Shapes Equal Likeness

Shapes Equal Likeness

I wanted to share with you Michael’s critique. This week Michael shared one of his drawings in our member critique gallery. He had mentioned that he might have chosen the wrong photo.

I mentioned to Michael at the beginning of the critique that the photo was a good one. It’s good because it has some pretty good shadow shapes to cling onto. Michael is off to great start with his drawing, he just needs to focus on shapes.

If I had to give one piece of advice to any artist who aspires to draw portraits with a likeness, it would be to focus on drawing shapes, not things. Don’t draw the eyelid, draw the shadow shape around the eyelid.

Do not draw the lips with an outline, draw the shadow shape that makes up the upper lip and the shadow shape under the lower lip. In order to capture a person’s likeness, you must capture and draw their shapes accurately.

Now some would say that I’ve said this before, many times. Yes, I have because it works. When it comes to portrait drawing you want to be repetitive with certain things. One, always work from a photo that has good light and shade. Two, capture the likeness not through outlines but through shapes.

The modeling comes after you have blocked in light and shadow shapes. You do not need to learn fifty portrait drawing techniques, instead, you just need to master a few.



Drawing Tutorials Online is coming up on eleven years in business helping artists pursue their passion for drawing. Now is a great time to join, I am doubling down on making the website even better with shorter more instructive lessons. I look forward to helping you improve your artwork!.


John Singer Sargent Study – Member Critique

John Singer Sargent Study – Member Critique

Arjun is a current member of Drawing Tutorials Online. Not only is Arjun a member but he contributes to the site on a weekly basis. His questions always stir up great conversations. 

He is always working at his craft of digital painting using Procreate. Arjun also signed up for my One Month Coaching where he really jump-started his progress. Arjun is a tireless artist devoting countless hours into improving his technique.

Arjun utilizes the member critique gallery on a weekly basis which is part of his weekly ritual for constant improvement. In this digital portrait painting, Arjun worked on a study of Lady Agnew of Lochnaw painted by John Singer Sargent in 1892.

Studying the great masters is a great way to learn. In this critique, I share with Arjun the importance of seeing shapes of value. These shapes represent the different surface planes on Lady Agnew’s face. The key takeaway from this critique is how to see the shapes of value, then shading them in their appropriate value.

One of the most important jobs of the portrait painter is to shade shapes in a sold way. If you have the time I would suggest working on a study of Lady Agnew the same way Arjun did. Do your best to squint to see the different values placed around the face. It will certainly help you to improve your portrait painting.



Check out Arjun’s website. Thanks again Arjun for sharing your art.


Constructive Feedback

Constructive Feedback

The keys to success when learning how to draw via an online educational site are quite simple. First, you have to take the time to sit down and watch some video. This is no easy task because many of us, including myself have short attention spans.

I recommend setting some time aside each week to watch video tutorials. Structure your time, perhaps you can watch a few tutorials at night one day a week.

Second, you have to put into practice what you have actually learned. This is where trial and error comes into play. It is a must that you actually put into practice what you have just learned.

Third, you must get constructive feedback. Getting feedback from a qualified teacher is one of the most important ingredients when learning how to draw. You could not be seeing or doing something very simple that help you to improve your art in a huge way.

I invite you to subscribe to Drawing Tutorials Online. I offer up a video critique of member work every Monday. I have been doing this for ten years in a row now. There are certain patterns that happen when learning how to draw. I can help you to fix certain things quickly while having fun.




If you are looking for constructive feedback on your artwork visit Drawing Tutorials Online to read more about our Critique Gallery.


Four Drawing Techniques To Practice

Four Drawing Techniques To Practice

As you know every Monday I film video critiques for members of Drawing Tutorials online. I have been filming video critiques for ten years now. It’s really important that you get into the habit of receiving feedback on your artwork.

The key element with the weekly critiques is context. I’m able to give you specific guidance on the artwork you’ve posted in relation to a certain course. I also answer questions that you ask. Again it’s all about context.

The other really cool thing with the critiques within the member’s area of DTO, is consistency. it’s one thing to get feedback once. It’s another to get contextual feedback on your work on an ongoing basis.

I trust the four drawing techniques taught in the video tutorial below will help you. They are simple yet hard drawing techniques to implement. They are hard because they take a lot of practice. The practice can become tedious. However, if you are looking to draw accurate portraits they are a must.



Don’t forget to sign up for my free drawing course right below. Thanks so much for watching, let me know what you think.


Four Ways To Promote Form

Four Ways To Promote Form

In this video critique of the week we help out Hillary with her life drawing. To quote Hillary, I was going for a precise likeness by searching for shadow shapes, but once the drawing looked like her, I didn’t know how to develop the forms.

To be specific there are four ways to promote the three dimensional form of the head. 

First you have to use multiple pencil strokes directions. You can use a straight up and down pencil stroke to block in tone quickly. You can also use a diagonal stoke to do this as well. However what works best in promoting form is layering form lines on top of the already established tone. 

If you just block in tone in essence you are using flat graphic shapes. Adding into the mix curved form lines will create three dimension.

Second, you will definitely want to incorporate convex lines that wrap around the form of the head starting from the contour line. Without the use of convex line your contour line will add to flat graphic look of your drawing.

Third, look for value shifts. For every different value on the head and face there is a different surface plane. Light hits form and that form comes in the way of surface planes.

Fourth, use the modeling factors when possible. For those of you who have been with Drawing Tutorials Online for a while I’ve been teaching the modeling factors for years. It’s a way of shading that enables you to turn objects from the light into the shadow via a gradation.

Of course you have to pick and choose your battles when you are completing a life drawing that goes for roughly three hours. Three hours really is not that long of a time to use all of these techniques in a complete way. However even using them partially will most certainly promote form.



Thank you so much for reading this post. If you are interested in getting your artwork critiqued in a kind and informative way, consider a membership to Drawing Tutorials Online

We post up member critiques every Monday afternoon. Thanks Hillary for sharing your work.


Portrait Painting Critique

Portrait Painting Critique

Yvon is a current member of Drawing Tutorials Online. I recently critiqued her acrylic portrait painting. The main suggestion was to utilize the line that separates the light from the dark. In essence blocking in the shadow shapes.

Without shadow shapes a portrait can become quite flat. In this particular case Yvon chose pretty amazing photo reference. If you have trouble with seeing the shadow shapes try squinting. When you squint you eliminate the small details and focus on the big light and shadow shapes.

The other main suggestion was to work with a limited color palette. Yvon had asked about using transparent tones.

My suggestion with paint, use translucency in the shadows, opacity in the lights. This will help to create form and depth.

Take a moment to check out the video below. It will definitely give you some useful painting tips.



If you are looking for feedback on your artwork, I’m here to help. I devote every single Monday to critiquing member artwork. Through the use of Drawing Tutorials Online weekly critiques you will improve faster. You will know what to start looking for.

Sometimes we can get too close to our own artwork. Another set of eyes is always helpful. Thanks for sharing Yvon!