Blog / 2019 / Making Portrait Drawing a Little Easier

September 16, 2019

Drawing a portrait can be overwhelming, more so than drawing anything else. The subject is literally staring back at you as you draw—from the reference photo, but also from the drawing itself as it progresses.

And those eyeballs have a measurable effect on you! It’s been proven that images of eyes make you behave as though you are being watched. In other words, if drawing a person didn’t already come with a maze of emotional hazards, there’s the added sociological impact of the eyes and how they can trip you up by making you feel more inhibited.

To work around this peculiarity of portrait drawing, I always begin a face the same way: with the nose and eyebrows. That’s where I start the portrait, and that’s how I tend to restart it as well each time I pick up a new marker.

This video shows me going right for the nose with the lime green. Then, once I’ve roughed out the whole face with that color, the first place I go with the light blue is the nose again.

Starting with the center of the face may make sense for you as well, but I also know artists who prefer to begin with the mouth or the forehead/hairline. The point isn’t the specifics of where you start, rather that you make a habit of beginning in the same place each time.

A formula like this can help you disengage from the person you are depicting just enough to lose your self-consciousness. You’ll still be creating a portrait—you’ll still seek out those elements that make your drawing a true likeness. But the repetition can keep you from getting too caught up in the complexities of any single portrait.

marker on paper portrait by Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
marker on paper
9 x 6 inches

For information about how to commission a portrait of your own, check out this page!


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