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The Five Things You Need to Become a Portrait Artist and Why Perfectionists Are Doomed to Failure

The five things that you do need to be able to draw a portrait

What most people think that you need to be a good portrait artist is to be born with a gift, or have the privilege of attending an art college for several years or maybe being blessed with a photographic memory and an almost magical ability to transfer that image to paper. Yes of course anyone of those things would do the job nicely but none of those requisites are actually necessary to become an excellent pencil portrait artist. The good news is you do not have to be born an artist but you can easily learn the skills and in a relatively short time it is possible to become very proficient at drawing excellent portraits.

Initially all you need is a passion and a desire to want to be able to do it and then an easy step-by-step structure to follow. The good news is that you do not have to be born knowing how to draw a portrait but is it most definitely something that you can easily learn to do. So regardless of your current level of drawing skill you can become an expert portrait artist.

Secondly you will need to make a commitment to practise what you learn and be prepared to fail many times along the way before really pleasing results occur. This is where the fear of failure and being a perfectionist can seriously hold you back from success. If you are a bit of a perfectionist then maybe think about this, and ask yourself the question “Do you honestly know anyone who is perfect? Be honest, he or she does not even exist, so why pursue something that doesn’t even exist? Here is something else for people battling with perfectionist traits to consider, it is not unusual for some folk who can only settle for perfection for their innate fear of failure to motivate them to decide not to do anything at all. However if you don’t enter the race in order to avoid coming last then even that person who comes last has achieved so much more than you!! A final message to those would be perfectionists amongst us, it is definitely not all bad news to have that attitude, so take heart, the secret is to swap the hard and fast rule of trying to be perfectto a new rule ofalways striving to do your best. That way you can always achieve your goal and it’s kind of obvious but how could you ever do better than your best anyway. There is of course nothing to stop you trying hard to do even better in the future.

Thirdly it is important to have good understanding of the structure and the proportions of the face. It is surprising how little most of us really notice about the layout and general proportions of a face, considering we look at them every day, maybe even hundreds of them.

And fourthly, an insight into the five main components of a face, ie eyes, ears, nose, mouth and hair. The same is true here as well in terms of the lack of precision and detail we notice of the individual parts of a face. Although we look at people’s faces every day, we tend to only get an overall picture of whoever we are looking at and many of us would struggle to even give a detailed description of our love ones let alone strangers. It is to do with how the brain works, the right half of the brain that is responsible for images processes the information holistically rather than a step-by-step detailed account. As a result of that we frequently see what we expect to see rather than what we are actually seeing. An example of that phenomena is when I shaved my beard off recently that I had worn for years and some members of the family never even noticed until it was pointed out. One response was “I thought there was something different but I wasn’t sure what it was”. It just proves the point that when viewing things holistically we just fill in the gaps but not always accurately. Being aware of this phenomena means that we need to become much more focused with our observations when learning how to draw a portrait.

Then finally the glue that puts this all together and brings your drawings to life is “shading” thus creating a 3 dimensional result and brings it all to life. Shading is not something that comes naturally for most of us but most certainly a simple skill that can be learnt.

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