Developing a portrait style

Updated: Aug 23, 2020

'I am not one of life's natural portraitists' Grayson Perry

I was watching Grayson Perry's Art Club on Channel 4 catch up the other day, and heard this little nugget of a quote. It particularly stood out to me because neither am I.

And, to be honest, my attempts have all been so bad that I haven't wanted to show them to anyone. Somehow, though, because he said it, it seemed OK, not something to feel guilty about anymore, or hide away like a shameful secret.

I have also been thinking a lot about developing a portrait style after going on the (currently free and very highly recommended) Make Art That Sells Money Bad Ass course. On it, art agent Lilla Rogers explains a few times about how being able to draw faces as an illustrator is so important for getting work. Yes, I thought, but I'm a nature artist, so I can just avoid it. NOT SO, I eventually persuaded myself, we must grow!

So, with Grayson's and Lilla's words ringing in my ears, and a newly acquired iPad, which allows you to change pretty much any aspect of your drawing at any time (thank you procreate) I started giving it a go. Now, I did find that one aspect of my belief is true: I am definitely not a natural, and my first pencil attempts were truly awful. But, then I thought 'that's not really how I like working anyway', so I got out the gouache brush, built a pinterest board of character inspiration, and tried from a different angle. It took a little while to get comfortable with, and inspiration pulled from everywhere (another thing Grayson does a lot of in his Art Club), and finally a style began to come together.

Can you guess which ones were drawn first? Also, one of these is drawn from life, six are drawn from photos and two are entirely made up, can you tell which ones are which?

Okay, so I'm not there yet, Wolverine looks a bit skewiff, and I don't know if anyone can tell that Ru Paul is in the centre at the bottom there, but I think a style is definitely beginning to come together. And it's much better than anything I've attempted before, so I'm taking it. If I need to draw random, unrecognisable faces, I think I can now!


I've also purchased Jake Spicer's You Will Be Able to Draw Faces by the End of This Book, so here's to improving even more!

Thanks for reading,


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