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:

  1. 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.
  2. Outlining everything.

    • 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
I saw a huge shift in my ability to capture likeness after reading just the FIRST section of this book. #drawingtips #HOwtodraw #improvedrawing #artiststrong #howtodrawpeople

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.

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