Mark Hearts and Kids at the Dentist

In my last post, I discussed using Unsplash images as inspiration for artwork. Although I have a ton of backlogged ideas now, and many of my sketches in the near future will probably be related to Unsplash, I decided to take a brief detour. If you follow this blog already, you are probably aware of how frequently I draw my kids. My family are my favorite subjects, and it’s been a few months, so I thought I’d do another kiddo portrait. Also, our oldest just finished her first year of school, so I was extra motivated to get her into a portrait matching the time period. I know it’s just Pre-K, but I’m really proud of her.

Just a side note, I wanted to mention that my book Pencils and Process is free on Amazon Kindle this weekend! So, if you’re interested, free is a definitely a good price. This promotion continues until Sunday night at midnight – just click the above link (or one in the sidebar) to head to Amazon’s page for Pencils and Process.

Anyway, back to artwork. The girls recently took a trip to the dentist for a check-up and had quite the fun time. They weren’t especially wild about the teeth-cleaning part, but otherwise they regarded the entire thing as a grand adventure. The dental exam chair was clearly intended to be playground equipment for them. Despite the fact that I wasn’t really interested in drawing the dental chair or exam room, I thought a scene of them hamming it up might be fun. Not exactly challenging myself, but it’s fun to do a comfort zone project from time to time.

As I was working on this sketch, our oldest came over to draw with me. She mentioned needing to make some “mark hearts.” This is a term that, as far as I can tell, she invented. She started calling my scrap color-testing page “mark hearts” about a year ago, which I believe is because hearts were her closest frame of reference for a squiggly shape at the time. The name has stuck though, I just naturally call them that now. She sometimes becomes more fascinated with making mark hearts than actually drawing something!

“Mark Heart” color-testing page from my last few drawings.

This drawing from the kids’ dental appointment was pretty informal. It turned out well though, I think. Here’s the final version, which I follow with some more discussion and a progression animation:

Our two big kids waiting around for a dental check-up

Although I didn’t include it, and never really intended to, the kids here are actually relaxing together in the dental examination chair. The oldest has her ever-present stuffed pal Mr. Bunny, and the youngest has a little stuffed Care Bear that she calls her Grumpy Bear. I wasn’t too worried about it, but I recognize the perspective is a bit wonky; the oldest is slouched down quite a bit. As I said, this was meant to be a very loose, not overly difficult comfort sketch.

Overall, in large part because of my familiarity with drawing these girls, this turned out well. They each look very much like themselves, and the facial features are on point. I may have gone a little too large with the youngest’s nose, but it’s close. As usual, the teeth were a struggle, and remain something I need to work on. I did a good job incorporating some purple into the skin tone though (mostly around the eyes), which is something I’ve worked on before. Purple looks weird at first, but once it’s blended, it does look pretty natural.

I took about seven progression photos, so here’s my typical .gif pulling them all together:

As I mentioned, Unsplash-derived portraits will be fairly major on my agenda over the next month or two I think. So, there will be some somewhat random and hopefully unique-looking subjects on tap. I’ve also been trying to figure out how I can participate in artist Hilda Rogers’ “Face A Day in May” project. It’s a very fun undertaking in which she’s basically painting a new portrait everyday, and I’ve wanted to get in on the fun by sending an image. I also briefly entertained seeing how many days I could do a portrait per day, but realized my streak would surely stop at one. Regardless, plenty to do this summer on the drawing front it looks like!


  • I had a go at 100 portraits 100 days last year and it was H.A.R.D

    I think I got to 68-69 by the 100th day but nevertheless I’d have to say it was educational.

    • Wow, well I’d have to say almost 70 is still quite a great accomplishment! I mean, that’s really a huge amount of artwork. How did you approach generating ideas for what to draw for that project?

  • Aw Jon! Thanks for the mention! I really appreciate support from artists such as yourself while I am doing this crazy challenge! Happy to spread the inspiration in your direction also! I have noticed on Unsplash that there are a couple of large and wonderful collections’ under the subject of “humanity” that you might enjoy…it is a great resource and I am really having fun with it!

    • I’m happy to, Hilda! As I mentioned before, it’s such a fun idea and you’re getting some great results. Definitely something worth checking out, in my opinion.

      Also, I’ll have to search “humanity” and some other specific terms on Unsplash. Although I’ve found some cool ideas, I know I’m not using it to its full potential. My Unsplash searches have been totally haphazard and random, mostly guided by whatever their algorithms tell me I’d like. I know I’m looking for people, so why not actually target that in searches!

      • I’m looking forward to seeing the results of what YOU find, Jon! 🙂

      • Haha where to even start though! I guess the thing to do is just point at one and dive in

      • I hear you, Jon! That’s why I spent a couple of weeks picking my references before I started THIS challenge – to try and stop my head spinning from trying to decide which one to choose each time!

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