How to Become a Street Portrait Artist

Love the excitement of a crowded street? Want to share the beauty you see in the faces of passersby? These tips will help you launch your new adventure as a street portrait artist today.


  1. 1
    Determine what feature of the human face you find most striking. Practice quickly sketching that particular feature, be it eyes, noses, chins, cheek bones, etc., in as much detail and variety as possible. Once you've mastered quickly putting down your favored feature, set a timer and sketch out a completed portrait. Perfecting any specific aspect of the portrait creation process will give you the speed necessary to carry your talent to the streets.
  2. 2
    Choose your medium. You'll need a medium that won't self-destruct when you hand it off to your client on the street. Pencil, water colors, markers, or spray paint will allow you to create a quick, dry, image to sell to your clients without major disruption to their day.
  3. 3
    Select a color palette. Speed and high visual impact are the two most important factors when you're working on the street. Choose a narrow spectrum of colors to create your masterpieces; you won't have time to fumble around looking for a fourth tube of paint, a sixth pencil, or a tenth can of spray paint. Decide which two to three colors of your favored medium allow you the greatest freedom while delivering the most striking piece of artwork.
  4. 4
    Choose a surface. Decide what surface will best suit your medium and provide the greatest ease in creating your on-the-spot portraits. People are attracted to the unusual, so give it to them. Create your portraits on blocks, or rough chunks, of wood, torn sheets of sandpaper, stones, or paper you've made yourself. Using a textured surface will allow you create a memorable and unique piece of artwork that people will treasure for a lifetime.
  5. 5
    Put together a traveling case for your supplies. Determine how many portraits you'll be able to do in a sitting and pack only the items you'll require to complete them. Choose a case that you can work out of for the greatest ease of set up and tear down, in case you want the freedom to move about to stay in touch with the greatest number of passersby. Put your name and contact information in a highly visible location on the traveling case so people can see it while you are working on their portrait.
  6. 6
    Take your talent to the streets with flair. Be whoever you imagine yourself to be as you head out onto the streets with your portrait creating traveling case. Creative people draw an audience whether they are soundless as they work or make non-stop grunting noises. Trust your art and yourself.
  7. 7
    Be gracious and proud of your work. Some people will not wish to purchase their portrait once you've completed it, even if it is utter perfection. Thank the person for their time and don't be put off. Display these pieces of art as samples of your talent for your audience to admire.
  8. 8
    Use your fear. Fearfulness and trembling hands can help you create the most exceptional portraits, so let your emotions flow as you create. Only you, the artist, know what you see in any individual face. Only you have an end-product image in your head when you begin. Use this to your advantage as you create. An errant stroke or fearful jab at your surface with exactly the wrong color may be just the thing that strikes your model as perfection.


  • People often love to admire raw sketches of an artists work. Display a few of what you consider to be your worst and best incomplete efforts to entertain them while you work on their portrait. Don't tell your customer what you think of your sketches, let them tell you what they like. Incorporate those things that people seem to like the most into your future portraits.
  • Trust your unique talent and perception and let it flow from your hands without limitation. If you see evil in a face, allow that evil to shine through in your portrait of them. If your eyes detect sadness, let your hands bring that sadness to your portrait surface. Allow your art to reveal who you see when you look at that person and you will not go wrong.
  • Set your pricing as you see fit. Art is personal expression and therefore cannot be governed by others opinions or experiences. If you value your work too highly, the worst that can happen is that you end up with great name and talent exposure and a healthy quantity of samples to display for others to enjoy on the street. If you place your value too low, the worst that can happen is that you might have to turn away clients due to lack of supplies on hand.

Article Info

Categories: Drawing People and Features