Product Review: Realistic Pencil Portrait Mastery by Christopher Sia
21 Comments | January 27, 2011
Today I’ll be reviewing Christopher Sia’s “Realistic Pencil Portrait Mastery”, a home-study course that will teach you how to draw realistic portraits. Now let me begin by saying that I care very little for so-called “pitch sites,” the online version of OxyClean infomercials. They all have the same structure: 1) Hey check out how great my product is; 2) see how great these people think my product is; and 3) but wait, there’s more!
Well, this online course is sold through just such a pitch site, but Mr. Sia got in touch with me so I figured I’ll give it a try. At this point let me also provide full disclosure: if you access his site through any of the links I provide on this page and ultimately end up purchasing his product, I will earn a commission on that sale – money that will be reinvested in keeping the lights on around here. Nonetheless, I will try to do as objective a review as I can.
So let’s get started.
All sales pitch aside, what product do you get for your $47.00?
- 5 e-books lessons and 5 process maps (more on that below)
- How To Draw A Realistic Eye
- How To Draw A Realistic Nose
- How To Draw Realistic Mouth And Teeth
- How To Draw A Realistic Ear
- How To Draw Realistic Hair
- 100 high-resolution reference pictures (70 head shots, 30 facial feature close-ups)
- 12 weeks of exercises
Ok, so let’s a look at what we’re getting.
As the author states, the lesson contain 208 pages and a total of 605 illustrations. The basic technique used is that you start with a picture, draw a light outline of the feature, and then shade it in. He goes into painstaking detail on all the required shading.
Following his instructions will definitely make you see things you might’ve otherwise not caught. There are good little tips dispersed throughout. Here’s a bit on drawing hair and eyes:
The Process Maps
Each lesson comes along with a process map, which is essentially a diagram on how to go about attacking the particular feature that you are looking to draw.
The High-Rez Photographs
Included in the package are 70 high-resolution images in black and white (resolutions are in the area of 1500px by 2000px). These are definitely helpful as they provide you good reference material, although they are all celebrities – subject matter I always find slightly tacky. In addition to the celebrities there are 30 images of facial features, which are great for you to get a sense of how individual features vary from person to person.
The 12 weeks of exercises are a bit light on the exercises per say, but contain some additional good information on various shading techniques.
But wait, there’s more
Once you’ve purchased the course, you can upgrade to the VIP level for another $29.95, which will give you access to another 30 high-rez black and white celebrity pictures as well as a worthwhile guide on how to make sure your drawing doesn’t lack contrast but shows more volume.
In addition, you can send in your reference picture and Mr. Sia will make sure that it is properly edited for you to draw from.
My Thoughts: The Bad
There are several things that I miss from this package, the most important being a lesson on how to pull it all together into a coherent face. There is no theoretical background on some basic things like proportion of the head or face. Moreover, each lesson focuses on only a single facial part, instead of varied facial parts to illustrate some facial differences.
If you want to be able to draw from your mind, this course is not for you – it is strictly useful in drawing from a given photograph. The course also requires some basic skills in being able to trace the contours and features that you’re later going to shade in.
Mr. Shia is very detailed and you can fully follow along his entire drawing process. If you want to see each step in how his drawings are put down, you’ll find them. There are many good tips and tricks on shading and pulling off tricky bits like hair. The process maps give you a birds-eye view of the drawing process and the exercises have some additional beneficial information.
The reference material will keep you busy for months if you don’t mind drawing celebrities. The facial features pics give you sense of the variation of facial features. The photographs are very large and very crisp – great to draw in other words.
If you have been drawing largely from photographs and want to elevate your game to the next level, this is certainly a purchase you may want to consider. If you are looking to be able to draw the human head and face in 3 dimensions from your mind, look elsewhere.
Hopefully this review has been beneficial to you, and thanks to Mr. Sia for letting me review the product.
Good luck and happy drawing! – Lee