Sketching children from life

Capturing the personality and inner life of a child in a portrait can be challenging, and sometimes reference photos just won’t cut it. Read on for award-winning artist and author Victoria Lisi’s tips for sketching from life:

If you have an opportunity to sketch the child, you can record details, impressions and characteristics that a camera would miss. There is a big difference between a photo and a living, breathing child! What sort of personality does she have? Shy? Bold? Impish? Artistic? These qualities will be more obvious as you sketch and interact and will add to your work.

One of my students brought his baby to class one day, and I took the opportunity to demonstrate drawing from life to my students. The baby hadn’t learned to crawl yet and was quite content to sit on a blanket gazing about, talking baby talk. I tried to capture his easy-going, happy personality in these quick sketches. A photograph could not have conveyed his disposition as well as these sketches based on life observation.

To learn more about drawing and painting children, check out Victoria’s book Vibrant Children’s Portraits: Painting Beautiful Hair and Skin Tones With Oils, available in January 2010.

—Mary Bostic
Associate editor, North Light Books

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