I've recently been trying to improve my work, I spent a while drawing figures, objects, characters, monsters, just anything rally, to improve. Something I've always been bad at however is portraits, and I decided to try improve them.
my first attempt today I had to spent a good 5 minutes making the outline/shape of the head, and marking out where the features would be, then I ended up spending another 20 or so minutes just trying to make the mouth look right (someone advised me to just trace the outlines then work on shading but I felt like that would be cheating/wouldn't help me improve), the same happened with the nose, eyes i'm okay with, and even once i got it all outlined I just wasnt sure where to start with the shading, that might sound weird, but i can't really explain it, I just have no idea how to start
tl;dr struggling with portraits, need tips
working sight-size helps; when I do, I butterfly a mirror to make sure the horizontal landmarks relate, and I drop a plumb-line alongside the wing of the nose, from which I can relate the widths.
that's a start; if you can achieve a solid block-in in 3 hours or so, you're in a good place.
Portraits are one of the more difficult subjects to draw, as even the slightest error is plainly evident (even to non-artists).
That is to say: don't worry if you can't draw a decent one while you're starting out. It takes time and a tremendous amount of practice.
Nothing helped me more than drawing from life. Its hard to do a good portrait (or anything else for that matter) if you don't have lots of life drawing. The three dimensional aspect of what you are looking at really is apparent. A plumb line is good as is learning contstructive techniques; so when you are painting from life you know what it is you are looking at.
Whoa! Five minutes?! And you didn't nail the outline/shape? Give up man...you should be able to magically make an accurate outline and shape appear on your page! Shading is definitely cheating so, yeah...that was crap advice.
knowledge and studies are the way to get an idea how to start. as far as i know, aint the mona lisa (insert another stereotype masterpainting in here) been painted on the first day davinci picked up a brush.
just take it placidly, that the art of picture making is a life time commitment. dont try to rush it, because insight is a shrewd w*hore (the filter is redicilous), but be in cognition-mode as much as possible.
I've actually been working with self portraits recently and I'm finding them thoroughly frustrating as well. I honestly don't know how you got a solid outline of the head and it's features in 5 minutes, that's probably way too quick. Sure someone with lots of experience could draw a head really quickly but when your just starting out it's probably going to take longer. Construction on the head and its features is important, as Noah Bradley said "even the slightest error is plainly evident", so you should make sure the head is constructed properly before you move on to shading that portrait.
If you want to work on portraits you need to work on construction of the head, if you want to work on shading then tracing and then shading isn't cheating, your just learning two specific things separately. If you want to learn how to draw portraits and shade them at the same time then you need to construct out the head properly first so that when you shade the only errors will be in shading. And finally again I'm quoting Noah here "It takes time and a tremendous amount of practice."
Have fun with your fellow forum members http://conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=152123 Just get us right and we won't come after you with pitchforks.
Seriously, all the features are related and that's what you need to concentrate on. Check, double check.
Glad you took it as intended - with humor. The shading comment as well.
Portraits are the same as any other subject - it's about accurate observation, drawing, value, etc. They're a bit trickier only because it is a "person". Try not to think of it that way way though and think only in terms of shape, value, edge - constantly comparing distances between one observable form or edge and another. Get a copy of William Maugham's "The Artist's Complete Guide to Drawing the Head"...that will help you far more than we ever can.