Photo by Thรกi An on Unsplash

January 2022: I wanted to set a routine for myself and practice painting twice a week. They say that practice makes perfect and, in art, I believe that. This month, I tried portraits. ๐Ÿ˜œ

My Previous Experience

Portraits has been quite a challenge for me. I initially started with charcoal and itโ€™sโ€ฆ wellโ€ฆ not easy for beginners ๐Ÿ˜†

I learned that in doing portraits, I need a skill to draw a face. I am familiar with the grid method but my problem is that after doing all that hardwork my drawing still doesnโ€™t look like my subject. It is quite frustrating that the final product doesn’t meet my standards.

Which begs the question โ€œAre my standards too high? If yes, how do I fix it?โ€

Beginnerโ€™s Technique

I downloaded an app on my phone that allows me to edit photos. Originally, I wanted to edit my photo so I could have a pop-art effect. My plan is to print it, trace it on a paper and color it with colored pens. Maybe add some zentangle patterns for added effect. This is the result:

Made from colored pens

It was good and I was happy because it looked like me. Yay! ๐Ÿ˜„

But the reason I started painting again is to learn how to paint. So colored pens is not an option.

As I looked through the app, I saw that thereโ€™s a flow effect and it converts your photo into a watercolor painting. I thought โ€œHmmโ€ฆ maybe I could use this as a reference to practice. โ€œ The color separation is clear enough to identfy the shadow from the highlight. 

Sample photo generated from the app

I could print the photo, trace it and then paint. I thought it would be easy and good first step for beginners, like me. 

But before that, I thought to myself โ€œ I should set some standards. There should be a point where I could say that I am satisifed and it is good enough.โ€ And so I decided that I will start grading my work, list some improvements and apply those on my other future works.

So I grabbed a photo of my nephew and began the process. This is how it went:

I tried using oil paint because the paint stays wet and it will be easy for me to blend the colors. I gave it a 6 โญ๏ธ. It looked nice, it looked like my nephew. I love the blending of the colors but I think it can be improved. I listed out the things that I liked and the things that I think should be improved

What I like:

  • I like the blending of the colors in the skin
  • I thought the nose is good
  • For a beginner, I think the result is good enough

What needs to be improved:

  • Shadows could be darker
  • Add more highlights in the eyes and lips
  • The crumpling of the shirt 

I was satisfied with the result from the oil painting and I am eager to try again! ๐Ÿ˜Ž I took out my watercolor and gave it another try. And hereโ€™s the result:

Cutie Pie!

I loved it! โค๏ธ I gave this an 8 โญ๏ธ. I listened to my critique and darken the shadows. I added bold colors so it will be distinct and I made sure that the mouth and shirt are taken care of.

While painting this, I realize that I have lots of doubts in my ability. I am holding myself back because I am afraid to make a mistake. I want my first try to be perfect even though I am just a beginner. I am putting a lot of pressure on myself. 

Listing out those critiques helped me a lot. It pushed me to not make the same mistakes again. And I am more aware of what I have to do because it became my goal. ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐ŸŽจ

I was so happy with the result that I decided to practice more and paint my family. 

The result varies but all in all I am happy ๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ’ฏ


In conclusion, I learned a lot from this experience. I learnedโ€ฆ

  • how to be bold and how to embrace your fears
  • how to be forgiving and allow yourself to make mistakes
  • how to set standards and critique my work
  • that in portrait painting, you should start with the eyes and focus on that. It makes a lot of difference if the eyes are correct.
  • not to expect perfection

This was a fun experience and I look forward to next month!

If you would like to see some of my work, please check out my pages: