How I overcame a fear of drawing faces
Drawing faces, and people, has always made me feel a bit uncomfortable. It's taken me my whole life to realise that I can do it and feel ok about it. About the same amount of time it's taken me to be able to draw in public. They both stem from lack of confidence. I would, like most people, compare myself to others - because I couldn't render a human face like a master I was therefore no good. I knew this wasn't true in all my artistic endeavours - I can fit text into a shape and cut it out of paper, I can turn a photo into a pretty cool collage, I can design the set for a play and make a scale model box of it. I actually do have a self portrait of myself from my A-level art class - I drew myself from the back simply so I didn't have to do a face and never got finished. Putting pencil to paper and simply drawing something that looked like it was meant to was beyond me. Or so I thought.
Inktober (a month long ink drawing challenge) in 2016 was the first time in a long time that I forced myself to draw properly (things were being designed but not observed). I began with copying a picture from my wall and then I spied a photo of my son and I thought I'd have a go. I didn't have to show anyone and could rip the page from my sketchbook so no other human could lay eyes on it if it was that terrible. It turns out it wasn't so terrible. It looks a bit like him and although it's not perfect that's ok. It's a page in a sketchbook that got me started thinking that maybe I'm not so bad. I gave it a go with no pressure to show anyone. If it had completely offended my eyes then I would have ripped it out and chucked it away. But I didn't.
I had thought that my education was over and done with but as I want to succeed as an illustrator of sorts I'm currently undertaking some Make Art That Sells courses - one of which is called Drawing Faces. It's simple and brilliant. It's broken down into very easily digestible bits and you just draw faces. The best thing I have personally got out of the course so far is the materials list. It said I needed charcoal pencils. I've never used them before because I don't like getting messy with charcoal sticks and an ordinary pencil has always been good enough. I've watched Chris Riddell (probably my most favourite drawer of faces and all things) draw in charcoal pencil but I'm '''not a drawer of faces' so why would I need them? But order some I did. It has completely changed the way I think about drawing faces. The lines are nicer - that's all I can really think to SAY about it but I definitely FEEL different about it. I would actually say I look forward to drawing faces with my charcoal pencils. That and the fact that I'm getting into the habit of practicing. I've always been a bit of a 'if I can't do it straight away then I'll never be able to do it' sort of person. What a waste - think of all the things I could have done!
For my latest MATS assignment I HAD to do a portrait. No getting out of it. Ok, well I could have just not done it but what then is the point? So I drew the face of my subject. It's not perfect but I did it. It's not my preferred style - I'm not a sketch artist (this is important - remember this vital piece of info). Then I traced it and turned it into a papercut - now it's mine. There's my style, there's my thing, and goodness me if there's not an actual face that I'm happy with. Remember that vital piece of info? 'I'm not a sketch artist'. Well that's ok. I'm a whole load of other things.
I cut a face out of paper recently and was quite happy with it. I then realised that I had cut out loads of faces from paper - none of them had been a specific exercise in portraiture so I didn't think much of them. They're still faces though. It's surprising where faces are lurking.
So I dont' say 'I CAN'T draw faces' any more (if you can put marks on a surface which resemble eyes, nose, mouth, ears etc then yes you can draw a face).
It might be more a case of 'I'm not best at drawing faces but I can do it, and I'm happiest if I can cut them out of paper'.
Thanks for reading and here's my recent final editorial portrait (of the amazing Frances Mary Buss - founder of the first girls secondary school and bad ass suffragette) in the gallery on the Make Art That Sells website.
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