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My Maddie-ficent Tips for Portrait Drawing

1:43 AMHannah Dacanay

I've been watching a reality tv series called "Dance Moms". Ironically, I started with season 6 then eventually watched season 1 (then I rewatched everything again lols). I admire Maddie Ziegler so much, ever since I started watching. Just to see Maddie dance every episode is always a hands-down moment for me (also made me reconsider going back to dance *ehem* ballet again). You'll know once you watch her performances.

Maddie Ziegler?

For those wondering who Maddie is. Just remember this: 


Image result for Chandelier maddie
Image Source (Maddie): Link

Maddie Ziegler is a child prodigy dancer who first starred in the hit tv series "Dance Moms" together with her little sister Mackenzie Zeigler. She eventually became Sia's staple dancer for her music videos. Since then, Maddie's career blossomed as she did cameos in tv shows for Disney and lent her voice to the animated movie "Ballerina" ("Leap" on some movie posters). Currently, Maddie is a judge in "So you think you can dance".

Learnings and Tips

DISCLAIMER: All of these, written under, are based on my personal experience and learnings alone. Note that these insights mostly rely on self-taught knowledge.

1. Hair

The hair is one of the critical parts of a portrait. The more realistic, the more time-consuming it gets. Personally, I enjoy doing the hair. I like how my hand glides and follows through the hair smoothly. Think of it this way, it's just like brushing your hair only that you are doing it per strand. I'm sure you'll get a hang of it.

2. Face

okay..let's break it down

  • Eyes
I remember my art teacher, during my grade school days, told us that "the eyes should be uniformed and aligned". For me, that doesn't always apply (case per case basis). I find that "assumption/belief" as something perfect rather than imperfect which is the reality of things. We all have differences and some are naturally born with one eye bigger/smaller than the other. I can't say that it is uniform nor aligned right? I find imperfections as perfections. Another scenario would be, a photograph of a model doing a weird face. Doing so will change the positions of the eyes, nose and etc.

Here's a little step-by-step how I did it:

  • Nose
The nose is usually the tricky part for me. It's not my favorite (tbh) when it comes to portraits. Practice makes perfect! :) You have to rely on your visuals and imagination with this. I just follow where the shadows and lights are in the picture then I do the same with my drawing. Or you can follow the basic geometry first. 

(No not like this. This is waay out of proportion)
  • Mouth
I love it when I draw people that make crazy mouth poses. I believe that makes the subject a bit more interesting. 

Maddie is known for her expressive face and as a dancer, it is essential to connect with the audience. It's no wonder she is picked by Sia to star in her music videos that rely heavily on emotions and expressions. Maddie did a slightly open mouth here which help evoke emotion in the picture. It's as if she is dramatically gasping for air.

 This is the original photo I based on.

Adding a bit more of the challenge is when your subject shows off teeth! The teeth can make or break your drawing. I had an experience when I wasn't able to draw the teeth correctly with its spacing and alignment. Conclusion, the drawing didn't look exactly like the person you are trying to draw (I remember a past drawing that had teeth which looked like a vampire because I made the incisors sharper than how it actually looks in the picture). For this Maddie Portrait, not much of her teeth is shown. Need not to worry about that.

3. Shading/Coloring

This step brings your portrait to life. Shading/Coloring brings in those lights and shadows which gives depth to the features of the face. Whenever I'm doing this procedure, I think about doing makeup. When doing the eyes, pretend you are applying eyeshadow. Lips, pretend to apply lipstick. Contour? Yes, apply to the cheekbones and whatsoever. Art inspires art. :)

If you are not the type who does makeup and stuff, don't worry just be meticulous in determining which sides of the face have shadows and light. When you opt for color, check which colors that have a similar color with any of your coloring materials. Or if there aren't any, mix colors. Just be careful with the materials you will use, it doesn't mean you have this perfect flesh oil pastel and brown watercolor you can mix them both together (tried it and it did not work for me). That's not always the case. Which leads me to my next tip...

4. Know your materials! 

For instance, you can't go to war without knowing what your weapons are for.

Knowing your arsenal will make it easier for you to blend colors and techniques according to your chosen subject. Do swatches on a scratch paper first. Practice with it!

Materials used for the Maddie portrait:
B Pencils
Derwent Colored Pencils
Knead Eraser

*Don't worry no alcohol was used or harmed in the making of this portrait. Lols XD


In general, portraits are usually realistic. Unless you prefer a different style, that is perfectly fine. For me, especially when doing commissions or requests as much as possible I stick to being realistic or depending on what the client wants. As for this Maddie portrait, I did not stick with an overall black and white drawing. Instead, I colored her eyes. Apart from her dancing and acting skills, I do get drawn to her blue eyes a lot. Coloring her eyes gives that asset of hers more emphasis.

Just be creative. Art doesn't necessarily have rules. There are techniques to help but not to hinder you from creating. Combine these techniques and have it your own way. Every masterpiece doesn't come like magic or overnight. It takes time and a lot of heart to do something great. (wew)

Hope my tips helped you. I'm open to questions and honest feedback.

Go and get creative!

View more of my works with these links :)
Drawings 2 Album
Art Diary

Also, please follow me on all my social media accounts (as seen as icons all over my blog) for more updates <3

©All rights reserved | Hannah Dacanay | The Musings of a Creative Blogger 

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