Mae draws like a seasoned pro, but the artist behind the captivating portraits is just 15 years old: living in the south of France with her parents, a cat and a turtle, Mae has had a passion for drawing since childhood, though she only picked up digital painting a few months ago.
Read her story and her 3 essential tips on drawing portraits.
How did you start drawing?
"Emma Stone" I've had a passion for drawing since my tender toddler years. Drawing is something that came rather naturally to me since it has always been a source of enjoyment, as well as some kind of refuge where I find shelter when I'm feeling down. So far, I've been drawing mostly portraits - usually, my favorite actors, actresses, and their characters though I'd really like to explore a bunch of other things in the future. I've been homeschooled for a couple of years now which has allowed me to find more time to focus on my art and improve. I've finally picked up digital painting a few months ago, and I love it! As I don't attend any actual art classes, I've been learning to draw by gathering as much tutorial material on the internet I could find. As for digital painting, CG cookie lessons helped me a lot to understand color and digital painting techniques.
What program are you using?
So far I’ve been using Photoshop CS6. The interface felt complicated and intimidating at first, but I’m slowly getting comfortable with it.
What brushes do you use in your work?
I love brushes with a bit of texture to them, so I find myself using the chalk brush quite a lot.
When painting a portrait, I like to stick with only one or two brushes.
I try to keep things painterly and organic, so if I use too many texture brushes it tends to look like an unholy mess. Photoshop offers a large range of choice, but I usually start with a small-sized hard round brush to sketch out the face, and then I select one or two texture brushes that I’ll use for the rest of the painting.
Why do you focus on celebrities as your subject matter?
I think I’ve always been attracted to portraits and realism, and it turns out that cinema is also one of my main center of interest, so it’s a great compromise!
I’ve been drawing portraits of my favorite actors and actresses for a while now. Drawing famous people is also an interesting challenge when it comes to likeness.
Especially lately, since I’ve been trying to experiment with stylization and that can make maintaining tricky.
Plus, it’s always a great feeling if I can manage to capture the essence of the faces that I like.
Where do you see yourself in a few years with art?
Honestly, I don’t have any fixed idea for the moment. I’d love to have an art-related job, but I don’t know exactly what kind of job yet.
I love cinema, so it would be awesome if I could find a common ground. Maybe something related to animation, storyboards, concept art or character design… but I haven’t really explored these things just yet. Getting into an art school could be very interesting too since it could open many doors and push me to try out new things!
I don’t really like to think about the future, though, it scares me a little. Although I don’t have any plans, my main goal right now is to improve my skills, both traditionally and digitally.
I’d love to experiment more with diverse subject matters, get out of my comfort zone, and find a personal style.
How to you get past art blocks when they come your way?
Artist blocks aren’t fun at all, are they! I had a lot of trouble with that a few years ago. I found out later that they actually could be very beneficial, if only you can manage to analyze what’s blocking you. By finding the roots of the issue, you can get to know more about yourself, while also preventing future artist blocks.
For me, it’s often because I overthink and second-guess myself. Basically, the fear of “not being good enough”, used to paralyze me. Whenever it happens, I look back to my old sketchbooks to see my progress. Often times you underestimate yourself and it’s easy to think that you haven’t improved one bit for months, but it’s usually the contrary.
So, keeping track of my progress shows me that at least I’m not completely hopeless. Looking at my favorite artists’ work is also very inspiring, as well as searching for new artists and inspiration material (Pinterest turns out to be a great place for that kind of things).
Then, I can start scribbling around again.
I start off with a rather negative-ish mindset, “It’s going to be bad anyway” type thing, but it helps me to let go of any potential frustration that I might have from wanting to have perfect results. It’s usually in these moments that happy accidents happen and from there I go with the flow!
How often do you spend your time focusing on art?
I don’t know if there’s such a thing as “way too often” when it comes to art, but I find myself thinking about it quite a lot. Even if I don’t draw or practice, it’s always in the back of my mind. Whether it’s exploring my favorite artist’s work, seeking out new artists to follow or looking for inspiration material. I also like to observe and improve my visual library by doing so. When I don’t understand a tricky subject, like my current struggle with color and light, observing real life helps me a lot!
Taking a little break from art from time to time can be great too, so I can find a balance with my other interests like reading, or playing piano and guitar, which I should do more often.
Mae's 3-step Portrait Painting Process
Step 1: Sketching & Likeness
"Capturing likeness is all about ratios that occur within the face. Drawing dots to delimitate the features help me to make sure the proportions are coherent, while also giving me control over how much I want the end result to be stylized by playing around with these visual markers."
Step 2: Values & Blending
"Next, I break things down in three values : shadows, midtones and highlights.
I then blend them and add general details."
Step 3: Skintones & Final Detail
"I often see charts of skintone colors that go from dark brown to light beige. If you look closely at skin colors from photographs or real life, you might be surprised ! A variety of greens, blues and purples are hiding here and there. To make a portrait look more interesting, I love to exaggerate these unexpected colors that you find naturally in the skin.
I find that zooming in too much in order to detail a portrait isn’t very effective and can lead to uncanny results – I prefer varying the size of my brush instead to achieve a realism feel."