Art Prompts from Pinterest Part 2

Welcome to part two of this series of sketches based on Pinterest art prompts. In part one, I discussed some Pinterest basics and how useful the site can be for generating drawing ideas. This weekend, I decided to finally dive into my art prompts Pinterest board and try a few subjects. I selected some expressions/photo series of Shaquille O’Neal, John Malkovich, and a non-celebrity model with the intent of putting together a few planning sketches of each, along with a larger portraits.

As it turned out, this was an overly ambitious plan. On several previous occasions (1 & 2, 3 & 4), I’ve worked on two sketches at a time. It’s a great way to keep things fresh, because if I get stuck on how to proceed or just get tired of one, I can flip to another very easily. But this was not only an attempt at working on three subjects, but it was potentially as many as 12 individual sketches on six pieces of paper! I did a good job sticking with the plan on the sketch from part one; I finished three smaller planning sketches, then a large portrait. But my plan quickly fell apart as I worked on Shaq, and I almost abandoned ship with Malkovich.

First, let’s talk about Shaq. Here’s how his large portrait turned out:

Rather than starting with the smaller sketches as I did on the previous one, I went right into the big one. This was probably a mistake. I struggled quite a bit matching his skin tone. Shaq’s skin seems like a deeper brown, but I was worried about losing my outline if I went too dark. I tried to blend some lighter reddish-browns with a few beige and peach variants, but that turned out to be a pathway to a less than accurate tone. By the time I realized I should have gone with more dark umber, the layers were too thick to blend well. At that point a light bulb finally went on: “I definitely should have done the expression/planning sketches.” It worked so well matching the previously woman’s shade of red hair, I’m not sure why I didn’t realize the value. It really would have helped to experiment a bit.

Aside from the skin tone not really matching Shaq’s, I think I captured his overall facial shape accurately. He was making a sort of goofy face in the pose I selected (which is true often for Shaq I think). Goofy or unusual facial contortions can be tricky to draw, but this worked out for the most part. I was a little worried he was starting to look bizarrely like Kanye West (might have been the original hairline and/or the chin), but I think you can tell it’s Shaq. I also forgot to draw his ears until surprisingly late in the game, which should have been another sign that I had taken on too much at once.

Now, let’s discuss where this really flamed out; actor John Malkovich.

By the time I got beyond a basic outline of John Malkovich, I was already juggling five individual sketches on three other pages. Malkovich brought me to six sketches on four pages; again, this is definitely too many for me to handle. At this point, I became a bit fatigued and was ready to finish all of them up. That fatigue is most evident in the Malcovich sketch, which looks pretty rough. First and foremost, this barely looks like the actor; if you showed me this drawing without telling me who it is, I’m not sure if I could guess. On a more basic level though, everything is a little uneven and out of place. His eyes look misaligned, as do the pupils, giving him a googly-eyed look that the actual actor doesn’t have. And the hands are not great (poorly integrated with the color in his jacket), and probably too large. Lastly, what’s up with his left eye brow? It has a mind of its own, and appears to be trying to leave his face.

I even had to go back to the sketch after I uploaded the images and started to write. Usually, the photo and upload process is a point of no return…but I had to bust out the pencils and do some retouching on poor Malkovich. It’s still not great, but you should have seen that first uploaded version! I was able to somewhat fix the mustache and some of the coloring, but major issues definitely remain.

Here’s a side-by-side progression .gif of these two drawings:

Shaq Progression Amdall
John Malkovich Progression Amdall

This was a good experiment I suppose, because I learned some limits to how many concurrent drawings I can deal with. Two are good and enjoyable, but four (or five or ten) are not a recipe for success. The Pinterest drawing prompt idea was solid though, and definitely something I’d like to look into again. It adds another method for generating ideas, which I always need. Some of my source-generation methods now include:

That’s pretty solid! I mean, I’d prefer to actually have an imagination that is fully integrated with my pencil hand…but like the Rolling Stones said, you can’t always get what you want. I think the rest is something like, “but if you try sometimes, you’ll get…to sketch some sloppy portraits as you learn how pencils work.”


  • Nice post as always! I like when people draw from reality as opposed to copying photos.
    I don’t like Pinterest, I am still on it because it’s an automatic link, just like FB or Twitter.
    Pinterest allows other people to literally steal art.
    I was wondering how do you to implement these transitions onto an image without it being a video, at least that’s what it seems to be.

    • Thanks Inese! Yes, it seems like digital art theft is probably rampant, especially for the really popular stuff. Based on what I’ve seen from Pinterest, it seems like that site in particular is built to make it easy to share other peoples’ creations. No big deal if it’s properly attributed, but how easy it would be for someone not to do that.

      I do usually draw from photos actually, although I wish I was better at capturing from life. I’ve got a ton of respect for people who work with live subjects, because I find it really challenging. I’m still very much an amateur, but hopefully I can work up to bigger art challenges as I continue learning

      As for the image transitions, you are right on – it’s not a video. Those progressions are actually .gif image files. Basically, I take photos of artwork as I draw (aiming for 4-5 if I can remember), then upload the still images to Click the blue “upload and make a GIF” button, then you can set the number of milliseconds delay for each slide. Once I’ve downloaded what it creates, I can just add that .gif image file to my post. It’s really useful, I think.

      • Thanks Jon,
        Such a very insightful response which I really appreciate.
        About Pinterest: it is not that the maker of art is visible regardless of their watermarks, etc. Sharing makes the author disappear. When people notified me that somebody was selling prints of my art, which was quite a few times, I believe that was because of Pinterest, therefore, I was sharing less and less with it.
        I am originally from Europe, that is why I was only drawing from life and real things up to recently. I did not even have a camera until 2005. It comes from the assumption that real art is created from observation and imagination rather than a photo. When I arrived to Canada, I was very surprised that it was ok for people to use photos.
        To be honest, drawing from reality is easier if one has trained eye. One can skip numerous steps, like editing a photo or enhancing it and trying different compositions and so on because you implement that all as you draw.
        I love drawing and it comes very easy to me, that is why I am not doing it too much since there is no challenge, however, looking at your beautiful works makes me feel I should draw more, too.
        I am so grateful you advised on image progressions. I have many moments when I would need exactly that. I am not paying for premium features, so, I can only insert video as a link, therefore, it would be great relief to use something like that. I had shown the progress previously only as still photos.
        I have tried videos of my work, but as you are saying, one can forget that once they have inspiration, and, basically, when art is more complex, video would become abnormally long.
        I find also that without help of somebody else, these videos very of bad quality.
        I think I will use this feature in the future.
        Portraits from life might take a while to practice, just like anything else, but it is as if learning to write, over time your eyes notice everything what you need and you already have the basic knowledge of face anatomy. There are certainly tricks, too.
        I definitely enjoy watching progress of your art, it is a great way to display it, as well. Your approach is extra efficient, especially for such art and it looks excellent.
        Thanks so much for your help and suggestions! I hope you have a wonderful day!

      • Thanks for the link Jon, it answered the question I’d also been meaning to ask πŸ‘πŸ»

        Regarding the copying of my art, it’s only ever low resolution versions of my work that’s up on any social media – that way people can copy what they want, look at it where they want but when it comes to actually trying to create a decent print then it’s Game Over.

        I’ve actually offered digital downloads on my Etsy shop, full high resolution scans which are pre-cropped into common formats. The idea being that people can print it however they want, get a mug made up, get it tattooed on their forehead or whatever.

        That would open it up to the fraudsters but due to the extremely low volume of sales (a total of 1) it’d be obvious who was making prints. Added to which I’d probably applaud them as they’d be doing better than me at selling my stuff πŸ˜‚

      • You bet, Inese and Steve! I’m glad that helped on the animated .gif images. I think I might do a “how-to” post on .gifs, because they’re actually pretty flexible and useful tools. A short guide on easily creating animations from still images, and how to make a .gif image from an actual video.

        I’ve thought about how I would feel if someone copied my sketches and tried to claim credit. To my knowledge, it hasn’t happened…but the internet is so vast, there’s no way I could know for sure. I think I’d be irritated, especially if they made any money. But, then again I’d also feel slightly validated, maybe bizarrely proud that someone thought any of this crazy stuff was worth stealing. That’s a weird thought probably. Like I said though, I’m not a professional…and for someone making a living as an artist, stealing their art is like taking from their wallets. Good idea on the smaller resolutions though Steve! I hadn’t thought about that, but maybe I should.

        That is really interesting about the differences in norms, photos versus reality, in Europe and North America. I wonder if it’s rooted at all in the longer art tradition, old masters and such in Europe. I don’t know much about the formal art community, but I imagine American or Canadian artists might go more for alternative or nontraditional methods or something. Also, thanks for those encouraging words Inese! That always means a lot coming from those with significant artistic backgrounds and skills.

  • Terrific post! Very interesting and instructive. I may look st the Pinterest page too!

    • I appreciate that! I’m still not as fluent as I’d like to be on all the social networking sites, but it does seem like Pinterest and Instagram align themselves well to artists. The WordPress Reader/ecosystem is still my personal favorite, but it’s interesting to see how others are sharing what they create.

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