Kids are cute, right? Their round little cheeks, bright eyes, and spunky behavior is enough to make us say, “awww,” and sometimes, inspire us to capture their spontaneous moments in art. Creating a realistic portrait drawing of a child takes extra care, though, as Carrie Stuart Parks is here to remind you.
Just as the minds of children are so different from those of adults, so their facial features are as well. Scroll down for a sneak peek inside Carrie’s book, Secrets to Drawing Realistic Children. From this little snippet alone, you’ll learn about “seeing” as an artist and a crucial tip for keeping the subject of your portrait from looking like an aged adolescent, and instead looking young and vibrant. ~Cherie
Portrait Drawing Advice by Carrie Stuart Parks
Drawing can be difficult, and the most challenging type of drawing has to be portraits. Let’s face it, if that bowl of fruit has a lumpy kumquat, or that landscape has a few too many trees, what difference does it make? But a lumpy head or a few too many eyebrow hairs can make a huge difference in portraits. Accuracy and precision in drawing the human face requires a trained eye. Drawing is about seeing. Seeing things differently than you’ve ever seen them before.
Let’s take a long look at the way we see things. As we read a sentence, the hmuan mnid deosn’t raed ervey ltteer in a wrod. The frist and lsat ltteer msut be in the crorect lcoatoin, but the rset can be ttoally mseesd up. We raed the wrod as a whloe.
Did you understand those last few sentences? Sure. That is because we take in the world around us as a whole, place it into a pattern of understanding and forget about it. Our mind takes shortcuts.
Once again we realize that we see without really seeing. Try this with a dollar bill, or the pattern of your favorite shirt. We can recognize the pattern, but we can’t really draw or describe it well. We need to train our eyes to slow down, pay attention and not generalize.
The people I refer to as natural artists are those who are able to see and draw without training. It’s interesting that only a small percentage of artists can draw anything they see. Natural artists will say such things as, “I like drawing buildings, but I can’t draw people.” Or “I’m good at still life, but terrible at animals.” What a natural artist is saying is that they have learned how to see, artistically, only certain things.
Making drawing even more of a challenge is the fact that we see, in the artistic sense, briefly. What I mean is that the first time we start to draw details, they may be clear to us, but the longer we look at the subject, the more elusive the details become. Not only does our mind take shortcuts, it stops observing altogether. It’s as if our mind says, “OK, now I get it, let’s move on.” The details that were once clear are no longer obvious. This is why, after taking a brief respite from your artwork and walking away, you can see the errors in your work so clearly upon returning. your mind stops processing the subject, then reboots after taking a break.
If drawing is challenging and drawing people is even more difficult, then drawing children is the granddaddy of all challenges. Not only do you have to be exact and capture every subtle nuance of shape and shading, but you’re drawing something through the eyes of love. It’s very, very hard to objectively view someone you cherish.
Unless you have a great desire to torture yourself, draw from a photo rather than life. You’re at the mercy of the accuracy of the photo.
Perhaps the biggest secret to drawing children is that less is more. When rendering a child’s face, the most common problem is that the child ends up looking too old. The proportions may be wrong, but most often it’s that the shading is too dark. The amount of darkness in a photo is not the same amount of darkness you should use on your paper. If you shade the face too much, your child will age–rapidly. ~Carrie
Carrie goes on to explain specific problem areas when it comes to drawing children’s portraits in particular. Click here to learn everything you need to know to get started with the Secrets to Drawing Children exclusive collection!