This week’s submission comes from Hunter Mclendon. You can view more of his work on Instagram or Facebook. This portrait was completed in colored pencils. WOW!! This critique will be a bit different than usual, I really just want to focus on why this portrait works so well. There are SO many things that make this great. 
  • Whites of the eyes: Notice that the whites are not actually white. They are various shades of greys and pinks. This will make your portraits look realistic where leaving them flat white makes them look…well flat and unrealistic. YAY for repeating the same words!
  • Tear Line:  One mistake I often see in portraits is that people draw the outer skin right up against the eyeball, completely skipping over that tear line. That tear line will make a HUGE difference in going from a cartoony look to realism.
  • Shadow under the upper eye lid: With rare lighting exceptions, you will have a shadow under the upper lid that goes across the white of the eye and the iris. If you leave this out, it will look like the eye is staring at you in a very creepy way!
  • Eyebrows: Notice that the eyebrows are not a solid color. The only time you will really see solid brows with no lights/darks/individual hairs is when the woman shaves her brows and redraws them on. If you want natural looking brows, pay attention to the shift in values. You also don’t want to try and draw a bunch of individual hairs, this will come out looking wiry. Instead, just hit a few individual hairs mixed into the shading.
  • Crease over eye: This is so beautifully done. Look at the shading from lights to darks, it’s not just a solid colored line.
  • Nose: There are no outlines! I repeat…NO OUTLINES! I often see where people draw the line going up the side of the nose. There should be shadows, not lines here. The only areas where you will have closer to a line (although it’s really just a smaller shadow) is around the nostrils.
  • Lips: The lips and teeth on this portrait are so SO perfect. Looking at the lips first, notice that it is not one solid smooth color all the way around. You’ve got creases that curve with the lips. The upper lip is darker than the bottom lip. The highlight on the bottom lip is lighter than the upper given how light catches the bottom lip, and they are not heavily outlined. See how the transition from the skin to lips is very subtle. The only time you will want a harsh line here is when the woman is wearing heavy lipstick.

I have two things I would possibly change on this. First is the blush on her cheeks. Now it’s entirely possible that she does have heavy blush here that was not well blended out by whoever did her makeup, but even if that is the case, I would soften that out to make your work look more natural. The color palette is great, I would just tone down the harshness there. Blush is one of those makeup things that can make a woman’s face almost glow…or it can make them look more clown like if they go too heavy. It’s the only makeup that I don’t personally ever think looks good applied with a heavy hand because of the clown effect that can occur.

My last tip is on the dark portion of her hair on the right. Because it is SO dark up against the lights and it’s location, it is pulling the viewer’s attention to that area. There are a couple of options you have here. One is to just tone it down altogether. Another option is to have more of the background in the photo, which could also be done with the darker tones around her head to balance this all out.