why sometimes ‘it’ just won’t work and what to do about it

If you’re drawing a portrait, it’s the most marvellous feeling in the world to see your lines turn into a face, and not just a face: THE face. You want to capture the characteristics of your model. You don’t just want the drawing to look like the model, you want it to BE the model. It’s creating magic. Everytime this occurs I amaze myself. I just can’t stop looking at what I did: it’s beyond words, for I simply can not explain how I managed to capture these characteristics that make the person real and unmistakenly recognizable. 

But sometimes it just won’t work. And when that happens it drives me mad. Because as I can’t explain why the model secretly sneaks up in the drawing and makes it alive, I neither can explain why it doesn’t. Like with this drawing,…

It drove me mad: Is it the nose? Is it wide enough? Is the tip of the nose round enough? The nostrils flat enough? 
Yeah,.. the nose is okay,..

The lips then? Small enough? Does she smiles the way the model does? 

Yeah, nothing weird here.

Then it must be the eyes, but what’s wrong with them? The shape is correct,.. 

So, .. what to do? He’re some things for starters: 

  • Don’t panic. It happens to all of us and it really is an opportunity to learn. It could well be that you wanted to draw a tilted head or a trois quart portrait. Those always are more difficult. If you think this is too complicated for you and you just don’t get it right: don’t be ashamed to go back to the front faced portrait, you’ll have more luck doing these. Or,… read on,..
  • If you did draw a tilted head. Remember: it is tilted, for I know you really want to draw the lines of the mouth, nose and eyes horizontal. But in this case you can’t,.. a tilted head has slanted lines; check it.
  • Don’t draw what you don’t see! This is the most important thing I can teach you. You know lips are a two-piece. But, .. can you see both? Most of the time you can’t see the lower lip. So you shouldn’t have sketched it out.
  • Take a cup of tea,.. and let the drawing rest for a while,.. Sometimes you need more than half an hour before you regain a fresh look up on your work. Sometimes a day or two is better. But if this is the day you have to finish it,.. (ai,.. the pressure! That’s killing too, you know? ) than maybe the next tip will work for you.
  • Take a picture of your work. It’s really weird, but the photo will make you able to focus on details you earlier didn’t notice. And,.. back to work,…
  • Are all lines correct? Did you start with the right shape of the head? To check this: hold your pencil parallel with the outerline of the original head, then move the pencil to your drawing. Is it still parallel? Same trick is to be applied with all other lines. Wanna see how I do that? Check the video. 
  • How about proportions? Are the eyes evenly placed related to the vertical middle line,.. for example? (In the picture you see above, they weren’t, as I found out after a cup of tea and taking a picture.)
  • The second last thing is as important as all of the above: don’t forget to harden or soften your lines. Hard lines makes a person look older, so if you drew a kid, but she looks years older than her actual age,… blend your lines,…
  • And,.. don’t give up! Most of the time all you need to adjust is one line, .. find that line! 

Hope this worked! I managed to correct the eyes of the example in this post. Much better! This is the end result: 

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