What questions do you ask yourself when you are painting?

Have you ever experienced during drawing or painting a portrait that you were lost in all the details, not really knowing what exactly you should focus on and what exactly you should do next?

Here are 10 questions that I usually ask myself when drawing or painting a portrait:

1. Are the big proportions correct? This is the most important thing. If your big proportions are wrong….well everything will be wrong. You can help yourself to compare the width with the height. And width and height of the head, neck and body. This will help a lot.

2. Am I complicating too much too soon? In the beginning of the drawing process, notice that the beginning process of painting is actually drawing. In the beginning you should simplify as much as possible. Make everything simple like geometric shapes. When simple masses will be correct you can move on to break them down and start finding more specific information inside the shapes and masses.

3. Does this portrait inspire me? Does it awaken emotions? Or is it too stiff? Painting a portrait in a beautiful dynamic gesture is very important as the impact of the plane gesture of the outlined shape awakens emotions.

4. Where is my eye drawn to? Is it the crazy hair? Too contrasty background? In your painting you need to know what element of the painting is the most important one. Usually it is the face, more so the eyes. Did you manage to drawn attention of the viewer towards this important part or did something else on the painting catch their attention?

5. What are the emotions that I would like to convey with this portrait? Does mood, expression, lines, colours, light and shadow, contrast and composition serve the Idea and the emotions that you are expressing?

6. Are the masses turning? Does the portrait look like it will pop out from the painting? Understanding how to create an illusion with soft changes in values and chroma is crucial. You don’t want to do the mistake and paint a flat portrait.

7. Observe the edges…what is my edge control? Are all of my edges sharp? Soft? Having a control with edges gives to a painting a next level of sophistication, it is very important as it adds the depth, variety, form, beauty…it is a great thing to add ;)

8. Are my lights thicker than my shadows? Adding another dimension to your portrait is having a variety of thickness and transparency. Where lights are nice and thick and they feel like they are sticking out of the painting, helping with a beautiful 3D effect and amazing form. The transparency and thinness of shadows help to create depth and beautiful contrast and will give a beautiful path for eyes to wander around.

9. Are my shadows calling too much attention? Is there too much sharpness and contrast inside of the shadows? Taking care that the shadows are unified and are not dominant over lights (unless your main goal is to have dominant shadows) is very important as the lights are the storytellers and the shadows are supporters of the main plot.

10. Does it look like a photo? Does a painting of Bouguereau or Caravaggio look like a photo? No? The help of the technology can be of great importance, but if you paint a painting like a photo….why bother painting it…just print it and it will do. Your painting shouldn’t look like a photo…put some of your spirit and style into your brushstrokes ;)

I hope these questions and answers help you to create more fulfilling portraits and paintings.

I wish you a happy drawing and painting.

Nik Anikis


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