The Challenge of a Close-up Family Scene


This is sort of a part two from my post Friday night about drawing my wife, and the challenges of art involving people you are close to. Basically, the goal I’m striving for is to get some more accurate sketches of my wife, since several I’ve done in the past didn’t quite look like her. The first attempt I think worked out pretty well, and now I’m upping the ante a bit. That sketch definitely looked like her, but she’s looking down and it seemed like an “easy mode” attempt. In other words, successful but we could probably place an asterisk next to it.

This time, I went with a close-up view of mostly just faces. Close-up and faces forward would be a real challenge to see if I could accurately depict her. There is no hiding behind down-turned faces when it’s pretty much only heads in the drawing! For bonus points, I added our girls. Here’s how it turned out:


Overall, I’m going to call this a success. I really like the sketch! It turned into a pretty funny scene, but that was actually sort of unintentional. When I started out, I was really going for my wife and our oldest smiling, with our youngest being her serious self as usual. As I progressed, my wife’s expression changed to kind of a wry humor at our oldest’s reaction. And the oldest kiddo went from a normal smile to either a forced smile, a toddler’s discomfort with being bothered, or a mischievous look. As the expressions shifted, I didn’t fight it at all because I thought it was an interesting direction. You can almost see this change in the progression .gif I included below:

Amdall sketch three progress

I had fun with this one, and I like the results from both efforts in this two part series.




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  • You really mastered the coloring well there πŸ™‚

    • Thanks again, although I’m not sure about mastering coloring. I do think I’m getting better though! Especially compared to my first attempt. My best lesson learned? Using purplish colors to shade around the eyes makes people look like zombies

      • Ah, I see a lot of progress at least, especially comparead to the other drawings in the past I saw πŸ™‚

        Hah, one should do a “best lessons learned” post and have things as that purple shade around eyes equals zombies included!

      • Ha ha, yes that sounds like a fun post. It could be “do’s and don’ts”

        Do: Paint your family
        Don’t: Paint your family to look like they’re extras in a George Romero movie

      • Exactly πŸ™‚ Good fun!

  • Hey Jon – As far as what you are saying about how hard it is to get a likeness of those we love and know the best – I think THAT would be dependent on who you ask the question to about if you are getting a good likeness of your wife. From MY standpoint, not knowing your wife at all, I would say that you MUST be getting a fair likeness of her simply because, looking back over your work I can totally pick her out in each one she is in! You, on the other hand, know her so well that if even one thing is slightly off, it will make you feel as if she is not recognizable (this is also a problem when doing a portrait of someone as they themselves have a very intimate and detailed idea of what they should look like!) I think the best judges of such things are probably those who know the person well, but not really intimately and those who are quite good at recognizing people. Anyway, that’s just me pontificating because the subject interests me – this is nice, keep up the good work! πŸ™‚

    • Hey Hilda, you know that’s a pretty great point! Now that you say it like that, even the one that I was most critical of is actually recognizable as her. I think you’re right about the best person to judge, too. Her mom might not think it looks exactly right, but maybe someone she worked with a couple years ago would have different feedback.

      Have you run into this too? Where you’ve done a series of a bunch of art featuring one person you know well, and you just don’t like one of them? You can’t figure out what’s wrong with it, but it just doesn’t look right?

  • I know I mentioned the colored pencil painting technique as a possible option for you (because you had expressed interest in painting but were more comfortable with drawing) but I just want to say I really like the way you are using the pencils. The way you lay down the lines seems loose and free to me yet results in precision/accuracy in the final piece. Rather than treating the sketch like a coloring book, you seem to be applying color as an extension of your drawing style, and I think that is a really great approach.

    • Wow, thank you Anna I appreciate you saying that. I guess your style follows you everywhere, even to other mediums!

      Also, I really like that colored pencil painting, but I question whether I have the patience/ability to lay color down like that. I checked out Alyona Nickelsen’s website, and her art really blew me away. It’s so incredible that she can create images like that using pencils.

      I do still want to try painting someday, but I’d also like to try layering pencil for that paint effect. That butterfly example you did certainly got my wheels turning. I just have to try to nudge myself out of my comfort zone – I’m really quick to settle into a mode, even though I know it’s good to branch out

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