Since January and during quarantine, I had no inspiration. I didn’t want to draw faces (A friend told me I reminded her of the main character in “To the Lighthouse” by Virgina Woolfe) and I just felt like doodling with watercolor and paints and trying out new mediums. So, I decided I would challenge myself to draw faces for 15 days (at this point, I really didn’t think I could make it to 30 days.) As I said, I hadn’t been inspired so, I chose to draw women who I admired because their music inspired me and kept me feeling positive with good vibes during quarantine.

I made a list of all my favorite female songstresses and started to sort through the songs I liked that had a positive message, a carefree vibe, triggered good nostalgia and then, I had my short list. At that point, I was getting excited because, I wasn’t just drawing one of the many faces of people I didn’t know anything about on my Pinterest boards. I was going to be drawing women whose words, talent and beauty inspired me.

And so began my industrious search through the inter-webs for beautiful reference images of each of these women, which took a lot of time and of course, the process of elimination followed. I then had to determine what size I would do the portraits, if I was going to do them with pencil, watercolor or digitally and the order in which I would do them (sigh…)

There was also a secondary reason for deciding to do this type of challenge. While I wanted to get back into drawing portraits again, I also wanted my lovely followers (you guys) to get to know more about what inspires me when I draw and paint. A huge part of that is MUSIC and I wanted to share that with you.

So, in addition to the daily drawings, I included a short blurb in my daily posts on social media that gave a little backstory into what the words of each song meant to me personally and any encouraging thoughts emerging from listening to those words. I can tell you, it was very interesting to have to share more personal thoughts about how I feel and respond to these songs. I felt vulnerable (what if people don’t like that song or artist? What if they think I’m lame for liking that artist or song), but I did it knowing there would at least be a few people who maybe had similar interests to me and I could hopefully connect to them in that way (and there were some of you I did connect with).

In order to fully be inspired whilst drawing each portrait (because first of all, portraits ain’t easy !!!), I approached each day by choosing to stream the music of the singer of the day ALLLLL day. I needed to infuse their words, emotions and imagery from their songs into my mind as a form of meditation while I drew them. I tried to channel them through my hands. Every day was different because, every one of these women are different and have a different style, vibe, sound, emotion to their music. Some days I would be joyful and energetic, other days I would be more quiet and calm, just letting their words comfort and heal. Here’s a playlist I made of all the songs from this challenge here, if you want to listen.

I also realized that portraits, when you’re trying to draw famous people is tough, because you’re trying your best to get it perfect, which does make it a little tense. It also took me way longer than I thought I would to do each portrait (from start to posting on social media took 4 to 5 hours a day! EEEKKK). I didn’t just snap a picture with my phone and share. I scanned the image and took it into Photoshop to add all the lovely colors and shapes using Kyles brushes, which are amazing (so many brushes still to explore, so little time!!). The original images were great on their own, but I always like to add some pops of color in an abstract sort of way. It really helped choosing color palettes for each piece before hand. I had a few color palettes on my Pinterest board that I really loved, that I used for different pieces. As you can see, I gravitated towards a warmer color palette in general, of pinks, corals, yellows with blue or black contrasting elements here and there. I’m not sure why, but that’s how I was feeling for this series.

Another fun element to this challenge (which I hadn’t originally planned on doing) was adding each portrait to my ‘stories’ (something I rarely use) along with a snippet of their featured song. I loved doing that! I didn’t even know you could add any music you wanted to a story and see the words scroll up the screen but, that was a fun discovery for me so, I just kept doing it throughout the challenge. I’m still trying to get up on my “Stories” game but for now, that was a big step for me!

As the days went on, I noticed that my eye for proportions was getting better and when I compared my very first portrait of the challenge Lianne La Havas to the very last of Mariah Carey, I noticed that the detail was so much more pronounced on Mariah Carey. It made me want to re-do Lianne La Havas’ portrait (which I did do anyway, because, well, I loooove her!!! Her new album released a few weeks ago is my Summer 2020 album – I have at least one every year). There was definitely a level of difficulty drawing faces but once it started even vaguely resembling the reference photo, I started feeling more confident, though there were definite moments when I wanted to rip out the page in frustration and start over (and I truthfully, I did that at least once during this challenge).

So, in summary, some things I learned during this Daily Portrait drawing challenge:

  1. Choose my image and song references in advance (so I don’t end up deliberating over which song or image I like the most).
  2. Make sure to get random chores and projects out of the way first, (so that I have undivided attention focused on being present while drawing and listening to music)
  3. Take breaks during each drawing session (so I don’t end up with cramps in my legs and strained neck muscles)
  4. Eat before starting each drawing session (so I’m not distracted by the feeling of my stomach eating my back (borrowed quote from a friend 🙂 )
  5. Start each session earlier rather than later in the day (so I’m not drained and I get as much natural light in the studio as possible because, we artists love natural light)
  6. Don’t get too hung up on how many likes or comments per post. It doesn’t matter how good my work is, how often I share, how many hashtags I use or what time of day I post, it’s just something I can’t really control. Some posts will do better than others for very different reasons, and I have to be ok with that. As long as it brought some people joy and I enjoyed doing it (which I did) that’s all that really matters. Keep pushing forward!

PS. As of today at least five of the fifteen artists I did portraits of liked or commented on their portraits! I think that’s pretty cool, considering they have THOUSANDS or MILLIONS of followers, and still took the time to like or say anything! The others were probably busy or didn’t even see it, but I’m cool with that. I’m still inspired by their music and will always be.

All in all, it was a great experience which I will probably do again, but maybe I’ll do a portrait every other day instead (so I can get all the other things done… like dishes). I hope you all enjoyed the art I made during this challenge. If there is any particular portrait you liked, please comment below or send me a quick message on my contact page. I’d love to hear your feedback! I also have a blog post of each portrait showing before and after as well as a little bit about each. Check them out in the INSPIRATION Category of the blog. Thanks guys!

All works are Copyright (c) 2023 Simone Elum. All rights reserved. Any illegal reproduction of artwork and photographs will result in immediate legal action.