July 31, 2010

The thing about drawing realism

Yes, I really am left-handed.

The thing about drawing realism (or at least trying to) is this: when something isn't right, everyone notices and they notice it immediately.

When someone orders a custom portrait from me, I send them scans of the drawing in progress and ask for suggestions. Often the customer will show the image to family members and consult with them, then return with a comment, such as "her smile needs to be wider," or "his eyes are too small." Next, because I have very sweet customers, they will usually follow that up with an apology for their supposed impudence: "But really, you're doing a great job! You're the artist, so I'm sure you know what to do! That was just my two cents. So sorry to be so picky!"

Although usually I love to hear people insist that their opinions are inferior to my own, when it comes to drawing I have learned that it's best to listen to people's feedback. It doesn't take an artist to notice a difference between a photo and a drawing. My little brother, who is still at a stick figure level of drawing, used to critique my art with remarkably precise observations. People can just tell - especially if it's a drawing of someone they know in person.

Sometimes I impulsively feel annoyed when someone looks over my shoulder and points out my mistakes. But if I swallow my pride and take their advice, it always ends up improving the drawing. People can see things that I can't, no matter whether they're art professors or little brothers.


  1. Interesting topic. I see the truth of your observations. Ask most people, and they would say they value honesty highly. But I've noticed that people often bristle when given honest criticism. We expect people to be nice even though we say we want them to be honest. Being around a bluntly honest person can take some getting used to but if you can deal with it, it is instructive and beneficial. Pro 27.6: "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; But the kisses of an enemy are profuse." Pro 12:1: "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid." Pro 13:18: "He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored."

  2. Thank you for being brave enough to say it nicely. I would've made it into a hate post because I'm sensitive and take things personally. Way to be the big (wo)man.

    P.S. You're still amazing. Don't forget that.

    clothed much, a modest fashion blog

  3. Yes, it's always rough to have someone point out a mistake - even if it is helpful!

  4. Absolutely.. amazing.
    I am stunned at how talented you are.
    What a gift.

  5. I love critiques, even from non-artists. One of my better critiquers is my husband, and he can't draw a stick figure! People may not always be able to do something, but most people do see everyday and can recognize when things are off. I just appreciate them as 'fresh eyes'! Sometimes I know things are off, but because I've looked at it so long I cannot see it!

    :D I'm a lefty too! (I say that like we're part of some secret society! LOL)

  6. PS I've been told that I'm 'bluntly honest', though I make sure to say things that are positive and when I point out a flaw, I make sure that it isn't stated in a way like, 'you screwed this part up big time!'. My opinion is that everyone should want to improve and how can we improve until we see better?

  7. Yes, that's exactly it, Raena. Sometimes when you've looked at a drawing for hours, you're unable to see the mistakes in it. So it always helps to have someone else look at it.

    I agree that it's important to phrase even criticism positively, or else it can just be discouraging.

  8. I couldn't agree more! My brother, a total non-artist, can zero in on what's wrong with a picture. He loves doing it too, but as he told me once, "I wouldn't bother telling you if I didn't think you were capable of fixing it."
    With a portrait especially, if one tiny detail is off, it no longer looks like that particular person.
    I can't think of any instance when his assessment was not correct. Usually the reason I hadn't noticed the bad part is because I was totally in love with the good parts and "ignored" the bad ones.
    I'm left-handed too! I believe it's true that a greater percentage of artists, performers, and musicians are left-handed vs. the percentage of lefties in the population as a whole.


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