Today’s submission comes from artist Tiffany Stewart who had only been “dabbling” in art for about two years at the time that she painted these! I love the blending on both of these pieces. They have  a watercolor feel to them that is just gorgeous! I also like the dimension you’ve created by shading, especially on the hibiscus petals.

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Taking a look at a few things we can adjust to improve on this even more, my first tip is to start with a more accurate drawing for any portraits. I don’t have your reference photos but just based off of human anatomy in general, there are some pretty major problems with the base drawing. No matter how awesome your shading is, if the drawing is off, it will never really look realistic (which you had said was your goal) There are two big things you can do to improve your accuracy here.

  1. Trace your initial outline. I know a lot of people don’t like to do this because they feel it’s “cheating”. The thing is that this is one of the best and fastest ways to start training your eye to see things accurately. If someone draws faces a certain way, an inaccurate way, over and over and over…sometimes they will start to improve. Sometimes their brain just starts to accept those inaccuracies as “looking right”.  You’re just used to seeing it that way now. It’s sort of like learning to play the violin. I remember as a kid being told NOT to play with our instruments at home until we had had several lessons with our teacher. They were worried about us learning to hold the instrument wrong which made recognizing how it should feel when holding it the correct way much harder to learn. The goal here is not to forever depend on tracing, but to teach your brain to see portraits correctly so that when something is off, you recognize it right away.
  2. Get a decent anatomy book. I have Dynamic Anatomy by Burne Hogarth (Amazon affiliate link)  which breaks up certain things like “the body is x amount of heads tall” or “the width of the face is x amount of eyes wide”. That sort of knowledge can be very helpful in recognizing what isn’t drawn quite right in your own work.

My next tip is on the hair. It is super inconsistent from color to texture. Hair is one of my least favorite parts to work on because it usually takes longer than the face yet it seems like it shouldn’t be that important of an area. The truth is, every square inch of your canvas is just as important as every other square inch. You really want to slow down and make sure every part is just right.

My last bit of advice is on the mouth. You’ve used black paint on the outside corners. It is pretty rare that I use black on skin. Even if an area calls to be very dark, I will mix the color I want with other colors. The black is just too flat and too dark here in comparison to the rest of the face. Instead, I would continue shading areas like you did on the rest of the face with the browns/creams/burnt umber colors. You can even pull in a bit of magenta and mix that with some browns to get darker colors.