Like Seeing Myself in the Mirror

25 Oct 2011

Drawing by Edward Schmidt.
Drawing by Edward Schmidt.

When I was the one in charge of my infant cousin, I would always scramble frantically for ways to keep him entertained. Toys, sounds, and funny faces—I tried everything. But the most memorable way I kept him happy was by plopping him in front of a mirror.

He'd move, and react to seeing himself move, and get excited, clap and chuckle, and then his eyes would get really big to see all that happen right in front of him and he'd get excited all over again.

I keep his reaction in mind as I constantly try to figure out how to draw people—getting to a place where drawing faces and expressions and body positions is exciting and interesting every time. Because it seems like a real shame that there are so many possible ways of drawing people and yet we often see or use only slight variations in a few poses over and over again.

We've got to learn to push the boundaries in our art, even if it means the final product isn't a resounding success. Don't get derailed by the idea of presenting perfection and symmetry. I put a much higher value on close inspection and drawing people as individuals. It is fun, real, and rewarding.

Marin by Elisabeth Ehmann, drawing.
Marin by Elisabeth Ehmann, drawing.
You learn a lot by exploring something new because you stretch yourself in new ways. I know I always get way more out of covering new ground than when I go through the same tired motions, even if it is a little more challenging. It feels good.

And drawing faces and figures with excitement and freshness of vision usually starts with knowing how to draw a person's form and features. American Artist March 2010 and American Artist March/April 2011 are a few of my favorite issues of the magazine and seem custom-made for this kind of artistic growth. You'll find a professional portraitist's best advice, self-portrait know-how, the essentials on how to craft your skills, and inspiration from dozens of artists whose work stands out for its uniqueness and point of view. Enjoy!

P.S. If you want to see a great demonstration of drawing the eyes, check out our newest free instructional video from artist David Kassan.


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woodpaint wrote
on 26 Oct 2011 7:19 AM

Other artist's work is good but let's see some of Courtney's work.

bothebo wrote
on 26 Oct 2011 8:17 AM

Courtney, this is a particularly good post. You're right, it's so easy just to refine rather than trying something totally new. Thanks for the reminder.

KatPaints wrote
on 27 Oct 2011 6:20 PM

Woodpaint, Courtney works for AA so part of her job is to expose other artists and talk about the magazine. You can google her to see her art, just be sure you get the right Courtney Jordan because there is another artist with the same name.

on 3 Nov 2011 7:13 AM

Hi all,

You won't find any of my artwork up yet online, but I appreciate the support! Thanks!