100 Heads Later

People, and specifically faces, have always been one of my favourite things to draw, ever since I first attempted to reproduce Beatles album covers in oil pastels in my high school art classes. I became fascinated by caricature in my teenage years and throughout my twenties, then gravitated back toward realistic portraits, but the challenge of capturing someone’s likeness in a convincing way has always drawn me in.

However, I’ve also always found portraits fairly daunting. Being “self-taught”, I’ve always lacked confidence in my ability. I struggle with perfectionism, and I would sometimes put off starting a portrait for fear it wouldn’t turn out right, then when I did do one that turned out well, I would dwell on it for too long, rather than putting it aside to focus on the next one. So my portraits were pretty sporadic and never felt particularly enjoyable.

Last year I started working on learning to draw better, focusing on structure, gesture sketches, and trying to draw more often. I was doing occasional head drawings, but focussing more on figure drawing, as it’s more forgiving if you don’t get it quite right.

Then I spotted someone on Instagram using the #100heads hashtag. The idea is to draw 100 heads in 100 days, and I thought this was just what I needed to increase my confidence with portraits. I wouldn’t have time for perfectionism, and I figured it would be a good way to just get more experience in a relatively short time period.

126 days later

Yeah, I didn’t manage to stick to the one head every day part, but I did get 100 heads drawn in just over 4 months. Here are a few of my favourites:

You can visit my Instagram profile @danjohnsonart to browse through them on my timeline or all together in my highlighted story.

Was it worth it?

Absolutely! At times it was tough, sometimes I just didn’t feel like drawing, and other days I couldn’t draw anything that looked remotely like a real human (good job dogs have heads too!), but just going through the process of drawing a head almost every day for 4 months has been invaluable.

First and foremost it was great practice. Prior to this I probably wouldn’t have drawn 100 heads in a year or even 2, so getting that many done in such a short timeframe has really developed my muscle memory. I also feel a lot more confident, and the idea of starting a new portrait doesn’t feel particularly daunting any more.

What’s next?

I wonder whether I should start a new challenge. #100moreheads? #100blogposts maybe, haha! I’ll probably just keep drawing portraits when I feel like it, knowing that at least I can do a half decent job most of the time. I also need to get back to painting at some point soon. Let’s see where the mood takes me!

The art of the Selfie

Anyone who draws or paints portraits has most likely done their fair share of self portraits. While it may seem to some like an exercise in narcissism, it is in fact mainly a matter of convenience. It’s not easy to find people willing to sit still for several hours while you draw them, so it makes sense to draw the one person who is guaranteed to be sitting still for as long as it takes!

It also makes for a decent profile picture!

I drew a new self portrait recently, and I thought I’d share a few others that I’ve done over the years, in a variety of different styles and media:

It’s always interesting to see with each new self portrait, how I’ve developed in my drawing/painting ability, as well as how I’ve aged! Look at those long flowing locks I used to have 😦

I think it might be fun to do a new selfie every year around my birthday. Maybe I’ll try an oil portrait next time.

A few more graphite drawings

Since taking the portrait drawing class last month, I’ve done a few more graphite drawings (click/tap to enlarge):

I’ve had some fun with these, and enjoyed putting some new techniques to use, such as blending shadow areas with a paintbrush, and most importantly, keeping my pencils razor sharp!

I’ll probably do more graphite drawings, but I also want to try some charcoal portraits. I love how dark you can get with charcoal, and I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of effects I can create (and mess I can make!)

I have ordered some charcoal. Stay tuned!

Learning to Draw (again)

I’ve been working on portraits again recently, after focusing mainly on landscapes for a year or two (I find landscapes to be much less challenging when you’re still getting to grips with how to paint in oils), and what I’ve found is that by far the most important and most difficult aspect of a portrait is the drawing. Continue reading