Do you want to go off on vacation, but fear you'll lose your creative streak or even fall behind artistically if you take a few days off? Ever wondered how you can ensure creative progress while away from the studio and regular work routines? Curious to see what happens when you take your art-making on the road but are, perhaps, a bit nervous about working in unusual/public settings?
As artists, traveling is a great way of gaining new inspiration and facing challenges that can lead to substantial growth. It may sound counterintuitive, especially for us workaholics, but putting miles between us and our studios may be just what we need to kick our creative progress into gear.
In today's blog post, I'll be sharing the three things I personally did to prepare for my last trip, which allowed me to enjoy it immensely WHILE moving forward artistically. By preparing ourselves mentally and doing a bit of research beforehand, we can take full advantage of our travels and come back home refreshed, motivated and full of ideas!
To clarify, I consider the incubation of ideas just as important as the act of creating finalized artworks. It's through first-hand experiences that we get to know ourselves as artists and come to conclusions about what messages we want to bring to the world. This, for me, is just as essential as working on our cold artistic skills.
I absolutely loved Toronto! In my last blog post/YouTube video, I shared how there was just SO much to get inspired by! Check that post out HERE. The huge variety in cultures present in the city, as well as the beautiful architecture, music, coffee, shops, galleries and art studios triggered a lot of emotions in me that made me want to create.
Visit THIS blog post to find more pictures of the painting process for this watercolor sandwich!
3 Hacks to Apply Before and During Your Next Trip
1. Give some thought to what supplies and promotional items you'll be taking with you
The supplies that you choose to take with you will vary depending on your artistic medium(s) of choice, as well as how comfortable you are drawing or painting in public (or rushed) situations. I love watercolors and immediately reached for my smallest/most portable set to pack up. However, I knew that I would probably have limited time and space to create, so I also made sure to take a few pencils and drawing pens with me.
I recommend sticking to the basics and taking only what's truly necessary when selecting your art supplies (unless you're deliberately traveling to a drawing/painting event). Take your most portable sets and supplies that allow for easy cleaning, making sure they aren't the most expensive or even your favorite. Things get lost and damaged during trips, and you want to avoid sad situations. Also, consider what bag you'll use to carry your stuff in while walking around.
I knew since before my husband and I started preparing for our trip, that I didn't want to pressure myself or take away from fully enjoying the experiences Toronto had to offer. I wanted to focus more on taking note of moments, feelings and thoughts that popped up. The few sketches I created were quick, but I made sure to take lots of reference pictures that I could work with when I got home.
If you're up for the challenge, however, traveling is a great opportunity to practice plein air painting, drawing settings, objects and people! You can also set timers for yourself to practice creating faster drawings and/or paintings, which will help you become more expressive and efficient!
I've made studies of skulls like this one to the left, and have found them extremely helpful. They've allowed me to gain information that I'm later able to apply in my drawings or paintings without giving it much thought at all!
I really recommend making time to create a few sketches of skulls or even paintings like I have!
As previously mentioned, most artists start off their portraits by creating simple shapes much like the ones below. These shapes and lines allow them to visualize where the facial elements will be placed.
Understanding Basic Proportion and Location of Facial Elements
While there is an incredibly vast array of face shapes, as well as shapes and sizes of individual facial elements (eyes, nose, lips, ears), there will always be general guidelines to follow in terms of their placement within the head shape.
By this point, you've probably already seen something like this before:
By seeing the diagram above, we can conclude the following:
-For drawing purposes, the head can be divided into three parts
-Drawing vertical and horizontal lines down/across the head shape will allow us effective placement of facial elements
-Effective proportion and placement of facial elements calls for some degree of measurement
-The hair line is BELOW and not ON or ABOVE the head shape
-The width of approximately five eyes should fit along the main horizontal line
-We can use the inner corner of the eyes to define where the curves of the nostrils should end
-The lower part of the face (from end of the nose to tip of the chin) can also be divided into three parts
So how does this information translate into a head at a 3/4's angle?
In a sense, we are distorting facial proportions when drawing a face at an angle. We are no longer looking to create symmetry, as we usually do when drawing someone facing forward. We are now dealing with certain levels of foreshortening, depending on the angle of the head and what perspective we're seeing it in.
When viewing a face at a 3/4's angle, we are able to see much more of one side of the face than the other. We are able to see one eye completely, but perhaps only part of the other one. Usually the eye on the side opposite to us is at least a tiny bit smaller! We are able to clearly see one half of the person's nose and mouth. All this means we have to be able to draw believable facial elements that are skewed!
Here are some basic ways to draw facial elements in both forward and 3/4's angles:
How to Draw a Face in a 3/4's Angle in 4 Steps
-Pencils (I recommend HB-4B)
-Quality reference pictures (you can use your computer or print them out)
-Paper or sketchbook
*Optional: Tracing paper
*If you wish to use the same images I have, download them for free by clicking on the portraits in the instructions below.
*You can also download and print the free PDF's I've attached at the end if you'd like to use the face maps I've created. Use a piece of tracing paper to transfer the face map onto the paper you will be drawing on and move on to the next step!
1. Find a quality picture to use as reference
I thoroughly recommend using reference photos when starting to draw portraits. Even if you're not intending to create a full-on realistic representation of the person in the image, having a reference will give you a solid foundation to work from.
It's always awesome to take your own pictures to use as references, so never hesitate to take a photo of your own face to study from!
Really observe your reference image and compare the facial elements with each other in terms of size and shape. Notice the distance between them and where they rest on the head structure. Compare one side of the person's face with the other and pinpoint differences. Pay attention to the silhouette created by the brow bone and cheekbone of the side opposite to us. Analyze the shapes of the eyes, the nose, mouth and ears, as well as those created by the shadows within the picture.
For the purpose of this tutorial I will be using the following two images found at Pexels and Unsplash. If you wish to use them, simply click on the photos to get to their original sources and download from there.
Pexels, Unsplash and Pixabay are great options if you need free quality images to use as references for your artwork. To find a list of my favorite free image sites visit my blog post My Favorite Free Image Sites & Two Examples of References with Finished Illustrations.
2. Create your initial face ``map´´
Using the information you already know about facial proportions and locations of facial elements, create a ``map´´ using vertical and horizontal lines. Usually, these lines are going to be slightly curved, as opposed to the straight lines created when drawing a map for a forward-facing portrait. It'll depend on whether the person is looking slightly upwards or downwards.
If you take a moment to observe the image of the woman I used, you'll notice that her chin is pointed slightly inwards. This was probably a deliberate choice made by the photographer, as it emphasizes her eyes and makes them seem bigger. Even though the photograph is cut and we can't see the top of her head entirely, there is a bit of foreshortening happening for sure! We are able to see more of the top of her head when compared to the picture of the man, who has more of a leveled head.
*If this is your first time drawing a face at an angle, I highly recommend printing out your reference photo (preferably letter-sized) and using a piece of tracing paper to create your face map, then transferring it to the paper you'll be drawing on.
3. Start placing individual facial elements
Once your face ``map´´ is set, start drawing your eyes, nose and mouth LIGHTLY (this will allow you to erase mistakes). I usually start with the eyes because they fall in the center of the face and allow me to visualize the other facial elements.
Look at your reference photo CONSTANTLY and try to replicate the shapes you see. Drawing eyes, noses and lips on heads at different angles is a lot harder than drawing them on a head that is facing straight forward. This is why practicing individual face elements is so important!
As previously stated, the elements on one side of the face are going to look different from the ones on the other side. We are no longer trying to create perfect symmetry! However, they DO have to look like they are all part of the same face.
Draw lightly and don't get discouraged if you need to erase a lot! The following image will help you get an idea of how to draw eyes, noses, lips and eyebrows at a 3/4's angle. At this point, focus on achieving adequate shape, size and proportion. Don't even think about starting with your shading yet!
*I love using a desk easel when drawing so that my surface angle is more similar to the angle of the image I'm looking at. When I draw faces on flat, horizontal surfaces, I often find that my drawings end up distorted! If you're having this problem, I can't recommend a desk easel enough!
4. Once your initial sketch seems on point, move on to creating values
Take a final look at your initial outline sketch and make sure that the location and proportion of facial elements looks correct. Don't worry about your drawing not looking like the person in the picture, just focus on making things look believable.
Afterwards, decide how you will be creating your tonal range throughout your drawing. To learn about crosshatching and other ways to create shadows/values in your drawings, visit my blog post titled Guide to Shading Techniques: Hatching, Cross-Hatching, Scribbling and Others.
Having a picture to work from provides you with a solid reference of where to place your darks, lights and mid-tones which will later lead to believable form and three-dimensionality. Pay close attention to your reference image! If you're having trouble discerning lights from darks, I recommend opening the image in a photo-editing software and desaturating it so that you're working only with grayscale.
Personally, I enjoy leaving my face drawings sketchy and unfinished-looking, but this final step is where your personal style comes in! I love to create values using hatching and crosshatching, and give a lot more emphasis to the face than I do to the hair or anything else, which is were I want to draw the viewer's attention towards.
Take your drawings as far as you'd like and remember to have fun with it!
What do you struggle with most when drawing or painting portraits? I've love to know! Leave a message in the comments section below.
Latest Artwork: Face Pencil Sketches, Watercolor Landscape, Watercolor Chocolates and a Flowery Oil Painting (In Progress)
Oh my! It's been a while since I created a post about the personal work I've been doing! Some of these are studies I created for myself, others are for goodies I create for my newsletter subscribers (I'll leave a subscription link at the end of this post in case you're interested), and the last picture is of the progress I've made so far in my largest commissioned painting to date! I still have a bit to go!
The techniques included in this small collection range from watercolor paintings, to pencil sketches, to oil painting. The subjects are food/drink, portraits, landscapes and botanical. I hope you enjoy having a look into my work.
Lately, I've been very much immersed in creating helpful quality content for you both here on my blog and on my YouTube channel. By the way, this Friday's blog post/YouTube video is going to be all about how to draw a face in 3/4's angle, so make sure to stay tuned for that. It's going to be a good one!
It would mean the world to me if you'd visit my Society6 store to check out the latest creations I've made with my watercolor paintings! Click on any of the pictures below to get there. :)
An Artist's Guide to Using References (Pt.3): Why Drawing from Direct Observation is Essential and 10 Tips to Improve
How often do you draw or paint from life? Do you find drawing or painting from direct observation a bit intimidating and/or a hassle to do? Are you aware of the artistic growth that can come when using direct observation compared to using only photographic references when creating art?
Drawing from direct observation is also referred to as drawing from life. In this type of practice, the artist uses his/her medium of preference to draw a subject by observing it in real life as opposed to using a photograph as reference. It's important to note that the subject can be anything the artist chooses, whether it's an arrangement of objects, the human figure, a landscape, animals or anything else that can be observed first-handedly.
Drawing from life can have many uses depending on your art style. In the traditional sense, artists did their best to recreate their subject matter as realistically as possible. However, a lot of us today use this method to create practice sketches in order to improve our gestural drawing. Others start projects by drawing or painting from direct observation and finish their pieces later in their studios.
Though not every artist uses direct observation as means to create perfectly realistic representations of what it is he/she is seeing, this method is able to bring a level of energy and originality to art that simply cannot be achieved when using a photograph as reference. There's no question that this method challenges the artist in a way that using a photograph doesn't and it can greatly improve our skill.
This blog post is going to shed some light on why making time to draw/paint from life is so important and how it's different from using a photographic reference to create art. I will also share ten tips that are going to help you create more effective artwork using this method.
This blog post is the third in a four-part series about the use of different types of references when creating artwork:
1. Using Other People's Photographs to Create Art (when it's okay to use other people's photos and how to do it in a way that will ensure your artistic progress)
2. Creating Artwork Based on Your Own Photography (click here to learn fast and easy ways to produce your own reference pictures)
3. Why Drawing from Direct Observation is Essential and 10 Tips to Improve (click here to learn why this drawing/painting method is so important in order to progress artistically)
4. Using Collage as an Effective Method to Create Unique and Expressive Art (click here to find out why collage is so powerful and how you can use it to your advantage)
Why Making Time to Draw from Life is Important
Drawing or painting from life is a completely different experience to drawing or painting using a photographic reference that is printed out or displayed on a computer screen. In my opinion, an artist must continuously seek ways to challenge his/herself, and this is one of the best ways to improve.
When an artist draws or paints from life, he/she is able to actually interact with the subject first-handedly. As opposed to a photograph (which basically provides the artist with only visual information displayed on a flat surface), being able to actually interact with the subject brings us a wealth of information that will enhance our work in a variety of ways.
If you are drawing a portrait, you are able to talk with the person and have a feel for his/her personality. If you are drawing an object, you are able to touch, smell and see its colors directly. If you are drawing an animal, you are able to feel what it's like to have it in front of you. If you are painting a landscape or scenery and you are actually IN the place, you're able to feel the energy around you. Your personal feelings and thoughts whilst experiencing the subject will translate into your work to make it richer and more expressive.
You are able to have complete creative control when you draw from life, which means that you'll have to apply your thinking skills throughout brainstorming and preparation. You're not only going to exercise your observational and rendering skills throughout the process, but you're going to have to visually interpret what you're seeing and innovate using your personal style.
Furthermore, when taking a photo there is always a chance of perspective being slightly distorted and colors being off. In a way, photographs are a processed rendition of what you can actually take in with your eyes. Photographs, at times, present us with views of scenes, objects or even people that are different from what we would normally expect to see. Our brains play a big part in why we see things in life the way we do, and cameras don't have brains (last time I checked).
When drawing from life, there is no way to cheat. You can't trace or use grids. The artist is met with the challenge of translating real-life forms and perspectives onto flat substrates in order to create aesthetically pleasing compositions.
It quite simply puts the artist's skills to the test in a way that using a photograph doesn't.
10 Tips to Help you Improve Your Life Drawing Skills
1. Make sure you have a good amount of knowledge of Art Fundamentals
If you don't have basic drawing skills down and/or lack understanding of the Elements and Principles of Art, it's going to be incredibly difficult to create an effective piece using direct observation. I recommend studying Art Fundamentals and putting them to use by creating simple compositions using shapes and then moving on to objects. Things like proportion, depth, form, value and compositional arrangement are vital.
Check out my blog post titled Perspective for Beginners: How to Use 1 and 2 Point Perspectives to Create Great Artwork if you haven't already. It includes free downloadable PDFs that you can use to practice three-dimensional shapes and applying them within 1 and 2 point perspective grids to create believable depth/volume effects.
2. Frame it
When we are standing or sitting somewhere our eyes can be drawn to many places at once, which can be very overwhelming when we have to focus on only one area. I like using some kind of frame when coming up with a composition because it helps me decide how my different items will be placed within the space I will be recreating. It also helps me mentally separate what is going to be INSIDE my composition and what is going to be left out.
3. Start with grayscale/pencil
My recommendation to beginners is usually to start working in grayscale. Working with pencils/graphite is incredibly useful in this case because they are easy to control and correct. Focus on creating a good variety in values and placing them in appropriate places. Focus first on learning to discern which areas are darker and which are lighter. Attempting to recreate color can come later.
4. Once you have set up move as little as possible
Slight changes in angle or distance from your subject can change the perspective in your drawing. Make sure before you start that you are in a comfortable position and chair so that you can work for as long as you need to!
5. Get used to looking at your subject CONSTANTLY
A lot of people spend more time looking at their paper than at their subject when drawing. You should be aiming to observe your subject at least 50% of your working time. Forget about drawing things the way you THINK they look. Use only the information that you are taking in through your eyes and do your best to replicate what it is your seeing. Force yourself to constantly look at your source of information until this becomes natural to you.
6. Always start by creating effective shape, proportion and arrangement in space
Focus on drawing only large shapes first (lightly). Concentrate on achieving correct proportions and placement of elements within space. Compare items in your composition to each other in terms of size, location and shape. Study how lines intersect and how angles are created between them. Practice visually measuring things and use your pencil/fingers as measuring devices as you're seeing your subject(s) at a distance. Make sure you give it a final look before moving on to the next step.
7. Keep outlines light
When drawing your initial shapes and all the smaller shapes/lines within them, remind yourself to draw lightly. In real life there are no outlines. Shapes are actually separated from each other by changes in color, texture, value, etc. Artists who are skilled at producing realism are masters at capturing subtle changes.
8. Develop a good tonal/value range throughout your drawing
Take your time developing a full range of tone/value throughout your drawing, starting lightly and adding darks as you go along. It's normal to think you have darkened an area enough and then have to go back to darken it as you progress. You should end up with a multitude of mid-tones and gradual changes in value. Make sure that you are really observing your subject and placing values appropriately. Don't guess!
Use a blending stump if smooth gradients are your thing, or create different values using mark making techniques like hatching or crosshatching. I usually like using a mix of both. Check out my Guide to Shading Techniques: Hatching, Cross-Hatching, Scribbling and Others to learn and practice different ways of creating values. Free practice PDFs included!
9. Add details and texture
Think about what techniques you'll be using to transmit any needed textures (hatching, crosshatching, stippling, etc.) and add details carefully wherever necessary. Try to be subtle about it (remember in realism we rarely see lines). Unless you're going for hyperrealism, you should choose what is going to be included in your piece and what is going to be left out.
10. Apply your artistic license
As the artist, it's your decision whether specific things are going to be included or omitted. It is not necessary to add every singe detail of what you're seeing. You can also consider rendering some parts in full and leaving others less detailed in order to pull the attention of the viewer to your focal point.
Although artwork created through direct observation is usually expected to be realistic, it doesn't HAVE to be (unless that is what you are going for)! Try to apply your own style and ideas to whatever it is you're doing! Remember slight smudges and imperfections are perfectly fine and sometimes even give a piece character!
Advantages and Disadvantages of
Using a Photographic Reference Vs. Drawing From Direct Observation
To finish up, there is a time and a place for drawing/painting from direct observation AND for drawing/painting using photographic references. Neither method is wrong or right. What is important is that the artist makes time to explore both on a continuous basis. Remember to continue challenging yourself and exploring as much as possible!
Do you enjoy drawing or painting from direct observation? Approximately how much of your art is created by using photographic references and how much is created through life drawing/painting? Do you wish you could do it more frequently? I'd LOVE to hear from you! Let's discuss in the comments section below!
Thanks SO much for visiting and reading! I hope that you found this helpful! The last part of the series will be up next Friday. :) Cheers, friends!
Here are a few paintings and studies that I created last week. I have some very exciting news to share! I am not only working hard on producing content on YouTube now (two videos are up and the third can be expected THIS Thursday!), but also, by the end of December my first monthly newsletter will be set which will include a usable freebie for you! It's a surprise, so I'm not going to tell you what it is, but make sure to visit throughout the end of December so you can sign up and we can be friends forever. :)
I'm very excited for the helpful content I will be sharing this Friday (blog post/YouTube video). It's going to be the first of a four part series related to the use of references when creating an artwork.
Thanks so much for the visit! I wish you a wonderful and inspiring week!
In my blog you'll find information and resources to help you improve your art skills. I also share tips that will help you stay happy and productive as your journey progresses.
Feel free to send me an
email, leave a comment on the site and/or reach out on social media. I'd love to connect!
Hope you enjoy
and find this useful!
10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting with Watercolors
Why Sketchbooks are Essential Tools for Artists and a Few Usage Tips
Guide to Shading Techniques: Hatching, Cross-Hatching, Scribbling and Others
How to Effectively Use Other Artists' Work as Inspiration and a Great Method to Start Developing Your Own Artistic Style
How to Draw a Face
Links To Useful Sites
Painting With Oils
Student Art Shows