from both front and side perspectives and shared some tips on face composition. These are not strict rules but rather some easy-to-use principles and guidelines.

During the workshop, students were encouraged to begin by drawing a well-structured head as it serves as the foundation for creating a decent portrait. Once the form and shape are confirmed, capturing the essence of the face will follow through careful observation. Since each of us sees the model from a different angle,I emphasized repeatedly the importance of perspective. This sets the right track before delving into other aspects of portrait drawing.

Live Portrait Drawing

Why Draw From A Life Model?

You may ask: why draw live? Isn't a photograph also a great visual reference?

Well, there are many benefits to draw live. Among them, it requires you to pay closer attention and really focus on the details in front of you. Compared to flat images, a live model allows for observations in three dimensions in real-time. You can explore new compositional routes by moving around the model to catch every expressive nuance and master the overall form.

Drawing live also sharpens observational skills by compelling you to pay close attention to details, textures, and subtle nuances in your subjects. Furthermore, it grants you the freedom to bring a unique perspective and style to your artwork, allowing you to interpret and stylize what you see, thus creating a more personal and expressive piece of art.

Here are some tips for building good foundation in portrait drawing:

  1. Observation: The most crucial aspect of portrait drawing is careful observation. Study the subject's face closely, paying attention to proportions, shapes, and details. Try to capture the unique characteristics that make the person's face distinct.

  2. Study Anatomy: Understanding the basic anatomy of the face, including the underlying bone structure and muscle placement, can greatly enhance your portrait drawing skills.

  3. Proportions: Understanding facial proportions is essential. For beginners, you can use general guidelines, such as dividing the face into thirds vertically and horizontally to place features like the eyes, nose, and mouth. Keep in mind that individual proportions can vary, so adapt as needed.

  4. Start with Basic Shapes: Begin your portrait with simple shapes to establish the overall structure. Use ovals for the head and eyes, and basic lines for the nose and mouth. This will help you map out the placement of features accurately.

  5. Shading and Value: Adding shading and value to your drawing is crucial for creating depth and realism. Study how light falls on the face and use different pencil strokes (cross-hatching, blending, etc.) to achieve gradations in value.

  6. Experiment: Don't be afraid to experiment with different styles, techniques, and mediums. Trying new things can help you discover your personal approach to portrait drawing.

Life Portrait Drawing Workshop

I was delighted to see some progress in the students, and I was pleasantly surprised when a female student showed me her practice drawings of heads in her small sketchbook. I believe that consistent practice will get you somewhere more quickly than those who rely solely on talent.

If you are interested in the Portrait Drawing or Painting, please contact me at 9734 5940.


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