Some Things To
Avoid in Portrait Art
seems like there are plenty of things that I can say about what not
to do in portrait art. Some of these tips are hard-earned from
my own personal blunders, other tips are based on things I have seen
other fledgling artists do over and over again when they first start
Don't trace from photographs. Don't trace at all, or only
for very unique and special reasons. You should learn how to draw freehand.
If you don't, you will be severely hampered in many ways. You
will not be able to draw from life. One of the many joys of portrait
art is being able to do sketches of your friends (or strangers, for
that matter!) on the spur-of-the-moment. Don't rob yourself of
this. You will respect yourself more if you at least put in an effort
to draw freehand. This may seem like a basic concept to have to cover,
but unfortunately there is a trend these days for artists to trace photos.
Artists who do this will never hone their freehand drawing skills. This
is a real shame.
Don't take criticism poorly. If taking criticism is something
you don't have a problem with, then you are indeed lucky! But,
unfortunately, too many artists are very sensitive (it is a natural
way to be for many of us.) Therefore, taking criticism isn't so easy
for some of us! However, don't make someone who is trying to help
you through constructive criticism work too hard. If you make
a scene and are obviously upset when someone is honestly trying to help,
they will stop trying to help. (This whole criticism concept could
take pages to fully explore.)
Not everyone who
gives you some advice or criticism does it well, or with the purest
of intentions. Sometimes they are tactless. Sometimes they just are
looking for fault, to make you feel bad, and themselves feel a little
more important. But, when they are asked "How do you like it?"
and they tell you that the nose is a little too big, you should
not go off on them! If you want all your friends to only praise your
work (because you are such a delicate creature, after all!) you should
just tell them so. But bear in mind, that people may laugh behind
your back, saying "He doesn't know that he draws all the noses
too big, but he is so sensitive, nobody can tell him so!"
While sometimes someone else's opinion may not honestly be helpful,
it seems inevitable that there will be times that you will have a problem
with your work that you do not have the objectivity to recognize. You
need the help of friends (and teachers) to help you see these faults
and move past them.
Don't smudge pencil or graphite drawings. This is a pet
peeve of mine. There seems to be a trend (I did it myself for
a time, by the way) to treat graphite pencil (a.k.a. regular drawing
pencil) like some sort of charcoal, and to smudge and smear it as part
of a rendering technique. This only looks messy and tacky. Graphite
lacks the richness and body that charcoal does. Don't do this!
Graphite is better being rendered by short strokes, crosshatching,
it will look far more polished.
Don't draw "wimpy" drawings! Use a pencil with
some softness (B or 2B, not HB or 2H) so that you can get dark and sharp
contrast, not some washed-out wimpy looking drawing. You want
your darkest color to be dark, not some sort of light gray. If
you are only going to do delicate, hazy, light-toned drawing, this might
work, but most of us are aiming for a "realistic" look, which
means proper contrast between your lightest to darkest shades.
Avoid using the color black in your color work. If you
use watercolors, oil or acrylic paint, try to not use the tube of black
paint that comes with the paint set. It is true that many accomplished
artists use black in their palette, and use it successfully. However,
many other artists (especially new artists) overuse the color black,
and it deadens and "muddies" the whole painting. If
you are a little uncomfortable with mixing colors, get a good book on
color mixing. I recommend any book by Helen Van Wyk, I think she
is just fabulous. Instead of using black, use a dark color like
Paynes Gray, Indigo, or Burnt Umber. Or, mix two dark colors together,
(like Paynes Gray and Burnt Umber), to make a dark (but not quite black)
Content of this
page © J.R. Dunster,
2001 - 2004. All Rights Reserved.
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