always knew I wanted to be an artist. If you’d asked me when I was in first grade what I was going to be when I grew up, that would have been my answer.

I grew up with a pencil and sketchbook in hand. I grasped at anything art related like it was water in a desert. Drawing was a way to discover the world. To unwrap its beauty. To discover its secrets.

People were the most interesting of all. Of all the secrets to unwrap, they were the most complex and compelling. I couldn’t help but constantly try to solve them. I was on a quest to draw the perfect portrait.

When I went to college, I chose to major in fine art, with a specialization in painting.

Even when my professors did their best to push me away from people as a primary subject, I kept gravitating back. I know what they wanted from me, but I had yet to achieve the goal of my quest.

I realize now that goal was misguided. In fact, it was impossible.

The thing about portraits, like people, is that perfection is not actually the goal.

Instead, and it took me years and years to understand this, the goal is to capture the essence of a person. And to do that, you don’t need photoreal details in every area of a portrait. It goes deeper than that.

What I discovered on this quest is that drawing the “perfect portrait” is not a matter of drawing a “perfect” portrait. It’s an achievable task that comes down to a few key skills. My new mission: to share those skills with other hungry artists who want to learn.

Because everyone deserves the opportunity to unlock the magic that is creating portraits.

“Drawing is a way to discover the world.”


Rebecca Tillman-Young is an artist living and working in Los Angeles. Her work has been featured in magazines, TV shows, and gallery shows across the country.

She began her career as a portrait artist back in high school, when she’d draw friends and family members as gifts or just for fun.

Rebecca’s teaching career began around the same time, with a small class of 4th and 5th graders at an after-school program.

She went to college in Texas and got her degree in Painting, beginning a long-term focus on portrait and figure painting.

Since then, she’s gone on to paint and draw hundreds of portraits, as well as to help thousands of students to draw and paint more lifelike portraits.