Portrait drawing is one of the most popular and, at the same time, difficult art disciplines.
The possibility to reproduce the image of a person with pencil, charcoal or paint on a two-dimensional surface fascinates artists since the beginning of time. But how do you learn to draw a portrait?
If you go to an art shop or to the art department of a bookstore you will be overwhelmed with books bearing titles like “How to easily draw a portrait” or “Portrait-drawing for beginners”. You, however, need to be careful with these books. They often teach the drawing of a certain subject, for example, the portrait of a young woman, according to strict step-by-step instructions and convey a fast success experience. However, if you try to implement the learned techniques on your own subjects, then you are going to face great difficulties.
This is because you have to master the important principles of drawing, such as proportions, contrast, or shape, to successfully draw a portrait.
The above-mentioned textbooks skip this part. However, to learn these things you often require years of training. And, as in all things, if you wish to master a skill, there are no shortcuts to get you there. If you really want to be able to draw every portrait from any angle, the only thing you can do is to start from zero and work your way through it. A beginner, willing to make portraits begins at the same point as an artist who wants to paint still life, flowers or landscapes.
There are some books on portraits, which do not try to skip the basics: “Drawing the Head and Hands” by Andrew Loomis or “Drawing the Human Head” by Burne Hogarth are excellent books for the study of portraits. Such books, however, require some prior knowledge and often accompany the artist for all his life.
A classical drawing class at an academy, given by an experienced teacher, provides the necessary skills to become a portrait artist.
But the most important ingredient for success is exercise. No book or teacher in the world can reduce the amount of work you need to do to before you see progress.