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My personal #250headschallenge and how I improved portrait drawing

Do you want to know how to improve your portrait drawing skills? Read on and learn how persistent practice over several years will improve your skills. And you will learn how to be both political and social at the same time.

In August 2016 I started drawing people I saw in online interviews. I had already seen these interviews with people critical of society – mostly authors –  for a few years to educate myself intellectually. But these online interviews always last quite long compared to what you see on TV. On the internet there is no time limit, so the shorter videos start at one hour and they can be two or even three hours long.

The challenges of drawing people

Since I stopped painting after the birth of my daughter due to lack of time – after all, for classical painting you need exactly what you don’t have at all as parents: time – I decided then, to draw the interviewed people while watching the interviews. A sketchbook and pencils were quickly taken out and also quickly packed away again.

At first I was attracted by the challenge of drawing people in motion. It is not easy to draw an accurate portrait on paper when the person moves too much. So there were different aspects that influenced the quality of the result: an expressive person who moves too much is much harder to draw than a calm person.

The different camera angles of the interviews. The YouTube channel, whose interviews I watched the most, used at least three different camera angles in the interviews. So I had to commit to one and then keep it. Whenever the camera angle changed, I couldn’t keep drawing. Only when the original shot came back could I continue. The bottom line was that I had maybe 20-25 minutes of a camera angle available for a 1.5-hour interview.

And a good lighting was also necessary. Fortunately, most interviews had a good light/shadow ratio and were not overexposed.

Striving for the better

Over time I became dissatisfied with the quality of the drawings. I wanted a higher standard and improve my portrait drawing skills. So before listening to the interview I started to save a certain camera angle as a screenshot and use it as a reference. This way I could work from a single shot throughout the entire interview. The drawing time then lasted not 25 minutes but 1.5 hours.

Eventually, this became too little for me and I increased the time I spent on portraits that were particularly close to my heart to 3, 4 or even 5 hours. In order to be kept entertained during this time, I listened to other interviews of the same person from different channels.

As of April 2020, I have drawn over 250 portraits. Some people were drawn several times.

New opportunity

Last autumn I was at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the biggest book fair in the world. There I approached the owner of a publishing house whose authors I have also portrayed. He was immediately interested in the idea of turning the drawings into a book.
So now, next spring, a book with 35 drawings with people will be published. These people provide a short portrait in text form of their politicization and I supply the drawings.

When the book is on the market next year, I will write a new blog post

Here are some impressions on my portrait sketchbooks

The first book

The first sketchbook was an IKEA HISTORISK sketchbook which I described in an earlier post. First I solely used a mechanical pencil with an HB lead and a kneadable eraser. Then I stitched to pencils with different degrees of hardness.

The second book

The second sketchbook was a promotional gift whose paper seemed to be similar to the one in the IKEA sketchbook. But it was larger and had a hardcover, which was easier to handle and more robust. I have never filled all pages since I switched to…

The third book

The third book is a LEUCHTTURM 1917 sketchbook (affiliate link).

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