Today’s critique comes from artist Fraser Poorman. Fraser has drawn this super realistic portrait using Graphite and charcoal. This portrait is absolutely amazing. I don’t have many tips for improving on this one so we’re really going to focus on why this portrait is as good as it is.
First, the drawing is accurate. That is step one in completing a realistic portrait. If your proportions are off, it won’t matter how great you shade it, it will still be off. If you’re having trouble getting an accurate drawing, try tracing your subject a few times, then go back to freehanding. By tracing it you’re forcing your brain to see details you weren’t otherwise noticing. As I’ve said before, the goal here isn’t just to trace everything, but to improve your drawing skills so that when you freehand your work, you’re that much more accurate.
Here, we’ve got that strong base of a great drawing and combined it with great shading. Fraser wasn’t afraid to get those darks super dark. He took the time to make sure the shadows were where they belonged and kept that contrast high. That is step two in creating a realistic portrait. Get your depth in there by shading. Often new artists thing that a portrait is just a matter of where you put lines. There are very VERY few lines in a good portrait. Almost everything comes down to shading, fading one value into another and making sure you’re values are correct.
The one adjustment I would make on the shading is that the whites of her eyes are too evenly white. If we look at your reference photo, you can see how the whites on the right side of the pupil are much darker than on the left side. Making sure to shade those in will make your portraits that much more realistic.
Moving onto her makeup. Her eyes are heavily outlined, but the artist has defined where her actual eye is and where the makeup is quite well. It would be easy to miss that very simple fact and make her eyes look alien huge. While yes, the makeup does cause the eyes to appear abnormally large, they aren’t and the artist has defined that perfectly.
Another common mistake on something like this, because her eyes look so large with that makeup, her ears appear to be too small. They aren’t. Many artists would be thrown off by this and try to balance those two out. This is a great example of teaching yourself to draw what you actually see, and not what your brain is telling you is right or wrong.
Her mouth is another area I want to point out. Notice that her teeth are not just solid white. There is shading in there making them look more realistic. They aren’t outlined heavily either. Much like everything else, make sure the teeth are shadows and not heavy lines. If you outline the teeth, it will make your portrait look like a cartoon.
Next, notice the ridges on her lips. See how they curve out and aren’t just a bunch of straight lines. By keeping these curved you help create the three dimensional look you want in a portrait.
This is such a strong piece all around. You’ve done an amazing job Fraser!!