Realistic(ish) Portraits and Leonard Cohen

Sketch portrait of Leonard Cohen by Carri Renaud.

This is my attempt at a portrait sketch of the late, lovely Leonard Cohen. It’s the first half of my assignment for the first course of Realistic Portraits on Schoolism.

I had a long post all written about creative progress and how important practice is, and how motivation will only get you so far, and it really helps to have discipline and a plan and guidance and blah blah blah. But, like a fool, I wrote it directly in the browser and, when the page accidentally refreshed, it was gone (unfortunately the draft wasn’t cached that far back, either).

So instead of all that blathering, I’m just going to say that Schoolism rocks, and, even though I’ve only just started my first course, I’m really, really excited to see how much I can improve my painting and drawing over the next year with their classes in the mix.

I’m currently taking the self-taught version of Realistic Portraits by Jason Seiler. It’s via the monthly subscription ($15), which means no critique of my work by the instructor, but I get complete access to the recorded classes, the assignments, and the critiques of the assignments for students who took the full version of the course in a previous session.

I really love how practical and in-depth their courses are. I use Skillshare sometimes, and while I really love that platform for the variety of classes available, especially for learning oddly specific techniques and skills, a lot of the courses I’ve taken tend to be somewhat shallow, and it’s not always clear how to apply things outside of the specific scenario being demonstrated. The quality of the instructors can be uneven, too.

In the Schoolism class I’m taking now, Jason doesn’t just demonstrate a technique quickly and expect students to hopefully catch on, he discusses human anatomy and how it applies to portraiture, and then delves into how to bring all that knowledge together in relationship to the structure of the face (which is where I realized I’ve long gotten hung up—I can draw eyes or lips pretty well, and can even make a go of noses, but I tend to not put much time into depicting the underlying bone structure and it shows). He then goes on to thoroughly explain and demonstrate two different techniques that employ this knowledge. The demonstrations are great, too; you get to watch the entire process in real time. No skipping steps or shorthanding anything. It also reinforces that good work takes time. You have to work and rework details if you want to get them right. This is another lesson I’ve been learning as I’ve practiced these past few months. I used to get very frustrated if I didn’t get things to look exactly as I wanted on the first pass, and that could end up trumping my motivation to finish the piece.

I’m sure this is nothing new for anyone that’s gone to art school or had other formal instruction. But if don’t have formal art education or access to in-person classes and are looking to improve your work, I’d definitely recommend giving Schoolism a try.


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