The faces we know

Why is it so difficult to draw the faces we know the best? I’m not talking about self-portraits here. We’ll leave that for another day. I’m talking about members of our family or really good friends. People we have been around for years whose eyes and ears and mouths we know so well that they become difficult to step back from and look at objectively.

I am asking this question because for the past few days on my walks and runs I have been listening to my friend Suhita being interviewed on Nishant Jain’s The Sneaky Art Podcast. Suhita has been drawing her family for years. In fact, her way back into drawing over ten years ago was by drawing her two children, who were toddlers at the time. If you have been following her blog, you have seen her children grow up on the pages of her sketchbook.

With that in mind, and continuing my thoughts from the other day about developing a daily routine of drawing, I thought I’d share some of the drawings that I don’t usually post. These are the ones I do on my iPad at night, after dinner, before watching an episode of The Crown. I don’t usually share these because I find drawing members of my family too personal, and I don’t want to offend them if the results are not flattering. Hence my sketches of Alice the dog who would never complain if an ear or eye was out of place. But listening to Suhita has emboldened me, so here goes.

These days the only victim of my iPad scribbles is my husband. Good thing he spends a good amount of time reading. The kids were here for a time during the first lockdown, but now they are back in their respective apartments and I only have one human model.

As you can see from these, sometimes I am experimenting with iPad brushes or colours, and the subject is secondary. It’s the process that makes the activity worthwhile, not getting a good likeness.

There is no attempt at correction in these either. If a line is in the wrong place, I just draw another line. I try not to erase. I try to make the experience most like using a pen and ink on paper. With a little bit of grey marker added at the end. And my husband usually does not realize I am drawing him until later, so he moves his hands and I continue drawing. Unsuspecting models are the best.

Suhita’s podcast interview is really interesting and Nishant is a great interviewer. Together they dive deep into what motivates us to draw. If you are a novice urban sketcher or need some motivation about where to start, you’ll find it fascinating. And maybe it will give you the courage to draw (and share) the faces you know best.

27 Comments on “The faces we know”

  1. I have been listening to all of the Sneaky Artists podcasts and usually when I sketch with my Ipad at night. Funny how we pull out the Ipad at night! My husband is featured everywhere in my sketchbooks. I have always love people and portraiture. Years ago an artist told me not to practice on family members but on people you don’t know. That has stuck with me for everyone except my husband. Wonderful captures of your husband. Captures of life. We are also watching the Crown!


    • Great to read this Carmel. Does your husband like it when you sketch him? Yes the iPad is great at night. No water, no brushes, no mess. I was just listening to the end of Uma’s interview with Nishant. She draws on her iPad in bed. Did you hear that part? The whole series of podcasts is very good, especially if you are an urban sketching nerd and enjoy hearing about peoples processes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My husband doesn’t mind being sketched. He used to join me with a sketching group I belonged to in Oregon. He appeared in everyone’s sketchbook! I have not sketched in bed with my Ipad but have discovered it is a great cover for sketching in a doctor’s reception area. Uma has a Handbook on Drawing with a Tablet. I just got a copy along with Suhita’s book.


      • You have a famous husband! IPads are also a great cover for sketching in an airport. I wonder when we will be able to do that again!!


  2. TonyU says:

    Brave or what! Having followed you for a while I know you’ve got green fingers … and now it turns out your husband’s got green feet! 😉


  3. Lee Kline says:

    I am unable to reply to your blog, but what I think you are striving for is objectivity. When drawing anything, one looks for a way to stop thinking of the subject as what we know of it. Is that a chair or a series of connecting shapes? That will come. Isn’t that what you tell your students?

    Love from Lee

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lee, you did reply to the blog. This worked. You are right about objectivity. So hard when you know someone. As for connecting shapes, here’s another good idea from Suhita’s podcast: put someone in front of the window so they are backlit. Then you just end up drawing the big shapes or silhouette of the person. Hard for me to do at night, but definitely a good idea that I will keep in mind.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. IRENE Reinhold says:

    Hi Shari. Recently you said something about another online interactive course starting in January. But I can’t find it anywhere. Are you still planning that and is there space left. ? I so want to join it. I am really enjoying the online courses. Irene. Reinhold ( Irenesails on insta)

    Liked by 1 person

    • HI Irene, I sent out a mass mailing about January Zoom classes to everyone taking my classes on my online teaching site. You should have received that email. Unless you have opted out of email notifications on my site.
      The class sold out immediately, as did another section of the class that I added.
      If you send me an email at, I can add you to the list for future classes.
      I didn’t advertise these classes anywhere else because they were sold out so quickly and I wanted my current students to have first notifications.



  5. Jeff Gold says:

    Beautiful drawings and good use of the iPad. I think you got a very good likeness and came up with really interesting compositions. Maybe you can post more of these drawing in future.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. as i say it: drawing portraits is kings class. i guess it is because, you do not only see a face, with a nose, ears and eyes. you see a personality which you wanna catch. that is not easy.
    what helps is what helps with nearly everything: practice, practice, practice.
    best regards from berlin.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello and thanks so much for writing. Your description is so perfect. Yes indeed, it is the personality that we try to capture too. And agreed, if you can do portraits well, you can do anything, right??


  7. Soni says:

    hah !!! all this time I thought you were making him up & only Alice was real

    another great concept to ponder & practice


    Liked by 1 person

  8. Betsy says:

    Love these!!

    Ah yes, The Crown. New season. I think it’s really started strong! Episodes 1 and 2 were just wow.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Carla Giller says:

    Shari ~
    I’m just so impressed that you can utilize your iPad so well! I’m assuming you’re using Procreate. I just can’t get the hang of it!!! And I try and try! Do you apply the color first with a large brush, and then put in the ink lines? I just find it very very hard.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Carla, Yes, I’m using Procreate. I have a hard time with colour first. I always need some kind of line structure, and as I do in watercolour, I often reach for the Procreate pencil first. I don’t think of Procreate as a painting tool. For me, it’s more of a convenient drawing too. I also have a screen protector that makes my iPad easier to draw on . Do you have that? It’s called PaperLike. Here’s the link: That might help. Have you taken any tutorials?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Carla says:

        I have a Paperlike screen protector. But I can’t tell if it’s been applied to my iPad correctly! I’m going to follow up with the company again and see what they say. Do you know of any good tutorials? I’ve looked at a few. But you sketch first with your pencil and then apply color.
        But applying color to the sketches is what seems hard for me.


      • Hi Carla. You might like Teela Cunningham’s tutorials on YouTube. She also has lots of downloadable resources. Have a look. It’s not urban sketching but it’s a great way to learn:


      • Carla Giller says:

        Thanks Shari, I really appreciate that recommendation. I’ll give her tutorials a try.


  10. Denise says:

    Hi Shari! sketching portraits have not been particularly difficult for me to do. I once rendered the faces of Alan, my son-in-law, his dad, and my nephew in a “mock up” of Mount Rushmore. Now, ask me to paint a convincing tree in watercolor, there we have problems😂! Which is why I am so thankful for your blog and postings. Sorry I missed the chance to sign up for your Zoom class-maybe next time!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Denise, I saw you paint an amazing tree in my class! With Alan sitting right next to you.
      Sorry you didn’t get into the January Zoom classes either. If you want to get on the list for the next round, just let me know. I will add your name.


  11. ThymeNorma says:

    What a timely post! I’ve been in a painting slump lately and what usually gets me out of the slump is drawing on my iPad. Just a few quick drawings here and there, knowing that I can undo or clear the screen if I want to. It helps me get over the blank page syndrome. I really like Procreate and ArtRage for the iPad.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Nice drawings of people, did you do these digitally?

    Liked by 1 person

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