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Colored Pencil Portraiture Course

Colored Pencil Portraiture Course

Colored Pencil Portraiture Course

I am in an incredibly fortunate, lucky and privileged situation, since I turned to art to help me with PTSD and Clinical Depression after sustaining my spinal injury whilst serving in the British Army, I have started and run a website called The Art Gear Guide. I have run the site now for about two and a half years, but the trust that people have invested in me to bring them honest reviews and answer their questions honestly and transparently, is perhaps the most honouring and privileged thing I have gained since my medical retirement from the British Army. I have found as well, because of the way I swore to myself I would run the site, I tend to gravitate to people of very similar values, and that is what I am here to talk about in this post.

I get asked a lot of questions about art materials, which I love looking through my emails and social media messages, answering as many as I can get through. One of the most prolific questions I am asked, is what course I would recommend for colored pencil enthusiast to take in order to project them to the next level. I would have to say that without question, one of the most requested course specifics is for colored pencil portraiture courses and until now, this is the one question I have never really been able to answer. There is something so magical about capturing a family member, childhood friend or loved one’s soul and portraying it into an image of art, regardless of the medium. For those of you wishing to branch out and perhaps turn your love of the colored pencil medium into a career, selling commissions, portraiture is perhaps thee best if not one of the best disciplines to master.

About the Artist and Teacher

Before I get into the actual colored pencil portraiture course specifics, let me just tell you a little bit about the man behind this amazing course. I am sure most of you have heard of him, in fact, for those of you who follow me on social media, you will definitely know him, as I am constantly sending links to his incredibly popular podcast.

John Middick is founder and co-host of the incredible “Colored Pencil Podcast”, John and Lisa Clough aka the amazing colored pencil artist behind Lachri Fine Art. Together John and Lisa, create a fantastic show centred around the medium we all love so much, colored pencils. The Colored Pencil Podcast was the first place I found out about John and from there discovered just what an accomplished and phenomenal artist he really is. For those of you unfamiliar with the Colored Pencil Podcast, John and Lisa cover every area of the colored pencil medium, talking between themselves discussing all manner of topics. As well as this, John and Lisa interview prominent members of the colored pencil community and one day it is a dream of mine to be on the show.

As well as the Colored Pencil Podcast, John also runs the very successful website, Sharpened Artist, John has been and is an influential voice in the colored pencil community for 20 years plus. As if this was not impressive enough, John has many awards under his belt for his own colored pencil work and is an active member of the Colored Pencil Society of American (CPSA). John has also been an instructor for the colored pencil medium, guiding students through this wonderful medium for many years. Quite recently John started the Sharpened Artist Academy, in his new studio, completely set up to cater for colored pencil enthusiasts wishing to take their passion to the next level. I can remember when John announced on the Colored Pencil Podcast show that he was setting up his new academy, thinking to myself that I wished I lived in America close to John so that I could attend a course of this magnitude; it’s not every day an artist of Johns calibre starts teaching. However, not long after the academy was set up, john has now launched an online version, were anyone in the world can now have gain access to this wealth of colored pencil knowledge and it is the online Sharpened Artist Academy that I would like to talk about in this article.

Course Choices.

As you all know, I will not recommend something or discuss a product on less I have tested it or in this case see the courses in their entirety, so what I am about to tell you is my own personal experience of checking through the course material.

The first thing I noticed was that John has catered for every facet of Colored Pencil art as well as very much considered his prices and the different levels of affordability. I will talk more about the pricing structure but there is one thing John mentions on one of the introduction videos that tells me and everyone else this is simply not just a money making exercise, John is hugely passionate about the medium of colored pencils and the community of colored pencil enthusiasts, but I will also talk about this comment further along.

As I mentioned, there are quite a few different ways in which you can choose the course that are going to suit your needs best, which I think is amazing, rather than just offering one colored pencil course covering everything, there are course specific to certain areas of colored pencil portraiture. So if you as a colored pencil artist have mastered the eyes, mouth and nose, but you just can’t get the hair right, there is a course specific to that particular need. So whilst the list of course is incredibly comprehensive, they are also certain course broken down into specific needs.

All of the course are video guided, with John himself, demonstrating, explaining and guiding you, the artist through each course, you will have your very own one to one teaching experience

10 Minutes To Take Off

This course is a fantastic place to start for the absolute beginner, 10 Minutes To Take Off, goes through the various pencils available, accessories to achieve your colored pencil art and very importantly the different types of paper available.

This course is three ten minute videos basically helping you get started with the medium of colored pencils. So many people new to the medium of colored pencils, and I absolutely include myself in this club, think that colored pencil art is simply grab a set of colored pencils, A4 printer paper, a graphite pencil and you are ready to go. This is so far from reality it isn’t even funny. But when I made all these mistakes I wasted months learning simple tips and tricks to improve my colored pencil art ten fold. John has put this course together to make sure new artists to this wonderful medium don’t make the same mistakes and waste time.

Color Matching In Colored Pencil

The first course I would like to show you is “Color Matching In Colored Pencil”, as the title indicates, this course takes you through the fundamentals of selecting the right color or creating the required color with a few different colored pencils.

You will be shown important fundamental requirements of this wonderful medium that will stand you in very good stead all the way through your colored pencil experience. Subjects such as Line Drawing, Shading, Color, The Color Wheel and Color Theory.

Color Theory is such an important part of any art endeavour you may purse and on this particular course, John shows the colored pencil artist how to look at your reference image and find the colors that your eyes see and not what you think the color should be. I once read a comment from a colored pencil artist which has stayed with me to this day and a truer word has never been spoken, but the comment also illustrates the importance of this particular course.

The comment was “If everyone tried colored pencil portraiture art, it would eradicate racism forever.” What the artists was referring to, was when drawing a pale skinned portrait or a dark skinned portrait, you would be blown away at the amount of colors need to achieve that particular skin tone, reds, purples, blues, greens etc. As a novice colored pencil artist, we look at our portrait reference image, scan the colored pencil tin and try to select the one color that matches that skin tone. What John demonstrates in this course, is to trust your eye.

Beginners Colored Pencil Course

The “Beginners Colored Pencil Course”, as you can gather is aimed toward someone who is completely new to the medium of colored pencils. This course really does cover everything the beginner is going to need to know, from holding the pencil, different strokes, pressure required for certain colored pencil looks.

In this course John also covers the materials available, he also explains what blending and burnishing is and why and where in the portraiture they may be needed, as well as how to accomplish the best effects with these techniques.

A lot of colored pencil artist use Odourless Mineral Spirits often referred to by colored pencil artists as OMS to help blend colored pencil. John discusses the reasons why OMS is used and the effects it has on the colored pencil laid down on the paper.

Other aspects covered in this incredibly comprehensive course are composition, thumbnail sketches, choosing the right reference image, making changes to the reference image with software to help you get the image you want.

Also, one of the most difficult aspects of colored pencil art is creating white highlights, in this course John discusses how to achieve this and what materials can be used. There are a lot of tips and tricks that experienced colored pencil artists such as John develop throughout their long and illustrious career and this is one are of colored pencil art that we all need as much help and advice as we can get.

There is a lot more covered in this course besides all the wonderful topics I have mentioned above. Although this is very much the course for beginners to the medium, I myself have loved listening in to so many of the videos in this course. I am not exactly considered a beginner to the colored pencil medium, however I am in no way on the same level as John, so I have learnt so much from this course alone, despite it being aimed toward beginners. Should you decide to purchase this course I can assure you that you will complete the course armed with tremendous knowledge of the colored pencil medium and will be confident pursuing a medium that is becoming more and more popular everyday all over the world.

Drawing Hair in Colored Pencils.

This course speaks for itself and is one of the more specific courses available. The “Drawing Hair In Colored Pencils” is for the colored pencil artist who has been practicing portraiture and just cant get to grips with illustrating hair. This course will demonstrate all the tips and tricks that John has developed over the past twenty plus years, passing it on to you in a clear and concise, easy to follow, instructional video.

Drawing The Eyes In Colored Pencil : Parts 1, 2 and 3

As with the course above, “Drawing The Eyes In Colored Pencil Parts 1, 2 and 3” really is a true master class in perfecting this crucial element of Colored Pencil Portraiture. The eyes as they say are the windows to our soul and this is never more true when it comes to capturing the eyes in colored pencil. Social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest are covered in amazing eye drawings in all manner of art disciplines, and when they are done properly, the end results really are mind blowing

In this course, throughout three comprehensive videos, John covers eye aspect of creating the human eye with colored pencils. As I mentioned, the eyes are perhaps the most important aspect of portraiture to get right, if the eyes are perfect, other smaller discrepancies within your colored pencil portrait may go unnoticed. The eyes, if drawn correctly, draw in the gaze of those mesmerised by your art work, this is really an important course to complete and follow should you desire your colored pencil portraiture work to really capture peoples attention.

Drawing The Mouth In Colored Pencil : Parts 1, 2 and 3

As with the course on Drawing Eyes In Colored Pencil, John has put together a master class to capturing the mouth in three easy to follow videos, “Drawing The Mouth Master Class Parts 1, 2 & 3”. Whilst it is so important to get the eyes right, that doesn’t mean it is okay to neglect other areas of the face.

When it comes to drawing the mouth, this course goes through it all, teeth included and I know from my own personal experience, I never get the teeth right. So many colored pencil artists just starting out, and again I am totally referring to my own experience as well, leave the teeth white and think that is them done. As I mentioned in the Color Matching class, John shows you how to trust your eyes and when you do this you will see that there are a range of colors go into a colored pencil portrait to create life like teeth and not the cartoon white I used to create

The shading around the mouth is also so important in illustrating the form of the face, getting the mouth right, can help in getting other features right such as the chin, neck, nose, whether or not the face is a slightly fuller face or thinner. All of these elements of the face are important and pull the entire likeness of person or persons you are trying to recreate.

Portrait Prep Challenge Course Session 1

The Portrait Prep Challenge Course comes in two sessions, I will explain session 2 next, for now this is all the facets involved in the first session prep challenge. The videos in this range are as the title highlights, more like challenges set out for you, with the added help of teaching from John.

So far the other course mentioned have been quite specific to certain features of the face, i.e. the mouth, eyes and hair, generally the areas most people find the most challenging. This Portrait Prep Challenge Course Session 1, is slightly different and covers other areas of the face and also takes a look at using graphite.

In this course John demonstrates in part 1 Features In Graphite, how to create the nose, ear and eyebrow first of all in graphite. Part 2 Features In Colored Pencils, in the first session is dedicated to the Eye, Chin and mouth, however, the eye and mouth videos are not as in-depth as the individual Eye and Mouth course. John takes a look at other ways of creating the form of the eye in this video by using a white pencil on black paper which helps us understand shadow a lot more.

The Part 3 Putting It AlL Together, of the Portrait Prep Challenge takes a look at the skull which is obviously important in understanding the structure of the face. The next video in this section looks at the head construction and putting everything you have learnt thus far.

Portrait Prep Challenge Course Session 2

In this course, John has created an overview of the eye, thinking about the lighting, shading a sphere in order to understand how light reacts when touching a sphere. There is so much more involved in this course pertaining to the eye, however, it is worth noting that both Session 1 and Session 2 can be purchased in a bundle, which I will discuss further into the article when laying out the pricing of all courses.

Face Value

I mentioned in the introduction a comment John made on the Intro of a course that actually really blew me away and showed me just how important this academy is to John and will be to those who use it, it was on this course and I will briefly explain it here. The Face value is perhaps the most detailed and comprehensive of all the courses and I will explain why this is the case in a minute. However, John makes it clear that this course is not for absolute beginners, this course is more aimed at those who have been involved with the medium for roughly six months or so. Now the reason this really blew me away, is because John didn’t have to say this, try to sell the course as much as possible to make a living and run the risk of perhaps confusing students. But this is not the type of man John is and this single comment, if you are not aware of John before now, sums him up perfectly. John is more concerned about his students and the medium, his passion for the medium is clear in his free podcasts. There are many people who would only be interested in selling the course for a profit, not caring that the course would be too complicated for absolute beginners, but John demonstrates his genuine love of the medium and concern for his students in this single comment, at least that is how I interpreted this comment.

So on to the course itself. The Face Value course will keep you occupied for weeks, there is so much content in this course it is unbelievable. There is a total of 53 videos, some are ten or twenty minutes long however many are over an hour long, but of course the joy of owning the course is you can play the videos back in your own time for as long as you like. Being disabled myself, I personally think that online course, especially online course of this quality are so convenient and suit my needs perfectly. Sitting in a class room is absolutely wonderful as you get the hands on experience and help, but you have to adhere to the timings of the course. For someone such as myself with a disability, the online course really means I can do it as and when I am able, with no pressure of falling behind or slowing your fellow students down.

The Face Value course is split into weeks more or less, each week comprises of videos and each week covers a particular area of portraiture with colored pencils. So the first section of the course is the Introduction, which starts of quite gentle, you get a run down of the materials a colored pencil artist will use, which pencils are of incredibly high quality, medium quality and lower quality but still good enough to complete the course with. Another thing John does not do on this course and that is try to make you buy the largest most expensive sets of colored pencils available. The Introduction also obviously explains how to use the course as well and goes over the basics of line drawing, contouring and shapes.

The first week is very much hitting the road running, getting stuck into the anatomy, understanding the skull, how we all have different size and shape skulls. Then John goes through the muscles on the face and how they and the skull determine the form of the face overall. Also the skin, different skin tones etc. As you can see this first week really helps you understand human anatomy and this is so vital to understanding and creating a lifelike portrait.

The second week, titled “Tour of Head Construction Methods” talks about various portrait methods methods from influential portrait artists. This gives us as the students a really strong understanding of how other artists perceive and approach portraiture. The first section John looks at is the Reilly Method after Frank Reilly, the next method is the Loomis Method after Andrew Loomis and finally the Asaro Head which looks at a 3D model of the head created by John Asaro. All three of these methods have something very important to offer the portrait artist, and John breaks down what those important things are, which is why the Face Value course is so important.

Week three, titled “Light and Planes of the Head” looks at lighting, how light falls on the various planes of the head and changes our perception of the head. The various videos look at specifics of light and shadow on certain sections of the head. John describes the main planes of the head and then demonstrates how lighting and shadow falls on said planes.

Week Four titled Colored Pencil Portrait Techniques, is such an excellent section of the course, John shares a lot of really excellent techniques and how to implement them into your work. Some of the techniques you may or may not have heard of before, but even if you have heard of them, John explains exactly how to use them, what areas of the portraiture they are suited for etc.

Week Five - Color Theory, delves deep into what colors to use in order to create the perfect skin tone for the portrait you are creating, even creating the shadow ares of the skin which is always a really challenging task to undertake. A lot of artists find color theory boring and some even skip it out altogether, however, I think the medium of colored pencils, more than any other perhaps, needs at least a basic understanding of color theory.

After week five, there is a bonus section and it really is a bonus section. Here John discusses a huge range of aspects to colored pencil art but one of the really interesting things John covers is the process of selecting the right portrait image and tracing the image onto the paper of your choice.

The Face Value Course really is the ultimate colored pencil course, I cant say enough good things about this course. As this is such a comprehensive course, this is one of the more expensive courses available and for good reason, however John has created easy option payments which I have highlighted below in the Pricing Section, however I would just like to explain what each payment option offers.

The first payment on offer is an annual payment which will give you access to the course for a full year, this means that for that year you will access to the following services.

First of you will have access to the course 24 / 7

Video and Audio demonstrations from the instructor (John)

An exercise at the end of each lesson

Downloadable PDF Workbooks

Community support via the online forum

6 Months Access to Live Office Hours ( Bi-Weekly live video calls where students implement and discuss what they have learnt.

Direct Access to John via e-mail anytime

An immersive experience with the best material on the topic of portrait art, leading to a total portrait-drawing transformation

Access to 6 in-depth video critiques of your portrait drawings from your instructor

If you decided to opt for the annual payment, you could use the option of 6 monthly payment instalments as opposed to a one bulk payment, this option helps you spread the payment of the course over a slightly longer period.

There is also a lifetime access one off payment which means you have access to all of the above all of the time. Prices are all laid out below.

Bundle Courses

Obviously, each of the courses are priced individually, which I will explain further into the review. However, to make things easier and offer excellent deals, John has created a couple of bundle packs.

The Portrait Prep Challenge Course Sessions 1 and 2 can be purchased in a bundle of just them both, However perhaps the most amazing bundle is The Ultimate Colored Pencil Course Bundle, this course comprises of the following individual courses. The Beginners Colored Pencil Course, Drawing Hair in Colored Pencil, Drawing The Eyes Master Class parts 1, 2 and 3, Drawing The Mouth Master Class Parts 1, 2 and 3 and finally The Color Matching in Colored Pencil Course.

Course Pricing

When you take a look at the various prices for the courses that John has created, I think you will see the lengths John has gone to, to make courses accessible to even the less financially well off among us. For me personally being in this category, I always appreciate when people selling a desirable product, try to make the product as easy as possible to purchase, without actually giving it away free which would be ludicrous.

Color Matching In Colored Pencil - $20.40

Drawing Hair In Colored Pencil - $20.40

Drawing The Eyes Master Class Parts 1,2 & 3 - $34.80

Drawing The Mouth Master Class Parts 1,2 & 3 - $34.80

Portrait Prep Challenge Class Session 1 - $34.80

Portrait Prep Challenge Class Session 2 - $34.80

10 Minutes To Take Off - $46.80

Beginners Colored Pencil Course - $214.80 Life Time Access Payment One Off Payment

Beginner Colored Pencil Course - 3 Payments of $94.80/Month

Face Value - Annual Purchase $956.40

Face Value - Annual Purchase 6 Payments of $166.80/Month

Face Value - Life Time Access One Of Payment $1,556.40

Course Bundle Packs

The Ultimate Colored Pencil Course - 5 Course Bundle $308.40

Portrait Prep Challenge Class Sessions 1 and 2 - $58.80


I think throughout this post I have made my feelings pretty clear on the course and John himself, but incase I haven’t. I have been a huge fan of John and his work within the Colored Pencil community for quite some time now. I was first made aware of John when I discovered the Colored Pencil Podcast which John and Lisa co-host together. From here I discovered so much more about John, his teaching abilities within the colored pencil medium etc, so when he decided to release this Online Academy I was so excited, however, I have to be honest, I never expected it to be this good, extensive, comprehensive and so professionally put together.

John has catered to every aspect of the Colored Pencil Portraiture and he has also very much taken into consideration that the world of the artist can be quite an expensive one and so in my opinion he has devised excellent payment options for the more comprehensive courses and made the more specific courses accessible to so many of of us.

John has taken into account the various different levels that we colored pencil artists are at and ensured he has covered this adequately. The course content accounts for those how may have never picked up an artist quality colored pencil before, for those proficient in an other art medium and just want to give colored pencil a try, after all it is the fastest growing art medium at the minute or the colored pencil enthusiast who wants to take their colored pencil skills to the next level, perhaps make a career from the medium or simply produce professional looking portraits for family and loved ones. The list is endless of the artists, enthusiasts and crafters, at all different levels, that is catered for and will learn something valuable from which ever course they chose.

I would like to make one thing very clear to everyone reading this blog, I have been offered a small percentage of courses sold via The Art Gear Guide, like an affiliate, there is no extra cost whatsoever to the customer. This is just a way for content creators, companies or in Johns case, Academy creator, to spread awareness to their product. As all of you know who watch the Product Reviews on The Art Gear Guide YouTube channel or regular visitors to the website, regardless of the company or product, my subscribers are the only thing I consider and ensuring you guys are getting the most detailed and honest account of anything I review. I have turned down promoting other course in the past, simply because I didn’t feel they would appeal to my subscribers or didn’t think the course was value for money. However, with John and The Sharpened Artist Online Academy, I truly think this online academy will appeal to so many of you guys and certainly help those wanting to take their colored pencil art to the next level and perhaps starting earning their own money by taking commissions and creating a name for themselves in the art world

I have also created a YouTube Video which shows you the Sharpened Artist website layout and what the courses will look like should you decide to purchase any of them. Obviously I can’t show you the content of the courses themselves, however, I hope I have explained them as detailed and clear as I can. Should you have any questions about what I have wrote here or mentioned on the YouTube video, please by all means message me, you can ask me any questions you have and I will always get back to you. I will of course provide all the details for contacting John Middick, so you can of course go straight to John should you have any questions about the courses.

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