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How to draw good portraits – Artwork critique

Portrait artwork for critique from Luciana, Drawing Academy student

Since I started the Drawing Academy, I can see some improvement in my drawing skills.

Here’s the portrait in progress. I tried to follow the right proportions, but it still feels like something is not quite right, though I can’t exactly tell what it is.

I would really appreciate your critique.

How to draw good portraits - Artwork critique

Feedback from Vladimir London, Drawing Academy tutor

Dear Luciana,

Many thanks for your drawing; I like it, well done. The portrait is recognisable and many art students would love to have your drawing skills.

However, there are many small things that can be improved in your artwork, but above all, the main thing you need to work on is constructive drawing.

You may want to check this article about 12 Principles of Constructive Drawing »

One of the principles is about human anatomy in figurative drawing. For example, in your artwork, the sternocleidomastoid muscle doesn’t point to its place of origin.

Another principle says that it is better to draw objects as if they are transparent. However, I don’t see any traces of a cranium under the hairstyle; and without it, it is difficult to convince a viewer what shape the head has.

You are trying to achieve good results by focusing on facial features, but without strong foundation of constructive drawing you will always have mistakes.

If you are serious about portrait drawing, start with the skull anatomy, then muscles of the head, study the anatomy of the shoulder girdle, work on facial features, do hundreds of portraits using rules of construction and anatomy.

When it comes to tonal drawing, here’s one good tip – you may want to avoid 90-degree cross hatching when rendering human flesh. It might look good for fabric or draperies, but seldom for skin.

Also, the biggest improvement you can do in your hatching style is to apply pencil strokes along contours of a body (do not confuse with outlines).

Every stroke that describes contours will help to reveal dimensional forms; every stroke that doesn’t will flatten an artwork.

When rendering tonal values of a hairstyle, keep in mind the big shape of the head. Hair repeats that shape. If you mask the face and leave only hair visible, it is impossible to tell what 3-D shape it has; it is just a collection of various strokes, not a form.

And finally, over-rendering some areas of a portrait while leaving the rest untouched is not the best approach. Try to manage your tonal drawing in such a way that at every moment your artwork looks complete and you can stop working at any time as if it was an artist intent to have it that way.

I hope this helps.

Kind regards,
Vladimir

To learn human anatomy fast, visit the Anatomy Master Class »

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