Working on More Realism in Family Portraits


I have drawn four total sketches of my wife. From what I can see looking at these previous drawings, I don’t think I’ve ever quite captured her accurately. Years ago, I did one of me and her together, and it wasn’t bad. I also did a rough sketch I used for my proposal, which looked like her but was no Rembrandt in terms of realism. Then, much more recently, I made one of our family with all four of us. Although it was probably the closest to being accurate of any, I ended up basically ruining it by trying to add color (we all looked like zombies…it was my first color attempt). Then, the most recent was one of my wife and our girls, but that one really looks the least like her; she’s almost not recognizable, the more I look at it.

It’s sort of an interesting phenomenon; I’ve found that it’s deceptively difficult to sketch the ones you love the most. I’m not sure why that’s the case. Could it be self-imposed pressure? When I’m drawing my wife or our kids, I sometimes find myself thinking, “easy does it, don’t mess up this line.” It’s like when the subject is more important, I get too focused on doing it right, and it doesn’t come together. This is a lesson I’m learning time and time again with this drawing stuff; loose and easy is good. The sketches I just jump into and let flow usually seem to work out the best.

So, I decided this was a great thing to work on next. I did some brainstorming, and came up with two to work on. The first of these features my wife, her sister, and our oldest kiddo. In this one, my wife is helping her open a package, while her sister watches the show. I tried to stay loose, and part of that was compelling myself to move faster. I think you can see byproducts of going possibly too fast in how the box looks; the lines are not even close to straight. Interestingly though, I really like how this one turned out!


My wife and her sister both look fairly true to life. In some ways, this sketch of my wife was a cop-out, because she’s not even looking up. But consider this baby steps leading up to the big test up next, which will be a close-up drawing of her and our two kids! At least, that’s the plan unless I mess it up too bad.

As a bonus, here’s a looped time progression .gif of the sketch. I enjoy seeing these on other artist sites, whether they’re animations or still images in series. It’s fun seeing how art comes together.

Amdall animated sketch 3 family portrait

Update: I finished the second sketch in this series, which is a close-up sketch of my wife and our girls. I captured some interesting expressions, and I think it actually looks like everyone!


  • Good to see something of your development process in the gifs, good idea, though remembering to take the photos is, as you say, tricky when you are in the flow.
    I know what you mean about drawing people who are close to you. I find it takes an effort to change how I am looking at and observing the sitter, from seeing them as friend or family with whom I have an emotional attachment and relationship to a more detached, objective way of seeing. This can feel disconcerting at first, as if I am switching off something in myself that feels a fundamental part of my self-definition. It’s close to a meditation experience I find, bringing a clarity of view that is also quite relaxing and allows the process of drawing to capture some of the things that help define the sitter.
    I don’t know how much you work from photos compared to direct observations but for myself I find it helpful to do both, spending time noticing how people move and are animated.
    This gives me an idea for a blog post so you may see this again !
    I hope this helps and best wishes, thanks for the ‘like’!

  • Nice work, I love to see the process other artists take to get the end product!

    • Much appreciated, Planet Metal Head – I’ve always enjoyed seeing that on other blogs too. Artists have such different processes, it’s fun to see how others approach things. Especially when it comes to different mediums that I don’t have experience with!

  • I agree, that gif is super cool, gives a great insight into the process 🙂 Well mastered, too. Still, the drawing furthest to the left makes me smile instantly. Captured so well.

  • Pingback: Amdall Gallery - The Challenge of a Close-up Family Scene

  • Faces are super hard to draw (especially when you’re trying to capture a specific person), and I’m impressed by the realism of your sketches AND the way you infuse character and expression into each face. Also, the .gif is a super cool idea! First time I’ve seen it used in this way.

    • I appreciate that, Anna! I think I’m okay at sketching people mostly because it’s always what I’ve focused on. Unfortunately, any mild skill I have doesn’t translate at all to landscapes, buildings, inanimate objects…actually, anything other than people. Ha ha, really a one-trick-pony.

      The .gif thing is kind of fun, if I can remember to take photos throughout the process. I often forget though, even when I mean to from the start. If you want to try it, I usually use Google Photos (Create -> Animation) for a basic one, or EZGif ( if I want more robust options.

  • I’m really enjoying your work!

Leave a Reply