Not so long ago, I got the chance to try one of Proko´s drawing courses. The one I tried was the “Portrait Drawing Fundamentals Course”, and it was a great experience. You can see along with this article some of the drawings I did myself during the course and also some of the charcoal drawings I did put in practice what I learned on the course. In my case what really interest me was the charcoal drawing approach, which was quite new for me. I knew well how to draw the human face, but I never tried it before using a Charcoal pencil. From the way you sharpen the pencil to the way you grab it, charcoal presents new and different techniques, if we compare them with the more common graphite pencil ones. Charcoal also allows you to work with full blacks and obtain better contrasts if we compare them to graphite.
But What or Who is Proko?
If you don´t know Proko´s academy, let me do a quick introduction. Proko was created by Stan Prokopenko and in his own words his goal with this video lessons and courses is “to make them entertaining while keeping them educational”. He is is a firm believer in having fun meanwhile learning, because if you enjoy the learning process you learn better, paying more attention and retaining more information. This will also leave you more inspired and motivated to go to practice.
On Proko’s website, you will find several online courses regarding traditional drawing. Aside from the “Portrait Drawing Course”, Proko offers a very interesting “Figure Drawing Course” to complement your portraits. In this course you will learn the basics on how to draw the human body, using techniques like gesture drawing to capture the body movement and shading for giving depth and volume to your drawings. If you wanna move forward and go more in-depth regarding the human body, the “Anatomy of the Human Body” is for you. You will learn how the human body is build bone by bone and muscle by muscle. Stan will provide you with fully rotatable 3D models of the different body parts, so you will have a better understanding of how the human body works.
If you are into caricature drawing Proko offers a very interesting course. I can’t speak too much about it, because I didn’t take it, but sounds like quite a lot of fun. Who knows, maybe I will find time in the future so I can take it.
If you wanna buy more than one of Proko’s courses, the website offers you “Package Deals” that maybe you will find interesting. Also in these packages, you will find full photo collections of models posing, with more than a 1000 photos in some of them, for an affordable price.
Ok cool, but why I should listen to you anyway?
Well, I’ve been drawing all my life and professionally for almost 10 years now. I don’t wanna bother you with my resume but you can check the ” About the author ” section and you will be able to see which are my clients and studios I work with. The thing is, over the years I’ve been in many courses and I know when a course or a teacher is good or not. You will be amazed to discover that some of the greatest artists sometimes are not the best teachers or communicators. So it is difficult to balance between being talented drawing and have good communication skills. Stan Prokopenko is one of those teachers who matches great drawing skills with superb communication. His lectures are fun and very engaging. His courses are great for beginner artist who want a solid introduction to proper figure drawing. Also if you wanna learn about charcoal drawing, this was my case, you will find the right information on his lectures.
And, how is the “Portrait Course” structured?
The course is divided into 18 videos showing an effective approach to drawing the portrait from any angle. You will learn to draw the head following the Loomis principles of figure drawing. For sure you can learn this for yourself, but as I commented before, Stan has a great way to communicate and teach you, making the whole learning experience fun and very easy going.
As an extra, you’ll also have access to rotating 3D models that you can use to practice and study from. For example, you will have at your disposal a 3D model of the Loomis’ head. You will be able to visualize the head from any angle. This will help you to learn how to draw the different planes of the head properly from any view.
Once you know how to build the head properly, the course will follow with the anatomy of the eyes, nose, lips, and ears. The information is presented divided into separated lessons for each facial feature. You will learn how to draw the nose, the lips, etc.. separately through specific exercises. Here you have some of the ones I did:
Drawing the eyes and nose were my favorite exercises. Stan presents an easy to follow method deconstructing them in major and minor planes so you can understand them better and make them more realistic and three-dimensional.
In my case I found pretty tricky to draw hair the right way and create convincing haircuts, using charcoals. Most people approach hair the wrong way and draw hair like if it was spaghetti hair ( drawing lots of single hairs) instead of volumes or masses. In this course, you’ll learn how to give hair volume in your drawings. After a couple of tries and following Stan´s indications I got some nice results.
After the different facial features exercises, you will also find 2 full lengths, real-time demonstrations of how to take a portrait from start to finish. I think this is the coolest part of the course because all the techniques you practiced during the previous exercises are used now in combination. I will recommend you to draw your first portrait using the same model Stan used for his tutorial. Once you feel more secure about your skills you can start to use other your own photo references.
If you are going to use your own photo references, remember to pick photos with resolution and clear light. I like to use studios photos because usually, the photographer is using 2 or 3 light sources on the model. On for ambient light, one direct light source and other as a bounce light effect. This type of photos is perfect for portraits because you can appreciate better the division between the different planes of the head. Also, you will find interesting shadows like the ones cast by the nose or the lower lip for example. All will depend on the angle from which the light sources are projected and also the amount of contrast between light and shadow the photographer is using.
The course structure Video By Video is the next one:
- The first video is dedicated to choosing the right materials and supplies.
- From the videos 2-16, it covers how to draw the individual aspects of drawing features, like the eyes, nose, ears, lips, and hair(among other facial features).
- In the videos 17 and 18, you will find the full-length portrait drawings from start to finish. The duration of each video is more than an hour long. The way the videos are presented is dividing the screen in two, with the model in one side and Stan drawing on the other in real time.
- Apart from the lectures, a 3d model of the Loomis’ head is included in the course and it is fully rotatable.
All sounds good but is there any negative thing about the course?
Well, I really tried to find some negative things to say about the course, and regarding the learning experience, there is not much to say. But in all fairness, I should mention that you can find some of the videos of this course for free in Proko’s YouTube Channel. This can make you think why you should buy the course anyway if you can learn from the free stuff, which is great and very useful by the way. The answer is pretty simple, the course includes almost 3 hours of full portrait drawings with Stan teaching you along the way. Is in those 3 hours where you can see the techniques you learned drawing the hair, the nose, the eyes, etc… working together and more importantly Stan will show you how to use them together properly. Creating a full portrait drawing can be an intimidating endeavor, but with Stan lectures and demonstrations becomes more a process or checklist of things you gotta do in order to create a convincing and realistic drawing.
My final thoughts on “Proko’s Portrait Drawing Course”
There are many portrait and figure drawing courses out there, that is for sure. What makes Proko’s courses standout is his approach to the subject. Proko teaches traditional atelier techniques, using a new era mindset. He escapes from the constrictions of a traditional drawing class and uses modern techniques like video editing, 3d models, etc… to teach you these art principles. But beyond the use of technology, is the way he teaches you what really captivates you and keeps your focus on the task. He truly knows how to communicate and deliver clear concepts and ideas.
I hope this review was helpful to you. In the end, you have the final decision on if you wanna take the course or not. What I can tell you, in all honesty, is that I had a great experience with it. I truly enjoyed the lectures and practicing the exercises. After I finished the course I did several portrait drawings following Stan’s teachings and I couldn’t be more than happy with the results. Of course, I had a previous knowledge regarding human figure drawing, but even if you are a beginner artist you will feel a huge improvement in your art skills if you follow step by step this course teachings.