The Failure Challenge: Drawing People Edition

A lot of the beliefs that I hold about myself are dichotomous: I am this, I am not that; I am this way, so I cannot be that way. I’m sure that a lot of these beliefs are unnecessary and limiting. Like how, for instance, I used to believe that I was creative, but only with words. I can’t count the number of times I said, “I’m just not visually creative.” I looked at my friends who could easily draw beautiful pictures, and my boyfriend who took stunning photos, and the bloggers who created perfect scrapbooks, and I told myself, “I’m simply not creative in that way and there is nothing I can do about it.” (Much the same attitude I had about fitness.)


When I started taking photos more regularly, I found that I began to improve. When I began to draw and paint with the idea that it was for fun, that I didn’t have to be amazing at it, I found that it was something I truly enjoyed and that I was, actually, not that bad at it.

The one thing that I found very difficult and intimidating was drawing people. People are complicated. Even though they are really just made up of shapes, I found it nigh on impossible to break them down into said shapes and make them come out on paper looking like actual people and not some sort of half-melted candle wax cartoon character.

So I decided to run straight at the challenge. I started drawing people more and more often. Though I am still no paragon of drawing ability, I am seeing definite improvement amidst my modest successes and dismal failures. Let’s take a look, shall we?

 Bryan: half-success (technically blah but subjectively accurate)

I didn’t use a photo reference for this one, as far as I can remember. There is a lot to be technically desired in this piece, but I also think that I captured Bryan’s nature rather well, so I’m calling it a half-success. PS. Hair is so hard to draw without it just looking like scribbles.


half-success (technically good but subjectively missing something)

I was impressed with myself with this one because it matches the picture reference pretty well, and it was the first decently good drawing I had done of a person. But it is rather lifeless. It is missing something subjective and emotional. So another half-success.



Jamie: success (looks pretty good both objectively and subjectively)

This past weekend, I decided to do a portrait of my middle sister. This one I am damn proud of. I think that it is technically pretty good (there are a few weaknesses, such as the areas where the perspective is slightly off, but overall not bad), and it actually looks like her. I think I got a bit more of her spirit and nature. So I am chalking this one up to a true success.



Robin: failure (what the what?!)

Oh God, I don’t even know what happened here. Seriously, what is this disaster?! I was trucking along pretty well, not 100% happy with how the picture was turning out, but not too disgruntled either. Her mouth was giving me problems (the teeth were turning out more hillbilly than adolescent), and the shading was giving me problems because the shadows and highlights were so intense in the photo. And then…and then, I dunno what happened, it’s like I went crazy, I decided to use a really dark pencil in her hair, and then it all went off the deep end and I ended up staring at the end result in utter consternation. This one is a huge failure in my books. So I will have to give my baby sister another try; I’m sorry, I love you, you don’t look anything like this!!



Malissa: half-success

This drawing looks nothing like my friend Malissa (except for her hair, perhaps). But I am calling it a half-success, because I am pleased with the way that the body turned out (the crossed legs were particularly difficult). Not including a photo reference because I drew this one from life, which was a fun new experience.


A few resources I have used to improve my drawing skills:

 The Creative License by Danny Gregory

Just Draw It! by Sam Piyasena and Beverly Philp

The Art Channelthis video in particular


What difficult things have you been running at full-tilt lately?

The Failure Challenge: Drawing People Edition