6 Ways to Make a Mixed-Media Portrait Unique

“I don’t like art.”

You can imagine my shock when my 11-year-old son said that recently. I somehow refrained from passing out or freaking out, and kept my cool as I tried to dig a little deeper and find out what he really meant. Surely, my son, my son, doesn’t dislike art. Right?

After we talked about it a little more, I learned that he doesn’t like the structured format of his art class at school. He has to do things just like he’s told, he explained, and if he doesn’t get it right, he has to do it over. Rather than telling him, “Welcome to the real world,” I replied with something that I’ve said many times: “You must know the rules before you can break them.” There’s a right way and a wrong way for most things, even in the creative world, but once you know the difference, you can make an educated decision to veer off the main course to put your own spin on things.

Mixed-media portrait tips | Pam Carriker, ClothPaperScissors.com
A Colorful Journey Ahead (acrylic and graphite on watercolor paper, 12×9) by Pam Carriker (PIN this!)

That’s where Pam Carriker comes in. In Pam’s book Mixed Media Portraits, she explains the technical aspects of how to draw a face–the shape of the head, facial features such as the eyes and ears, and how to push and pull the standard rules to come up with a unique piece of realistic or abstract art. Here’s a preview of Pam’s techniques (learn even more in her “Face Mask” art workshop DVD).

How to Make a Stylized Mixed-Media Portrait by Pam Carriker

You can begin to explore your own style by paying attention to a few things and by tweaking your own face maps. While there are many “rules” to drawing portraits, we are here, because, as mixed-media artists, we know there’s even more fun to be had when we play around and bend a few rules! That said, there are some things that can make a face look off kilter. This is why it’s important to start with a good foundation for facial feature placement. This will help you when you are trying to identify things that aren’t working in your drawings and paintings.

Mixed-media portrait by Jane Spakowsky | ClothPaperScissors.com
Talking to Myself (mixed media on 300-lb. watercolor paper, 30.5×23) by Jane Spakowsky (www.jane-spakowsky.com), featured in Mixed Media Portraits

Here are some facial features that can be easily tweaked to help create a more stylized look:
1. The shape of the head can be oval, round or square, and can be changed once the facial features have been established.
2. The eyes should remain in the middle of the head vertically, but you can play with spacing them farther apart. The face is about five eye widths wide. If you want to break this rule, you can make the eyes extra large, but keep one eye width between the eyes.
3. The nose can be longer or shorter than normal. Change the attitude by moving the nostrils up, down or centering them.
4. The mouth can vary greatly in shape and size and should fall about halfway between the bottom of the nose and the chin.
5. Exaggerate the thickness of the neck.
6. Move the hairline backward or forward to create very different looks. ~Pam

Continue learning more with Pam’s popular, five-star “Face Mask” art workshop, which walks you through an introspective art journaling exercise.

As for my son–by the end of our conversation, he was telling me how much he actually liked to draw. He’s currently working on a gaming-inspired character, and I couldn’t be happier. He likes art!

Happy trail blazing,

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Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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