So many artists and non-artists alike tell me: “but faces are the hardest to draw!” This isn’t true, but it will be hard if you don’t know the right artist tools to help you capture likeness in any portrait you create.
Hi my name is Carrie and today on Artist Strong I have a wonderful resource to share with you called Secrets to Drawing Realistic Faces by Carrie Stuart Parks.
I might be biased, since we share the same first name, but Stuart Parks did a brilliant job of laying out clear to understand tips and tricks she’s used as an artist for decades. She has a unique background as well: she spent years drawing as a forensics artist – someone who draws the likeness of suspected criminals based on the description of witnesses. This also means she has unique training, which includes composite drawing that came from the FBI.
I saw a huge shift in my ability to capture likeness after reading just the FIRST section of this book. While I’ve read many books and had access to all kinds of teachers in my own lifetime, none were as clear and concise about measurement the way Stuart Parks is. I love her tips on measurement, which immediately helped me see more accurately the proportional decisions I made when I draw people.
In this book, she walks through everything, from the materials she uses and recommends to each facial feature as well as discussion on “putting it all together.”
Common mistakes she notes artists can make:
Believing the ability to capture likeness is an innate ability.
- Sometimes I feel like a broken record talking about this but drawing and capturing likeness IS A SKILL. YOU CAN DO IT if you want to learn the right techniques and practice. Stuart Parks also makes this argument and showcases student work to help counter this myth of art as talent.
- The eyes do not have an entire line around them. In fact, there are folds of flesh for the top and bottom lids of our eyes. We often outline noses too much too. She gives advice on how else we can lay out and place these features on the paper without flattening from the start.
Placement of eyes.
- Eyes are not only in the middle of our head, but they are also not always one eye width apart. That is a baseline, average description of people. This is why measurement is so important to the success of your portrait.
Men, women and children all have slightly different norms when you discuss proportions.
- Stuart Parks offers us advice and key pieces of information about each gender and age and how this impacts what we draw.
There is a way to capture the feeling and accuracy you want for hair.
- She offers visuals with every piece of advice and technical instruction she offers. This part is great since I know a lot of you say hair is very difficult, too.
After using some times from her book I did a quick self-portrait drawing, the first I’ve done in ages. It took me, maybe 15 minutes, and I was able to accurately and comfortably capture my likeness. I know her book has informed my practice and I hope to share it’s sound information with more art students, which is why I’ve highlighted this book today.
You can buy it through the link below this video or take it out from your local library, like I did. I’m so glad I did!
Be Creatively Courageous: What have you found to be the hardest part of drawing people? Tell me about it in the comments below.
Thank you to those of you who purchase the book through my affiliate link. It is at no additional cost to you, and helps me continue the work I do here on Artist Strong.
Thanks for watching Paula!
I could use a book like the one shown here. How much does it cost.
Hi Kathleen, I got a copy through my library for free. On Amazon it says 15 USD for the ebook or 8 dollars or more for the paperback. I have a link below the video that brings you to the purchase information if you want to buy it via Amazon.
Thank you so much. It helped me a lot
I’m so glad to hear it Pablo! The book is a wonderful reference.
Thank you Carrie for your valuable information… I would love a spot in your upcoming LFI course… I have gone through a couple of books and am realizing that I can improve with practice and find I still need visual and verbal prompts to keep me practicing… Thanks for helping me realize I can improve with practice…😊💚…
You are most welcome Karen!
I have her book and it is far and away the best book on drawing faces!
I’ve seem to lost the page where the lessons are some how ?
Hi Beaux, I’m not sure what you mean? How can I help you?
Thanks for watching and reading!
Art is a talent
No. It isn’t. And that’s part of the myth I’m out here to dispel. We give way too much weight to the idea of talent. We have control and choice to improve our skills in art. Or not. I have many articles on this topic you can look at! Or read the book Peak by Anders Ericsson. Or Grit by Andrea Duckworth. Or The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. Read, learn, grow! Thanks for reading.
Thank you Carrie. I do agree with your last reply re:artistic ability. We can learn and develop what we have intrinsically.
Yes! Something in our lives can absolutely trigger the desire and commitment to improve our skill. I like the following definition of talent from Angela Duckworth: “When I say “talent,” I mean specifically the rate at which a person improves in skill.”
I so agree !!
I got all of Carries book at the library and marinated over them the moment I got home. Yes I know….. she opened up a huge door for me. I love drawing faces now. And see everyone differently.
Love her detailed explications and illustrations . Thanks for your article. Reenforced all that I experienced.
I’m glad to hear about your success and inspiration from her work! Thanks for sharing Marg and happy drawing 🙂
Excited to read it!
Thanks for the information! I would love to win a spot on LFI 2018!
I tried to sign up for emails but I have not received an email asking me to confirm?
It may take an hour or two. Can you email me Carrie@ArtistSTrong.com if you don’t get it? I can look around on my end to see what happened if you don’t receive it.
I just entered the LFI contest by subscribing. I hope I did this correctly I would love to win a free spot in what will be my 2nd year!
Thanks so much for your gratitude.
Thanks so much for being here Julie <3
Thanks so much Carrie!
Most welcome Maria I hope it helps.
How exciting to see the line up of fine artist for next year! Thank you for your tutorial and chance to have a free seat at the table!
I have the book ever since Kara first recommended it. Thanks.
Thanks for the opportunity to win a spot!!! So many talented artists next year! Can’t wait….
I’m very excited with the LFI 2018 lineup and the theme
for the classes! I want to win so badly. Thanks for the chance.
Most welcome Julie
Thank you Carrie! I came to your site to sign up for the LFI giveaway and ended up buying a book!
I always struggle with hair and I’m hoping this book will help me with that. PS I also signed up for your newsletter.
Ha thanks Diana! Hair is something that constantly comes up for students. Keep persisting – you will get there! And thank you for choosing to be part of the Artist Strong community <3
LFI CONTESTANT 2018.
Looking forward to it.
Thanks Vivian 🙂
Thank you for this tip. I am going to purchase this book! I’m sure it will help me in my endeavor to become a portrait artist. I am also a contestant for the Lets Face It 2018 class and have signed up for your news letter!
Thank you Catherine – have a great day!
Thanks so much ! I would love to win a spot LFI 2018….would like to take your class and I Love Kara’s classes.
Would love to win a spot in LFI 2018. I have been following your blog and am a member(lurker) of soulbrush sessios on Facebook. This month I got brave and signed up for the collaboration…weeks. I am a very beginning artist so I’m a little nervous of what people will think of my part but excited to put myself out there and take a chance. I was watching the video on this post and chuckled when you got to the part about outlining….I have to try hard not to do this. It’s a struggle I have with myself that I loose often. Look forward to your class in LFI studying the Masters through the eyes of all of you is a wonderful idea and I’m so excited.
Teri BRAVO! I’m so happy you are taking a risk with the collab. You’ll be amazed at how it all comes together. 🙂 Thank you for sharing and being open with your vulnerability. <3
Im learning so muc from LFI 2017. Would love to win a spot in LFI2018 and continue my studies
Thanks Kimberly for sharing
Hi Carrie, I love painting faces but need help to grow. I’ve been reading your blog and love your style. Hope I subscribed successfully. I bought Carrie parks book last week ! So it’s practice, practice.
Thank you Diana! I appreciate your comment. Practice practice is it! It’s important to engage in deliberate practice. I talk about it in my free Drawing Drills challenge and in the book review on Peak by Anders Ericsson. Here’s the video in case you haven’t seen it: https://www.artiststrong.com/artist-mythbusting-the-talented-artist/
(People practice “wrong” and slow down their growth. A researcher has found a way to help us improve the rate at which we grow our skill.)
Oops, forgot to add I’d simply die for a place on LFT 2018
Can’t wait to get book I am in year 2 with LFI Most difficult thing for me is capturing personality
Yes personality is tricky, but I think that comes when we finally stop worrying so much about likeness. So I often encourage people to focus on developing skill to the point they are fully confident, or mostly confident at the least to start playing and not worry so much about copying likeness. Then, the magic happens!
It is so exciting to see artists affering help to those who are wanting to create and satisfy an urge to learn. Giving them paths to follow help with confidence so thanks to artists like you , who are willing to share your knowledge to encourage others to create. I love portraiture and would so love to win a place in the upcoming online class. Keep creating everyone, practice, practice and practice again and keep all your work so you can see your path of improvement.
Great advice and encouragement Heather! Thanks for posting, and for being here.
Mastering the human face is my next challenging frontier to tackle, and being your student again would be the bomb! I’ve got all my fingers crossed to win this gift spot in your LFI class!
Thank you lovely!
I see I’m a day late with my comment but I used to draw portraits and stopped for over 20 years-brain issue. I tried to start again but just couldn’t get anywhere. This book is truly the best I have found. In days my drawings had such depth. My sister even remarked about how much the eyes looked the same as photo. She isn’t easily impressed. I have been trying to get to this point for almost two years. Soooo happy.
Joan thank you so much for sharing your story and journey. AND I’m SO SO happy to hear this book helped you return to this art you enjoy so much. Congratulations on your persistence! Hard work can pay off 🙂
I was in a class a couple of years ago. I expressed to the instructor that I could not draw a face. She said “yes, you can, now go sit down and draw a face”. And I drew a really nice face. Not great, but since then I have been pulling pictures of different faces to see different features and skin tones. I am going to look for the book you spoke of and I would love to have a place in LFT 2018.
Good for you Susan! Keep at it, and with the right kind of practice, I have no doubt you can succeed to the level you hope to achieve!
Thanks so much for this opportunity! I’m a LFI contestant and participated in LFI 2016 and learnt heaps! so excited for what’s to come! I believe we are all capable of creating art, we just need to nurture it!😍
Well said Julie May! 🙂
Thank you for the opportunity. I’d really love to be a part of Let’s Face It. I want to learn how to paint expressively, putting emotions into my faces/art. <3
Thank you Emelie for sharing.
Oh my goodness how exciting, Lets face it….that would be so awesome !! Totally on my wishlist xxxx
Thank you for the opportunity!! I love the tips regarding drawing a realistic face. I was a student LFI 2016. I hope to get a spot for 2018. You are amazing talented. Will share this post of yours on my facebook.
Thanks for sharing Li Li!
I would love to continue to hone my skills in LFI 2018. Thanks for the opportunity to win a spot in this class. Peace, Ronda
I love the tips regarding drawing a realistic face
I’m glad they help!
I have always used an image when I draw.That
This is the easiest way for me. I finished
college but didn’t major in Art.
Hi Andrea, I always start with an image when I draw. That is the easiest way for me, too. I hope the community space here and all of our blog posts help everyone realize they don’t need to major in art to realize their interests in the arts <3
Hi. Dear Carrie
Greetings and courtesy, dear lady. I really appreciate your efforts and wish you success. I am very interested in painting and it has always been one of my biggest dreams to be able to succeed in painting. Despite the many possibilities that exist on the Internet, you may think that despite my talk about my interest in painting, I am an indifferent and inactive person, but this is not the case at all. Rather, the location of my life has always deprived me and the people of my country of everything. Yes, my country has been sanctioned by the world for many years because of its dictatorial rulers, and so have we. We are helpless and trapped. Although we have a country with a lot of wealth, we have become very helpless and poor. And you may not believe it, but despite having the most worthless money that my country, Iran, has against the world’s money, it isn’t possible to buy a Cheap books for a few dollars are very expensive and inaccessible to us. That’s why I ask you, if you have a free book among your books. Introduce me,
With the best wishes for you
Truly urs A. Jowkar from Iran, Shiraz, (Persian land).
Hi there. I googled “free how to paint books pdf” and this one came up. The internet has all kinds of free resources. Keep looking and I’m sure you’ll find more helpful resources.
Eyes, Eyes Eyes. They defined the person. I can never really
get the right although I am much better then when I first started.
This book sounds like something I can use. I have brought a few
how to draw portrait books and they have helped. Thanks for the info.
I’m so glad you found this helpful! Eyes can be really powerful. I’ve also heard several artists lately tell me its the mouth, which I never considered before…but can also see why that feature can also really help with likeness and a sense of spirit.