Art Practice: Portrait Sketch Challenge

I’m always trying to improve my skills at drawing, painting, photography, music, you name it. So when one of my favorite art-related bloggers posed me a challenge, I had to accept.
Shelley Wilson, over at Shelley Wilson Art challenged me to take one of her black and white portrait photographs and identify the lines I could see, as she did in her recent post Drawing of Brooke – Phase I.

I started to draw the lines for the challenge, but ended up going much further. Once I had the lines drawn on the image, and then sketched onto a sheet of paper, it was an open invitation to fill the page. I limited myself to one hour, so that I forced myself to move on from one line to the next, from one shadow to another. I didn’t want to be overwhelmed by the amount of time required to get everything perfect the first time – this is more of a mental exercise than anything else.

After one hour, I’d say I made some pretty amazing progress! I’ve never been able to sketch a face so accurately before. True, the proportions are slightly off, and I’m still having trouble with the eyes, but I’m thoroughly shocked at how easy it was to draw when I had the guidelines on the page.

During the time I was sketching, I was not focused on drawing a face. Instead, my focus was on the angle of the shadow at the corner of a mouth, or the direction of the wrinkles around the eye. Everything tied back into those lines I first sketched on the page, rather than “this is what a mouth should look like” or “this is the angle of a cheek”.

I definitely need more practice, but I’m very happy with the results. Thanks again to Shelley for her excellent posts, and for challenging me beyond my artistic comfort zone!



Categories: Art

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8 replies

  1. Wow, great job! All that expression in just one hour? That’s talent!

  2. Hi! I’m so excited about your acceptance of the challenge and the results!!! Wow!!! I’m so pleased. I’d love to reblog this onto my own site, if you’ll allow it. It would be encouraging to others, I think.

    I’m not so sure that the eyes are that far off from what you think. I studied the original photograph closely and her left eye is a bit larger than her right eye. However, the left eye is in dark shadow, which disguises it enough to diminish it. So you’re really very close.


    • Thank you! Please feel free to reblog it – I’m so happy at how it turned out!

      It was hard to get the eyes exact since they are in so much shadow – it’s hard to tell one shade of black from another.

      But all in all, I think it was a success 🙂 I’m glad you challenged me to do that!

      • Thank you.

        It is hard to distinguish forms in the darkest shadows. It’s okay to let it be vague, I think. If you let it be vague, you let the viewer concentrate on other areas of the face.

        You did a great job. I really like the way your described the process and your thoughts as you went along. Your drawing really captured the spirit of the subject.

  3. Reblogged this on Shelley Wilson and commented:
    I’m in awe! It’s so affirming to see this in practice. I love the way she describes what she’s thinking and what she learned.

  4. Very nice! Whether they’re rendered accurately or not, you really captured a mood in those eyes.

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