My name is Bethany Kerr. My hopes for this blog is that it will help anyone who sincerely wants to draw but thinks “I can’t even draw a stick person!” to challenge this false belief, and begin the journey to becoming the artist they have always been on the inside. I hope to provide you with the tools and techniques to grow in your skills, and to give you a boost of confidence as well so..
Have ever noticed that there is a connection between your artwork and the way you feel about yourself?
Tell me if you can relate:
Have you ever created a piece of artwork that you loved so much, only to be told by others that it “wasn’t very good”. This comment immediately changed the way you felt about it. Maybe this happened when you were a child or maybe it happened later in life, but those words had a major impact on your belief in your abilities, and as a result, affected choices you made later.
Did those fleeting words – forgotten quickly by the person speaking- become huge in your mind, deflating those feelings of affection for your art? Did you suddenly find yourself wanting to give up on your work?
Did you ruminate on the words, allowing them to play in your head again and again, and did you feel the urge to throw your artwork away or hide it where no one else could criticize it again?
Now, imagine instead that someone praised that very same piece of artwork, telling you it was amazing.
Did you feel that feeling of exhilaration and joy, believing that you had really created something worthy of notice this time, and start looking at it with pride and acceptance?
Then…did you notice that feeling of excitement was gone by the next day and you needed to get more praise to continue feeling that way? Then you sought out the opinions of others to see what THEY thought?
What do you think the reason for this is?
I think the answers lie in the fact that so many times in the problem of seeing our artwork as an extension of ourselves, instead of an expression of ourselves – which means that if someone doesn’t like our artwork, we believe they don’t like US!!
I think a lot of artists struggle with self-esteem and depression. I know I have struggled with these issues myself.
Fortunately, artwork has actually been very beneficial in my healing over the years. Maybe that’s why I gravitated to this type of work…for its therapeutic benefits.
I have always loved to draw, but when I turned 18, I began working hard on improving my skill. I loved to draw, and I began putting whole days, months, and years of effort into improving my drawing skills. This gave me a sense of purpose.
When people asked if I was an artist, I was very adamant that I was not actually an artist, just an “aspiring artist”.
Deep down, I believed I wasn’t good enough yet to be considered an artist. I just liked “doodling”.
I believed that if I ever described myself as an artist, others would know I was a fraud and would laugh at me if I even suggested I was anything close to that. So I was very careful never to say I was an artist but to let others know that one day I hoped to become one.
I inwardly did not accept any compliments I received, even though I wanted to. If someone told me my work was great, I would assume they just said it to be nice, and I would point out every flaw that I saw in my work – flaws they had never actually noticed before I mentioned them.
I just knew that my work wasn’t worthy of being considered the work of an artist yet. I believed that anyone who viewed my work could see all of the flaws that I could see, and were judging them secretly.
Because I was continually comparing my own work to the work of artists I felt were superior to myself, I never felt like I was good enough. I worked very hard to gain the approval of my fellow artist friends and kept hoping that one day I would achieve the level of work worthy of being considered “art”.
You see, I had a misconception of what an artist was, and I also had misconceptions about who I was as a person.
My feelings about being an artist were a direct reflection of how I felt about myself.
What had to happen over the course of the next couple of decades was for me to discover my true worth as a person. It was a slow process, and I’m still learning.
Why am I writing about this here? Because I believe that many people who become interested in the arts do so because they are struggling with some type of emotional problem related to self-worth.
I know I’m not alone in it because after speaking with artists over the last couple of decades, I have seen a pattern emerge in the things they say and do. And this doesn’t just apply to artists who draw or paint, but also to anyone who expresses themselves creatively in any way.
Many of us struggle with a core belief that we are not “good enough” as a person; that our worth is determined by external things rather than that we have intrinsic value as a human being. We have not yet learned to accept ourselves AS WE ARE, and at the exact stage we are in. This is mostly learned by our upbringing or the influence of those around us.
But the good news is that WE define who we are and WE can make a choice. We can decide what we are and make that a reality.
One day I decided to stop calling myself an “aspiring artist”. I realized that no matter how much I had improved, I still didn’t see myself as an artist, but I decided to challenge that belief:
Why did I believe that? What made me any different than other artists? What made my efforts any less valuable than theirs?
I decided one day that I AM an artist. I just made that decision.
I realized that I had been an artist all along.
What is an artist besides a person who loves to create something that they find beautiful, to work with their hands creating something they enjoy?
Whether one person values your work is NOT relevant to who and what you are. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and everyone has different tastes.
If we express ourselves openly and honestly, people will recognize the authenticity of your work when you do this and will appreciate it!
Realize that ALL artists are continually learning. There is no point in time where an artist has “arrived”. No matter how good you are, you can always improve!
So the thought I want to leave you with here today is, as artists, we all tend to have doubts about ourselves, and struggle with self-worth and maybe wonder if we deserve the title of “artist”.
If you are creating something that you enjoy, you ARE an artist. You just are. Don’t let anyone -including yourself- tell you otherwise!
Now pick up a pencil and some paper -or some paint and a canvas- and express yourself without worrying about what anyone but YOU thinks! You’ll be happy you did!
When I heard the news two days ago of the passing of Anthony Bourdain ( travel writer, celebrity chef), I was shocked and saddened.
I used to watch No Reservations on the Travel channel quite often and really enjoyed it. Anthony was a most beautifully gifted writer, being able to put things into words in a way that enriched the experiences he was speaking of so much. He loved to dine with the rich and the poor alike. I know that he will be so very missed by many people who knew him, including his wife and daughter.
It’s so saddening to know that he was feeling so lost that he resorted to suicide as a way out. So many people would have reached out and been a support system had they known. I wish he hadn’t felt this was the only way.
I decided to draw a portrait of Anthony Bourdain in his memory:
And I have a tribute video of the process of this drawing at the link below.
Anthony Bourdain Pencil Drawing Memorial Time Lapsed - YouTube
If you or someone you know is feeling upset, depressed, or feels there is no way out, please call the suicide prevention line at 1-800-273-8255. If you don’t like the idea of speaking out loud, there is a texting service at 741-741. You can call any time of the day or night and they will talk to you and help you.
Have you ever been drawing a portrait and been discouraged because the teeth you drew look like Chiclets gum?
If you have dealt with this problem and are at your wits end wondering how to fix it, don’t worry! I am here to help and will be giving you some of the tips and techniques that I use to create realistic teeth in my portraits.
I hope that this tutorial will be helpful to you in your quest to learn how to improve your drawing skills!
Getting started, I want you to feel free to print and trace the image below.
If you’re using a laptop or computer, you can effectively trace directly over the laptop screen with a piece of tracing paper, then transfer to a drawing paper using graphite paper. You wouldn’t even need a printer in that case. I have written a blog post on different methods of tracing that might also be helpful if you want to do it another way.
Once you have your outline started, I want you to look at the photo again. Look at the top of the teeth, the gum and lips area. Do you see the shape of the gums over the teeth? What do you see?
Here is an example of what your initial outline should look like once you’ve got it on paper.
Notice that I have drawn the outline VERY lightly so that it will be simple to erase if I need to.
I can always add darker lines at a later point:
The first thing I do is use a blending stump (which already has been covered in graphite on the tip) and use it to shade in areas such as the gums, and the lines in between the teeth. In the photo below, I’m using an arrow to indicate where one of the lines in between the teeth is, since it’s so light you can barely see it.
…then the tongue…
…and the lips! It’s almost too easy using the blending stump.
In case any of you aren’t familiar with blending stumps, getting graphite on the tip of it is simple. All you need to do is use any pencil and scribble a dark spot on a separate piece of paper, then rub your blending stump over the dark spot to transfer the lead to the stump. Then it’s ready to use to create soft, subtle lines and shading in your drawings.
Look at the picture below. Look at how faint the lines are to separate the teeth. Next, I go over the gums again and darken them and define the edges a bit more.
Notice that I do NOT draw bold lines in between the teeth with my pencil. The reason for this is that the teeth are close together, and are actually touching, and if you look at the reference picture you’ll see that you really don’t see any dark lines defining the teeth in this photo. So be sure you do what you see in the picture.
Continually refer back to the reference photo and compare again and again as you go.
Also, be sure to pay close attention to the shape of the bottoms of the teeth. Notice how some teeth are sharper than others; some have flat bottoms and some have rounded bottoms.
Be sure to pay close attention to the shapes, angles, and lines as you draw.
Next, find the darkest spots in your drawing and fill them in, using a lot of pressure with your pencil to make it as dark as what you see in the picture.
By the way…Yes, that is a regular old Bic mechanical (.07 mm) pencil that I am using. (It’s amazing what you can do with one of those, and they are so affordable!)
So you can see that I darkened the inside of the mouth on the left side, right under the tooth and around the tongue. Next, I darken the middle of the tongue as I see it in the picture.
Don’t be afraid to use pressure and create these dark shadows…this is what will create the 3D realistic appearance you want!
Then I darken the rest of the darker spots and some of the more medium shaded spots.
Next, I use the blending stump again to blend all of the shaded spots till it’s smooth. And I don’t worry if I get outside of the lines. Notice the gradient of dark to light from the left to right of the tongue.
Now, one mistake that many people make when drawing teeth (which is one reason their rendering of teeth can end up looking like white boxes) is that they assume (usually on a subconscious level) that teeth are flat squares with no texture. This is because they are drawing what they believe a tooth looks like, instead of drawing what they are actually seeing.
In reality, teeth are all so unique; having many different shapes, sizes, and textures that we need to pay close attention to.
Having a drawing with teeth shaped incorrectly or in the wrong positions can drastically a persons’ appearance in a portrait.
No pressure, of course.
So the next part is where I try to draw in the bottom row of teeth.
I would like for you to notice the angle of the lines in the top row of teeth- I’m using my blending stump to show you the direction the lines are pointed.
I have been meaning to post a drawing tutorial for the last week but have just not had the time that I would like to devote to it. I plan to have another one out soon.
In the meantime, I was able to create a time lapsed video of a picture I drew of Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) a few days ago. Kim Wexler is another character from AMC’s Better Call Saul and is a fantastic character in the show.
Since I am drawing a woman, the facial features are much softer. To create these softer tones, I use a blending stump rather than a pencil to create the outlines in many areas of her face (such as her smile lines and the edges of her nose). This allows for a much softer outline, which looks more realistic and closer to the photo. Drawing stronger lines with pencil would result in making her look more aged and unnatural.
There are no harsh lines or deep shadows on her face…only very subtle tones. Except in her eye area and lips, of course.
I added elements (ponytail, jacket) that were not in the reference photo.
As I find the time, I plan to eventually make several tutorials on how to accomplish these things.
It took me about 2 hours to complete this drawing. The video below is about 2 minutes in length.
Pencil Drawing of Kim Wexler Time Lapsed - YouTube
After watching the video, I would like to know your thoughts:
What do you find most frustrating when trying to draw portraits?
Maybe you would like to know where to start when drawing a face?
Maybe you would like to know how to draw realistic lips? Or a believable nose?
Any questions and comments will be very helpful in giving me information that will help me decide what to teach about next!
Also, if you find any of the information on my blog or the youtube channel to be helpful to you, please subscribe to see more!
As a freelancer, I get all types of reference photos to draw; some good, some bad.
I work with all types; however, I can see a tremendous difference in the quality of my work in the pictures that I drew from low-quality reference photos.
The reason for this is that when I’m drawing, I am gathering information about the subject of the picture from the photograph and translate that information on to paper.
If that information isn’t there, all I have to go on is my imagination to fill in the gaps.
Here is an example of an image that I was given last year of a beautiful couple I know. It’s a nice photo to look at, but when it comes to drawing, it does not have a lot of clarity since it was a snapshot taken without good lighting. And that makes it very difficult to work with.
I had originally contemplated just trying to draw from this picture and making it work, but I knew that I had a rushed deadline and didn’t want to risk making a mistake and then having to redo it again.
So since I’m friends with these people on Facebook, I actually found some better images and worked from those instead (this isn’t always a possibility but in this case, I was fortunate)!
I tried to find photos from similar angles. The pictures shown below are the ones I chose.
They are still not optimal quality to draw from but have improved clarity from the original one and there is enough information there for me to use for a nice portrait:
Can you see the difference in detail with the pictures that show a side by side comparison (below)?
There is both noise and poor lighting in the ones on the left, and low contrast. There is still low contrast in the photo on the right, but the details are clear enough to make out. Look at the lines of the eyes, mouth, the hair, and nose on each picture.
If you zoom into the eyes on the original picture, you can see how difficult it would be to make out where the lines of the eyes are (it’s possible to do, but very easy to make a mistake that could change the person’s looks completely):
This is my test of whether I think a picture will work well for me or not. If I zoom in and the eyes aren’t clear, I know it’s going to be tough to interpret on paper.
Here is a picture of the drawing once I had completed it, using the clearer choice of photo:
I was pretty happy with how it turned out.
However, even in the clearer images that I had used, they were not really good enough photos to draw a very realistic image from.
For example, last week, I wanted to draw a very detailed and realistic portrait of Mike Ehrmantraut from AMC’s Breaking Bad. After looking through photos from a google search, I finally found a good reference picture to use.
It seems like it would be easy to find good quality images of celebrity figures, but it’s more difficult than you’d think with some of them. When I did a google search for images of Mike Ehrmantraut, I found multiple images that simply wouldn’t work for a high-quality drawing.
For example, I found this one:
This picture is a fine image to look at, but it is terrible as a reference for a detailed drawing. Why? It has poor clarity, due to resizing. You can tell it is highly pixellated. If I were to zoom in on any of the features, it would make it even more difficult to define what I was looking at.
This image also does not have sufficient contrast for a good drawing. While the original photo from the scene this is taken from is a good one (if I had the full resolution version of it), it’s not as good for drawing as it could be since there isn’t enough of a contrast of light and dark, which could leave the resulting drawing looking flat.
And here’s another one that wouldn’t work for me:
The contrast is good in this picture, but there is just not enough clarity to go by. The reason this photo has poor clarity is that this image was resized to a smaller size from the original.
If I try to increase the size of it, the details are again very difficult to make out. The details in this picture are BETTER than the previous one because of the contrast levels, so I could draw a decent image from this if I had to, but it wouldn’t be super realistic:
I am a big fan of AMC’s television show, Better Call Saul. I actually am impatiently waiting for the next season to finally come out.
Picture courtesy of Widewallpapers.net
I first started watching Breaking Bad when it came out in 2008, because of the fact that I was intrigued by the fact that Hal from Malcolm in the Middle was going to be playing such a dark character. It was so hard for me to imagine him in that role!
Picture courtesy of Hollywood.com
It turned out that the show was very good, very intense, very interesting. And of course, when Better Call Saul came out afterward, I had to watch it too!
In the last week, I decided to draw some celebrities from the shows Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad and to create a time-lapsed video of me drawing Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston) so others could see the progress of creation. Let me know what you think.
Pencil Drawing of Walter White Time Lapse - YouTube
This portrait of Saul Goodman (played by Bob Odenkirk) was drawn entirely with a Bic mechanical pencil.
Portrait of Mike Ehrmantraut (played by Jonathan Banks)
Portrait of Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston).
You may have noticed how much detail is in these portraits, as opposed to some of my other drawings.
Not all of my portraits have this level of detail, and one of the reasons for this is that I chose really good reference photos, and decided to take more time to develop the features.
I am in the process of writing a blog post to explain why choosing a good reference photo is essential to being able to create really detailed and realistic images like these with high levels of contrast and definition.
You may be thinking, “I could never do this!”, but I believe anyone who wants to can!
You’d be amazed what you can do if you have the desire and willingness to learn and develop your skills, you can certainly draw portraits like these!
So that leads me to tell you about this:
I’ve been recently thinking about creating an in-depth course on drawing.
My plan is that it will be a very comprehensive and detailed course outlining everything you would need to know to eventually be able to draw pictures just like these on your own!
I want to make it simple to understand and show step by step examples with plenty of pictures to help you along the process.
So I can really use your input!
Do you have any suggestions for what you think would be helpful to you in this course?
Do you struggling with understanding how to accurately draw eyes?
What do you think is the most challenging aspect of shading?
Would you like to know more about freehand drawing?
Do you want to know how to highlight hairs over a dark background?
I would be open to any ideas you have, and most likely will incorporate all of them into the course.
It may take me years to develop and complete this, but I think it would be very beneficial to anyone who is serious about wanting to learn to draw well, and I really, really want to be able to help those who are aspiring to become artists to develop their talent and express themselves to the best of their ability!
Knowing what my readers are interested in learning makes it much easier for me to know how to create a product that you can really use and find educational value in!
So thank you for leaving comments below, and you have a wonderful day! And if you enjoyed what you’ve seen, please subscribe to my youtube channelfor more videos like the one I posted today!
I spent the majority of the last week working on changes to my website, including a move to a different host… because of this some of you may not have received notifications of the last two post that I made.
Have you ever wanted to draw hair but get frustrated because every time you try, it looks like this?
But you want to draw hair like this:
How can you go from drawing hair as demonstrated in the first two examples, to drawing as demonstrated by next two? It seems like drawing hair should simple.
It seems like you should be able to just draw a lot of strands of hair, and the end result should look like hair, right?
Maybe you’ve spent hours painstakingly drawing thousands of hairs just to get it right but still can’t seem to figure out what’s wrong or how to improve it. The more hairs you add, the worse it seems to look. It’s frustrating and it makes you want to throw your hands in the air and say, “I give up. I guess I just don’t have what it takes to draw hair!”
Look at the examples I provided above. The first two are drawn with individual pencil lines to simulate hair but don’t look realistic in any way.
The problem is that when we draw hair like this, our brain has already memorized what it believes hair looks like when it tries to translate hair onto paper. When you look at a photograph of curly hair, your brain instantly says, “Oh, that’s just a bunch of squiggly, curly lines.” Right?
So when you try drawing the hair the way that you’re seeing in your mind, you think to yourself, “It doesn’t look like what I’m seeing!”
And you’re right: It doesn’t!
You need to trick your brain into NOT RECOGNIZING what you’re looking at.
Yes, you read that right. You want your brain to NOT know what it’s looking at.
When your brain has a way to identify the image, it’s already working against you by giving you wrong information on how to translate it onto paper.
I made a blog post about one way that you can accomplish fooling your brain by holding the reference photo upside down. There are a couple of other ways that you can also do this:
Cut a one-inch square out of the center of a piece of paper. Cover your reference picture and only draw what appears in the one-inch square.
Make a copy of your reference picture, and cut it into several pieces. Try drawing each piece individually.
These exercises will help you to start seeing the bits and pieces as unrecognizable shapes with varied tonal values, and this will trick your brain into actually copying what it’s SEEING without the conflicting messages of the brain telling you what it needs to look like vs what you are looking at.
Once you learn to see, you can draw anything.
With all that said, let me go into some ways that you can improve your hair drawing skills!
I found a hair photo online (photo credit to neilgeorgeblog.com) to use as an example.
What do you see when you begin trying to draw hair like this? It seems rather complex, doesn’t it?
Some of you might be tempted to try drawing it like this:
And some of you might see the wavy hair and do something like this:
These are obviously very oversimplified drawings to make the point so that you can see clearly where the problems might be.
With both examples, neither was done by looking at what the picture actually looks like.
Let me show you a better way.
Imagine that the hair is one solid shape – NOT a bunch of hairs- with a range of tones (lights, darks, and medium shades).
Create an outline of the shape. If you have a difficult time drawing the outline, trace it.
(The image below is 2 inches, but you can do whatever size you like).
Next, take some time and pay attention to the sections of hair. Define them with lines, and don’t worry about them being perfect. Just get them as close as you can, and like I said before, tracing is ok if you need it!
Sometimes it helps to squint your eyes and look at it that way. Don’t look for the individual hairs. Look for the lines that separate one section from another section. This might take some practice.
The next step would be to find all of the places where there are shadows in the picture. Squint your eyes again, and ask yourself where the shadows are. Also ask yourself, “How dark is this shadow?”, and use the pressure on your pencil lead accordingly to try to be sure your shadow is as dark as the shadow you see in the photo. A 4B- 6B pencil is perfect for these darker shadows.
Next, grab a blending stump or a q-tip, and blend the whole area. The blending stump will grab the graphite from the shadows and transfer it all around the area for you smoothly.
Notice that I have not been drawing any lines to indicate hair yet, I have only focused on the tones.
Next, get out a kneaded eraser and again examine your reference picture. Where are the highlights? Try the squinting technique again and it’s easier to see where the lights and shadows are. Once you’ve decided where the highlights are, tap your kneaded eraser on all those areas to create the lighter tones. You may also darken your shadows if need be. Do you see how this is already starting to look like hair?
I still have not added the individual hairs, and it already looks like hair.
At this point, I start adding strands of hair, all around the outside, using a wispy pencil motion so that it looks natural. Along the top of the head, I create some lines going down around the head (on the right side, the direction of the hair goes toward the right, and on the left it goes toward the left, and in the middle, it goes straight down).
I also get my cap eraser, which has a sharp, straight edge, and use it to draw light hairs in various places. You can see an example of me using this technique in my rose tutorial.
I can do this however long I like and refine from here. But do you see how in this quick drawing, all it took was defining the shape and the tones, and not the hairs, in order for it to look like hair?
Now that I’ve added a few stray hairs, it looks even MORE like hair (image below). How can you know where to begin these hair strands?
Pay close attention to The reference photo, and you will notice that some of the hairs begin at the top of the head and they go down about halfway is and come out with a slight curl…
…some of them you may not see until about halfway down and they might wisp out towards the bottom.
It all depends on the individual picture, but just be sure to study your reference photo closely to get an idea of where the beginning and the end of each hair might be!