Drawing Beautiful & Imperfect Faces
Dear Wonderful, Creative You:
One of the most meaningful and satisfying skills I have learned as an artist is how to draw faces – realistic, emotional, imperfectly expressive faces.
Drawing faces is skill I use to capture so many of my feelings, especially those mom feelings. It helps me capture precious moments. It helps me resolve my troubled heart when I question myself, and it is a beautiful way to dwell with someone I love so much, whether I’m trying to draw him while he sits quietly watching tv, or whether I’m drawing from a photo.
I’ve been doing a series for the last few years. My only rule is to focus on embracing imperfection and emotion. I find that as long as I do this, I’m able to capture something pretty special.
Drawing faces is one of those skills that almost every student tells me they would like to acquire, but can’t imagine doing well. Of course there are some skills to practice, but I also think a HUGE part of learning to draw is learning to SEE and learning to be okay with imperfection.
This is why I love blind contour drawing. It’s a practice that invites you to slow down, look deeply at your subject (or photograph) and tune into the little details that make portraits come alive.
Both the drawing above and below are rather “wonky,” but it’s also what makes them feel emotional and special to me. I usually work in pen, not erasing, and giving myself permission to just explore.
With the piece below – my son’s torso got shortened significantly, and he’s wearing a funny hat and glasses in the photo I chose. But I felt there was something really genuine in this piece. So I kept going. I added color, and then I added my free writing on the side. I feel like this piece speaks to his personality with the funny hat and glasses, and the writing is a beautiful way to record my feelings as a mom. It’s special to me.
This is a perfect example of how it pays to embrace imperfection and see where an image takes you. If only you give your portraits a chance to exist – imperfectly, beautifully, just like us – they will take you magical places.
- Sometimes portraits are wonky, but detailed in a way that rings true.
- Sometimes our drawings are just a mess.
- But mostly, I find practicing drawing faces bringing me into the moment and into communion with the person I’m drawing.
That’s art. That’s good process. It is our job to embrace all of what we produce, because it’s unrealistic to think that all our art will all be “good.”
A lot of us squander our creative energy judging our work. Instead, why not release expectation, accept that you are a beginner, and get curious about what might emerge if you slowly draw a portrait of someone you love, without expectation, just for the experience of dwelling with them?
You spend all your energy expecting your work to be good, and as a result, you can’t make anything.
It’s time to break out of that safe zone where nothing magical happens for you and your art. You CAN learn to draw people. It takes learning some skill, some practice, and mostly, the courage to embrace the imperfections in your art, which in the end of course, are what make it astoundingly beautiful.
That’s why I’ve created a self-guided retreat on drawing beautiful, imperfect faces. Poignant Portraits is a day-long retreat.
In our retreat, you will:
- Use mindfulness techniques to truly see your subject, and make drawing easier
- Draw blind contour and semi-blind contour portraits,
- Add color to bring cohesion to your drawings
- Connect, giggle, and create in a group of similarly daring and wonderful women who want to take their art to the next level.
I cannot wait to see what emerges for you when you give yourself permission to create and express imperfectly.