Self portrait drawing class

Last year, I took a six week art class that covered a different medium each week.  This year, the class is back, but it’s open-ended so we have more time to devote to each medium.  I love doing art, but I’ve never had formal training and have no clue what I’m doing.  I used to believe I wasn’t creative at all; at least, that’s no longer the case.  I would’ve also told you I totally suck at art, but I’m coming to believe that’s not the case either.  It’s amazing what a little instruction has been able to do to those beliefs.  I now believe with instruction and practice, I might find I’m pretty decent.  I’m gong to record the journey in this blog.

The last two weeks we’ve been focusing on portrait drawing, especially lights and darks.  We began by outlining the whites in a series of black and white portraits.  We then used tracing paper over a face to color in the dark and light spaces.

Traced lights and darks of face

I didn’t do this exercise correctly.  I was supposed to trace the darkest and whitest space.  I did the darks, but instead of doing the white, I did the intermediate shades.  What isn’t traced in are the whites.  It still shows the contrast, though not as clearly as if I’d done it correctly.

We then moved on to a series of handouts showing the proportions of the face and how to draw each element.  These handouts have been crucial in helping me, though my noses are still WAY too big.

The next exercise was to scratch out the whites of our face, using a mirror, on a sheet of black coated paper with a special tool.  Being my first attempt at a face, I wanted to attempt to draw it first then move on to the black paper, but the instructor really wanted to see what it would look like as a first attempt, so I abandoned the drawing attempt and went on to the black paper. It wasn’t until I added the whites of the eyes that it looked anything like a face.

The final exercise of week one was to complete the other half of a face.  My proportions are off in relation to the other half, but overall I thought it wasn’t half bad for a first attempt:

Finish the face

In week two, we did a series of 5-15 minute self portraits, each with a different focus. First, we did a 5 minute drawing of the face (you can really see the problems with my nose proportions here) followed by a quick drawing on black paper with colored chalk focusing on the whites of the face.

The next two exercises were my favorite, though I definitely didn’t expect them to be.  We covered the paper with charcoal then used a charcoal pencil and eraser.  The first attempt was ten minutes and the second fifteen.

None of these look like me, but at least they they could look like someone.  Everyone, most especially I, was impressed with my final attempt.  With only three hours of instruction and limited time to work on each drawing, I’m very happy with my progress.   I should take some time to see what I can do.  How long might it take me to get something that actually resembles my face?

For the last half-hour, the class focus shifted to gesture drawing.  Again we only had a few minutes for each drawing.  My basic shapes were all drawn without looking at the paper, focusing on the outline of the model.  Elle wanted to see what we’d do with no instruction.  Next week, we’ll learn about anatomy and figures.  I had a bit of an advantage here, as about 15 years ago, I attended a weekend long camping retreat called, “Art without Walls,” that included some quick gesture drawing.

Finally here’s the drawings of everyone in the class.

Class self-portaits studies
Class gesture drawings



5 thoughts on “Self portrait drawing class

  1. Tam, you are challenging me here. Though I earned a BFA degree in graphic design, I’ve developed this notion that I can’t draw or paint the figure or from nature, except with a lot of effort and tracing the subject from a book or magazine first, which I did as part of “mocking up” ads, brochures etc for design projects. The most drawing I’ve done since college involved (extremely) modifying photos I’ve taken. I have some of these posted in (old) albums on facebook, labeled “photo-manipulations”, I think. I don’t do that anymore. I still take photos, but I only do correction now. Well, mostly. I really should take a class or try to draw, if only to prove to myself that I can.

    By the way, I especially like your last gesture drawing. The attitude and emotion is definitely there and the composition on the page is excellent.


    1. Thanks for your comments Joyce. I have no doubt that you can draw, especially since it seems that with a bit of instruction, anyone can draw! I’d heard that before, but now I’m beginning to believe it’s true. I hope I’ve presented you with a challenge you’ll follow through on. I’d love to see what you create 🙂


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