Art Fail: Why Drawing Portraits Is So Hard

I find that, on occasion, I can be pretty good at drawing portraits. On others, I find that I’m good at drawing facial features but somewhere in constructing the face things go a little… wrong. Case in point, my latest attempt at drawing with coloured pencils.

Look, I’m aware it’s not terrible. But it’s not the person I was trying to draw. And it’s no where near realistic. The features are just a touch… off.

If you don’t know, this is Julian Bashir/Alexander Sidigg from Star Trek. You can see the likeness for sure but when you compare it to an actual photograph of him, all the flaws start to scream.

Why Is Drawing Realistic Portraits So Hard?

In my own defense, I am very much out of practice when it comes to drawing with colour. Graphite pencils are my go-to. Just compare Bashir with my drawing of One/Vecna from Stranger Things. While not perfect, I think it’s a little better.

While I was drawing Bashir, I noticed the problem with his… everything but by that time it was too late to change it. You can’t rub out coloured pencils. (Another reason I prefer graphite).

So I went to google, pathetically typed ‘why do i draw faces so baaaddddd’ and hit on a surprisingly mind-blowing result.

We often make the mistake of drawing what we think something should look like, rather than what it actually looks like.

I’m completely guilty of this. While I’m drawing, I think ‘that eye is surely not that shape’ so I change it. I think ‘that mouth looks pretty good’ even though it doesn’t look like the mouth of the face I’m sketching. I re-position the eyes, re-shape the nose, change the cheeks, all in the aim of ‘improving’ the wrongness of the drawing, only to make it more wrong. The end result is a lousy portrait with pristine features.

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