Portraits, Actually trying to making them look like the person you are trying to draw.

Portraits love them or hate them they have been around for centuries. The fore runner of the photograph.     I have created a few portraits over the years but I have struggled with them massively.  The big debate with a lot of artists is, Is it considered true art if you have used such tools like using a grid, working from a photo, using a projector or camera obscura (depending upon your era) or heaven forbid you trace your image.

Various Portraits
Portraits on Unusual Media
iris apfel
Iris Apfel mounted on a blue display torso. The lines of the dress patterns represent the lines a plastic surgeon would make to the body.

Personally I have to uses these kinds of tools.  I would never get a portrait done; I have spent many hour upon frustrating hour trying to just get that correct shape that makes us all individual, its the difference in making Robbie Williams look like Robbie Williams and not Norman Wisdom.

But then you put you art out on various social media platforms to hopefully get some constructive feedback and then you get 1 and sometimes more as I have found,  who’s message stares out at your off your phone screen, with a look of horror ” You used a grid, that’s not art, that’s cheating”.

Is it though?

Some, like well-known British artist David Hockney, believe that Old Master painters including Johannes Vermeer, Caravaggio, da Vinci, Ingres, and others used optical devices such as the camera obscura to help them achieve accurate perspective in their compositions. Hockney’s theory, officially called the Hockney-Falco thesis (includes Hockney’s partner, physicist Charles M. Falco) postulates that advancements in realism in Western art since the Renaissance were aided by mechanical optics rather than merely being the result of improved skills and abilities of the artists.


When at college my tutor told me this little fact too, but I really felt it was like cheating too, but I had such little patience to sit there repetitively going through the motions of scribbling, rubbing out, re drawing, rubbing out, carving holes through my paper, rubbing out and then lobbing my pencil over the other side of the room in frustration; I ended up using the projector.  Not only did I get instant gratification it helped massively with time constraints of projects.


Yeah well I did and I do……still…..again its the speed element, I even use carbon paper :0.

But why do some artist feel that is so wrong, why are you not an artist if you don’t paint in the moment, without your subject in front of you from a photo and you will be dammed if you think about even using a tool to aid you to do this.

sid 16
Sid James ( approx 3ft) Charcoals and chalks
norm 11
Norman Wisdom, Blue & Black Bic Biro’s on a 1939 Daily Mail broad sheet news paper. Normal is not only in the wrong time period for this news paper he is deliberately off centre. Portraying Norman’s ability for getting it wrong.

Don’t get me wrong I am not slamming on any artist who feel this, their points are actually very valid and doing what I just mentioned does have a very different effect on your out put of art.  But they do have a tendency to make you feel that you should not even think about picking up a pencil if you cant draw a perfect portrait.

Personally I can’t and never will be able to draw a portrait without the aid of some tool.  I feel using a grid is a little more challenging and is a little more closer too……..not cheating for the want of a better phrase.   I don’t know if my being a suffer of Aphantasia makes any difference to my ability to be able to do this but for me personally the art is about the joy I get from doing it.


I will still keep posting my art for those critiques and no doubt will still get those glaring messages of HOW DARE YOU CALL YOURSELF AN ARTIST AND TRACE.

But all are entitled to their thoughts as well.  We all know art is a very debated subject.


All of these portraits have been created using either grids or carbon paper.

Below is a self portrait drawn with copic pens and fine liners on used teabags which had been stitched into a canvas.

Till next time happy arting 😉

Tea Bag Art



3 thoughts on “Portraits, Actually trying to making them look like the person you are trying to draw.”

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