Monday, September 29, 2008

Top 10 Art Myths

1. You have to be born with a natural talent to create art
This has got to be the laziest excuse I have ever heard for not becoming an artist. Let me be perfectly clear. People are not born with natural artistic talents above anyone else. The reality is that as we grow we develop interests in other things and we focus our learning on those things. Historically we focus on those things that we need to learn in order to survive. We learn skills that we know we can use to make enough money to provide for our future families. Because of this, we never spend any time really focusing our attentions on creativity. The bottom line is this, everyone can become an artist if, and only if, they have a true desire to do so. The hard work, dedication and self confidence that it takes to become an artist tends to turn most people away. So, they use this excuse above all others.

2. If you don’t get a degree in art, or go to an art school, you will never make a living as an artist.
I know lots of people that graduated art school. Not one of them has a career in art. On the other hand, I know several people that have never had any former schooling at all, and they make a nice living as artists. It has nothing to do with the training you are given. Instead, it is the real life lessons that you learn and your passion for art help you succeed as an artist.

3. Being an artist isn’t a real job
Oh please. Let’s define a job as something that brings enough income for you to support your family. Let’s say Ed makes $30,000 a year working in the computer industry and Bill makes $30,000 a year working as an artist. Can you really believe that Bill does not have a real job?

4. I can’t be an artist; I can’t even draw a straight line
I have been a successful artist for over a decade and I can’t draw a straight line; at least not without a ruler. Yup, there it is. The key to the whole artist mystery is that you have to learn to use the right tools. Art is just like any other endeavor you choose to pursue, if you don’t use the right tools, you will never get the job done.

5. I’m too old to learn how to draw
Really? Tell that to the 80 year old man that decided to become a portrait artist. He couldn’t draw a picture to save his life. After a few weeks of study he started creating colored pencil portraits so realistic you couldn’t tell them from photographs. No. Dump that excuse right now because it simply does not wash.

6. I am disabled; I could never become an artist
Bring up your web browser and search for “disabled artist.” If the people in those websites can’t convince you, I never will.

7. It requires investing a lot of money to become an artist
First of all, there are so many free online tutorials for learning to be an artist that you will never have to spend money on books, lessons or classes. Second of all, you can create fantastic works of art using $15 worth of pencil drawing supplies.

8. I am not creative enough to become an artist
Creativity is not the key to becoming s successful artist. There are tons of places you can get creative ideas from. All you need to do is learn to use the tools and keep fueling your passion for art.

9. Every work of art must be perfect
Let me tell you a little secret. No work of art is perfect. To paraphrase a famous film director, works of art are never completed, they are abandoned. If I considered every non perfect work of art I created to be a failure, I would never have sold a single piece.

10, Real art is only done with traditional methods.
By traditional methods I am referring to pencils, paints, canvases, paper and things like that. There is a world of art snobs out there that consider any work done with modern technology to be inferior and not real art. That is ridiculous. Real art does not come from the medium that is used. Real art comes from the heart and soul of the artist. So use your computer if that is your medium. Use your camera to create grand works of art. Use a yard rake on a sandy beach if you want. The important thing is to create your art. If you don’t, you will be depriving that world of the beauty that is within you.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Wet Look - The First Steps to Drawing Eyes

In the last lesson on eyes we talked about the various problems that artists run into when trying to draw eyes as realistic as possible. In this lesson, we will begin the drawing process. There are two things that you need to do in order to in order to get started. The first is to make sure you are using the right tools. If you have trouble finding the tools locally, or if you would simply like to help support this site, you can purchase the tools directly from my Shopping Center by clicking on the Pencil Portrait Supplies link in the upper left section of this page.

The next thing that you have to have is your initial sketch drawn on your paper. The first two images I am going to show you here are the original photograph and my initial sketch.

Step One - The Pupil
The first step is to draw in the pupil. Using your 2B pencil, color in the entire pupil area. Make sure you lay in a lot of graphite and create as dark of a tone as you possibly can. Don't worry if you can't get really dark. If it needs to be darker later on, you can use a softer lead pencil on top of the 2B. But that will be in the final stages of the drawing as finishing touches.
Important Note: Make sure that you do NOT color in the areas that will be the highlights. This is very important. Those highlights have to be left completely white in order to get that wet look that we are going for.

Step Two - The Iris
Before we start drawing in the iris, I want to talk a moment about a technique called hatching. We use the hatching technique when creating the iris. You start with your pencil on the paper and make a short sharp motion across the paper. The key to this is to lift your pencil off of the paper before you finish the stroke. The result is a nice line that tapers off into nothing.

This image illustrates both the correct and incorrect usage of hatching. Notice the first group of lines starts out solid and dark, but ends up fading to a nice point. This is what you are looking for. The second group of lines was done by stopping the pencil before lifting it from the paper. Notice that both ends of the line end suddenly and harshly. The third group of lines shows what happens if you try to join groups of hatched lines that are done incorrectly. Notice the dark band where the two join together. The last group shows how two groups of hatched lines join when they are done with the correct motion. Notice that the area where the two groups join is nice and smooth.

There are a few ways that artists traditionally shade the iris area of the eyes. All are legitimate techniques, but the one we are going for is the first one. Start at the outside edge of the iris and hatch inward toward the pupil. This will help to create the realism that we are looking for.
Ok, the first step in the iris is to create the initial lines of hatching. The human eye has many layers of lines that make up the iris. That means that you must draw many layers as well. Do NOT start out trying to draw the darkest areas of the iris. Start out light and create the darker areas by drawing many layers on top of each other. Take your time with this. This is a very important step and there is no need to rush it. Sit back and enjoy the feel of the pencil on the paper. Also realise that you can add more layers as you continue through this lesson. So, if you don't get it dark enough now, you can darken it later. When you are satisfied that you have it looking the way you want, go on to the next step.

Did anyone notice the mistake I made here? I will point it out later in the lesson.

Step Three - The Edge of the Iris
Every eye is different, of course, but most eyes have a distinct darkness along the outside edge of the iris. In this step, all I have done is create a dark ring that I will be pulling into the iris in the next steps. Remember, never press hard when drawing! If you want something darking, simply add more layers.

Step Four - Pulling in the Darkness
Using the same hatching technique that we used before we are simply pulling the darkness around the edge into the iris so that it does not look like such a hard ring in the middle of the eye.

Step Five - Blending to Create Depth
Using a tortillion as a blending tool, start blending the lines of the iris. Make sure that you follow the same direction as your pencil strokes. This will begin to create the depth of the eye that is contrasted by the bright white of the highlight. Once again, make sure that you leave the highlights completely untouched.
Step Six - The Inner Darkness
Along with the outer ring of darkness in the human eye, there is also an inner ring. If you look very closely at the original photograph you will see this area. You will also notice that it is not a uniform ring. In some areas it is closer to the pupil than in other areas.

Using your pencil, lightly hatch in layers until you have recreated that inner area as close as you can to the original photograph. Then use the Toritillion to blend it in with the rest of the lines of the iris.

Step Seven - Fixing the Mistake
Did you figure out the mistake I made yet? I left out a very important highlight. If you look at the outside edge of the eye on the left you will see that I have "drawn in" the highlights from the photograph. How did I draw them in? I am so glad you asked. I used an eraser. Actually, I used a battery operated eraser. It is very useful for drawing in highlights when using both graphite and colored pencil. Always remember the importance of highlights and do not skimp out. The closer you recreate those highlights the more realisic your drawing will look.
Step Eight - Drawing the White
As much as your brain wants to think it is white, the whites of the eyes aren't really white. They are just whiter than the rest of the eye. The true white is found in the reflections you see in the eyes. In order to get that highlight to look as white as possible, the whites of the eyes have to be darker.
In the image you see below, I barely allowed the pencil to touch the paper while laying in just a small amount of graphite. I then used the Toritillion to smooth the graphite and remove the lines. Note that I avoided the highlight areas and went in with a very sharp pencil to draw in some lines to represent the blood vessels in the eyes. Note: it is possible that I have made the whites a little too dark. But I will not know for sure until I get the rest of the image created. If need be, I can lighten them up later on.
Next Lesson:
We will focus on the edges of the eyelids and the corners of the eyes. Attention to detail in these areas is very important.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Series of Unfortunate Events

I first want to apologize for not being around for the past week or so.  Unfortunately, there was a series of unfortunate events that we could not have foreseen.  The good news is I am back online now and will be working this site even more than I did before.  For those that are interested, read on and you will find out exactly what happened and just how lucky we ended up.

For those that are not aware of our lifestyle, Kylie and I live full time in a motor home and travel the country.  We left California in the spring and spent the summer in Southwest Missouri with my family.

Last Wednesday morning we left Columbia Missouri, heading to St. Louis on our way to Florida.  We got a couple of miles down the road and the engine started making a bit of a rattling noise.  We pulled off the side of the road and checked things out but there was no one in the area that we could have look at the engine.  So we drove a few miles until we found a Freightliner repair shop.  We stopped there and they told me that there was no one there that could work on gas engines.  So we decided to drive on to Kingdom City.  About 4 miles before we got to the Kingdom City exit, the rattle became very loud and was obviously from one of the engines cylinders.   We were lucky in that there was an exit right there.  We pulled off and called a mechanic from Kingdom City to come take a look at it.  He agreed with what we had diagnosed, so we had it towed to his shop where we could get an estimate on repair.

The tow, which was only 4 miles total, cost us $225!  After a couple of hours of being there they told us that the engine was going to have to be replaced and it was going to cost between $5000 and $6000.  So, we started panicking.  A little while later they told us that it was actually going to cost between $7000 and $8000.  Ok, even more panicking.  Then a while later the owner of the shop showed up and said that there was no way they could do it for less than $9000.  It might as well have been $100,000, because there was no way that we were going to be able to get that kind of money.

Kylie's parents came from St. Louis the next day, we rented a U-Haul to take all of our stuff to St. Louis.  I called a couple of salvage and scrap dealers to try and sell our home for scrap.  No one would take it.  All we could do at that point was to head to St. Louis and see what we could come up with.  It just so happened that Kylie's mother has a cousin with a piece of property and he said we could park the rig there while we worked on it ourselves.  I hope that we can fix it ourselves for less than $1000.  I am going to try anyway.  So, we had the rig towed the 160 miles or so from where it was to where we are now storing it.  That tow cost us $1000!

Well, that left us homeless, so to speak.  It just so happened that Kylie 's grandmother is in a nursing home and will likely never leave that facility.  Her house is full of junk, important papers, photographs and family records that go back to the late 1800s.  So, Kylie's mother suggested we stay in that house for the winter and help her go through all of that stuff and get the house in a condition that it can be sold once Kylie's grandmother passes away.  She will likely pass this winter.

We didn't make it to Florida like we had planned, but we are ok.  We are in Illinois. Kylie has a potential job lined up.  I am going to be focusing on our online businesses, organizing all of the stuff in this house and distributing Juice Plus+.  BTW - if anyone uses Juice Plus+ or are interested in doing so, let me know and I will hook you up.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Featured Artist Blogger of the Week - Daisie

It's time again for the Featured Artist of the Week.  Today I am introducing you to a wonderful artist from Canada.  Daisie is a fellow portrait artist and her work is absolutely stunning.  She has learned in a few months what it took me 36 years to learn.  I myself am learning simply by studying the work that she is doing. 

She has over come all of the problems that I mentioned in my first lesson on eyes that most people have when trying to get eyes to look realistic and her skin tones are incredible.  She has a social networking page on I Draw and Paint that you must see.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Moving again

First thing in the morning we are heading south, going to Florida this time.  I had planned on doing at least two more posts of my lessons on drawing eyes, but getting ready for the move had taken every spare minute I had.  I don't know what kind of internet connections I am going to have over the next week.  So, I am not sure how often I will be able post along the way. 

If I don't talk to you all before then I will talk to you when we get to Florida.  Now, here's hoping the gas prices go back down again before we get too far.  Five miles to the gallon is pretty painful when you are driving almost 1000 miles.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Featured Artist Blogger of the Week - Stacy Rowan

Welcome to the Featured Artist of the Week. This week I wanted to try something different. Last week I talked about how wonderful the artist was and sent you a link to her blog. This week I want to introduce you to the artist. I sent her a few questions and she has answered them as only a true artist can. Stacy Rowan has a passion for art that very few possess and it has driven her to create some of the most beautiful works of art you will ever see.  Her blog, Stop and Draw the Roses, has been a huge inspiration for me over the past few months.  I am including two images of her artwork here, just to whet your appetite. After reading her interview, make sure you click on one of the images to visit her site.

What is your earliest memory of creating art?

I remember when I was probably around 10 years old drawing a copy of a Girl Scout cookie poster. I worked hard to duplicate the poster on my piece of notebook sized paper. When I was done I was proud of my result so I called my older sister in to see my drawing. She took one look at it and accused me of tracing the image even though my drawing was much smaller than the original poster! I guess that means my drawing was a success! Luckily, my sister is much more supportive of my art now.

What is your favorite art medium to work with?

I don't have just one favorite. I love working in watercolor and when viewing other artists' paintings I always seem to be most drawn to watercolors. It is great for capturing the play of light on an object because its transparent nature can be used to create a wonderful glow. Watercolor painting requires a lot of planning since typically the white of the paper is reserved for highlights, and since making changes or corrections can be difficult. The challenges which watercolor presents play well to my analytical side. About 18 months ago I started working with charcoal and was really surprised by how much I also enjoy this medium. The ease with which a charcoal drawing can be changed gives me more freedom to experiment. Also I enjoy the process of starting with paper that has been toned to a middle value and then adding charcoal to achieve the darker values and subtracting (erasing) charcoal to create the light values. It is a different process from how I work with watercolors, but exciting in its own right.

How has being an artist effected your life?

Art gives me a challenge. I am always learning, trying to improve, wondering how I can create what I see on paper. I have so many ideas for paintings - new subjects or techniques that I want to try. It's exciting and motivating. At the same time, art provides a reassuring constant in my life. When I sit down to draw or paint, and I find that zone where I lose track of time and tune out the outside world, it is a bit like visiting with a good friend and it provides a sense of normalcy no matter what else is going on in the other areas of my life.

Who is the artist that you admire the most?

A tough question. There are so many artists out there creating wonderful art, not to mention all the masters who achieved things with their art that most of us can only dream of. But if I am forced to choose one artist, I would choose James Toogood. I've had the pleasure of taking two workshops with Mr. Toogood. He not only creates beautiful, detailed watercolor paintings, but also has an extensive knowledge about watercolor pigments and painting and he generously shares this knowledge in his workshops. I admire this combination of artistic skill and technical knowledge.

If you could tell the world only a single thing about yourself, what would it be?

I would tell them that with art I have found a true joy in life and my life is better for it. I'd also recommend that they find something they love or feel passionate about and find a way to make it part of their life.

Monday, September 8, 2008

It's All in the Eyes

Of all the human facial features, the one that stands out the most is the human eye.  I personally think it is because we use them so much as a means of communitcation.  We speak with our lips, but we communicate with our eyes.  We are drawn to them when we look at other people.  When people wear makeup they spend more time working on their eyes than they do any other part of the face.  Why am I mentioning this?  Because when people look at your portraits they are going to be seeing them as real people and they will be focusing on the eyes more than anything else.  Therefore, it is vital that you get the eyes right from the very beginning.

I am starting a new set of tutorials today.  Each one will focus on a different feature of portrait drawing and will go into detail on problem areas and what do to about them.  As we go through them, I want you to keep two things in mind.  I talked about them over and over in my lessons creating the Tanna portrait.  First; you are not drawing people, you are drawing light and shadow.  Second; you are not drawing in three dimensions, so do not look at your source in three dimensions but rather look at it in two.

The Shape

People have asked me time and time again; what is the basic shape of an eye?  Well, the absolute honest answer to that is "round."  The eye itself is round and that is a very important thing to keep in mind.  Now, the eyelids that protect the eye is where you get into different two dimensional shapes.  If you whant to draw eyes from scratch, without using a photo or live reference, then there are some basic eye shapes that you can start off with.  But, I am not going to talk about them.  There are plenty of books and online tutorials that focus on the technical aspects of drawing eye and the correct anatomy to get them right.  That is not the purpose of this site.  This site is about creating Realistic Pencil Portraits of people that already exist.  We are not creating things out of thin air, so we don't need to focus on basic shapes.  What we want to focus on is the shape of the subject we are drawing.

This is an image that I put together that shows a variety of basic eye shapes.  I wanted to use it to show you an example of why I am not teaching you a basic eye shape.  With so many differences from one person to the next, I don't want you to get hung up on whether or not you got the basic shape right.


The Eyes We Will be Working With
Over the next few lessons we will be working with a photograph that I took this morning of my wife, Kylie. 


 Problem Areas
In this next image I have pointed out a couple of problem areas that people run into when drawing eyes.  Below the image I will discuss each of these and a couple of others.  Then when we get into actually drawing the eyes with graphite, I will point them out so that you can keep them in mind.


Highlights - When most people draw an eye they shade everything and put a single highlight in the iris area, usually partially covering the pupil.  What people tend to forget about are all of the other areas of the eye that have highlights that are just as bright as teh one in the iris, they are just much smaller.  Getting these highlights correct is what creates that wet look in your drawing and brings life to the eye itself.

Round Iris - Remember earlier when I said that the basic shape of the human eye is round?  Well, it is.  And so is the iris.  Some people tend to draw iris' in more elliptical shapes because that is what they see the entire eye as being.  But the reality is that the both the eye and the iris are perfectly round and should always be drawn that way.  Unless you are drawing an image of someone who deliberately has there eyes wide open out of fear or surprise, then part of the iris will always be hidden behind one or both eyelids.

The eyelid has thickness - I can't tell you how many portraits I have seen where people totally ignore this.  The eyelid is not like a sheet of paper covering the eye, it has a thickness.  In order to depict the eyes as realistically as possible, you must show that thickness in your final drawing.

Eyelashes - The eyelash has always been a very difficult thing for artists.  In fact, a lot of the old masters completely omitted the eyelashes simply because they were so difficult to get right.  This is the advice I am going to give you.  Remember that you are not drawing in three dimensions.  Do not look at the eyelashes as tiny strands of hair coming out of the eye.  Instead, look at them as two dimensional lines that are placed over certain areas of your image.

Shadows - A lot of artists tend to ignore the different shadows that are all around the eyes.  I think they are afraid to work with it too much.  Here is the thing.  High contrast in shadow areas is essential.  You must put as much focus on the shadows as you do the highlights, it is absolutely vital in getting the results you want.

Skin tones - Skin tones tend to scare a lot of people off.  A nice smooth blend is easy, but creating freckles or wrinkles or other skin blemishes is a daunting task.  I will cover this in a bit more detail when we get to that lesson in the series.  For now simply try to remember that you are not drawing freckles and wrinkles, you are drawing values of light.

Photo Reference
Here is the photo reference that we are going to be using for the remainder of this tutorial.  If you click on it you should get a fairly large image that you can use.  If you need help in getting the image transferred to your drawing paper, take a look at the post on Creating the Initial Sketch.


Next Time
In our next lesson we will start working on the iris' and discuss the highlight areas in more detail. As always, throughout this tutorial, if you have any questions or need assistance with anything, please comment on the post.  

Friday, September 5, 2008

Temporary Outage and Upcoming Changes

As some of you may have noticed, this blog was offline for a few hours.  I want to apologize and explain what happened so that you can make sure it doesn't happen to you.  This week, I have been trying to make this site a little more user friendly.  People have asked about supplies, so I created an Amazon shopping cart with a few different categories in it.  I then created the links you see in the upper left to link directly to those Amazon store categories that I set up. 

For a moment I need to explain about something called linkspamming.  There is a method of internet spam that unscrupulous marketer use where they create a fake blog, often called a splog, and they put lots and lots of gibberish on it.  Nothing that really makes sense, but within the gibberish, they include tons of links to a site where they sell stuff.  The reason they do this is that search engines will give you a higher ranking if you have lots of links to your site from other places on the web.  Basically, this is a way to artifically boost page ranks and get more traffic. 

Now, let's talk about Google.  Google has to have some way of stopping linkspammers.  But paying people to search for them all day long would not even come close to catching all of the spammers.  So, they created something called a SpamBot.  This is a program that constantly looks at Blogger blogs and scans for potential violators.  When it finds one, it shuts it down instantly.

Back to my Amazon shopping cart.  The SpamBot scanned this blog and found that I suddenly had several links to the same site.  Since that is one of the signs of linkspamming, they shut me down.  Needless to say, I was a bit shook up over this.  But the good news is that they provide a link for you to restore your blog.  Now, this does not happen right away.  All that restore link really does is notify Google that a human needs to look at the site and determine if it is spam or not.  The bad part obout that is that is can take up to 24 hours.  In the mean time your site is completely down.

So, now you know the story and hopefully you can avoid having the same thing happen to you.

Upcoming Changes
I am getting ready to make some major changes to this site.  In fact, it is likely that by the time you read this, the changes will already be made.  First off, the reason I created this blog in the first place was to provide lessons on drawing pencil portraits.  Over the past several weeks I have strayed from that and started getting into watercolor and various other media.  As of now, I am redirecting the blog's focus back to pencil drawing and pencil portraits will be the primary work done.

With the refocus I am also going to change the name of the blog to Pencil Portrait Lessons and the URL will be  It is my understanding that Blogger, at least for a while, will continue to send traffic to the blog if people use the blogspot address that I have been using for several months.  So, if you have any links to my blog you might want to change them and if you are subscribing to my feed, you might want to resubscribe once the domain name is in place.  I plan to have all this done sometime tonight.

Other than that, I want to thank everyone for supporting me in this blog over the months.  At first it was more of an experiment to see if I could keep it going or not.  All of the support I get from you guys has shown me that I can.  So, I will be spending the evening tweaking this blog and making it what it should have been from the beginning.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Featured Artist Blogger of the Week - Kellie Hill

As of today I am going to start a new feature on this site. I am going to attempt to do this every Wednesday, we will see how that goes. LOL.

This week I am featuring Kellie Hill. You can see her artwork at One Painting a Day. I highly recommend taking a look. Her use of color is absolutely incredible. She has the ability to take simple items like a teacup, or a shot glass on a wire and evoke an emotional response in the viewer.

I have spent hours looking at her work and I never get tired of doing so. Please take a few minutes and visit her blog. You will be very happy that you did.

Pencil portrait supplies

I have been getting emails from people asking where the best place to get supplies is and exactly which ones to get. So, I decided to simply post links on the blog directly to the products that I use. They are on, but they are the exact same products you get at art supply stores, and quite frankly, most of them are cheaper on Amazon.

Remember, you do NOT have to spend a lot of money to do wonderful works of art. These are products that you will want if you are ready to take you art to the next level. They are for the point where you look at your work and you want more detail and contrast than you have had before, or if you want the flexibility that these products provide. For instance, I used to do some really cool stuff with a standard number 2 pencil and some copy paper. But there is no way I could have done the portraits that I do now with those tools. The graphite in those pencils simply isn't workable enough.

In order to get to the shopping pages simply click on one of the products listed on the left bar. It will take you to an Amazon shopping cart that I have setup for you to use.