The Real Reason

Most People can’t draw portraits

You’ve been set up for failure from the start.

 Published on February 20, 2020.
by Rebecca Tillman-Young


I’ve been teaching portrait drawing and giving art lessons for years.

And I never planned to go public with any of this.

No one wants to attack their own industry. No artist wants to “bite the hand that feeds them.” But this level of corruption is wrecking people’s lives. Good people’s lives. And it’s time you heard the truth from someone on the inside.

It’s not you. I promise.


t was an unusually warm December day, and I was in my studio with a new student of mine named Lydia. 

The afternoon light was warm as it slanted through my studio windows. It fell across Lydia and filtered through a curtain of short hair as she sat with her head bowed.

Lydia was crying.

I sat uncomfortably for a moment, watching Lydia do her best to blot away the tears that had been streaming from her eyes for the last five minutes.

“I’m so sorry,” Lydia apologized, her embarrassment clear as she let out a huff and a self-deprecating laugh. 

I told her not to worry and assured her that she wasn’t alone in feeling frustrated. But deep down I felt confused.

Lydia was a mother of three, a grandmother of two. She’d been a teacher for years and had done so much in her life that I admired. She was a strong woman.

And yet, a simple, routine question about drawing had brought her to a total collapse there in my studio. 

See, it was her first lesson with me, and, as I do with all my new students, I was going through some questions to help me get to know her and where she was with her art.

Her tearful response surprised and confused me.

The Big Bad Question

The question I had asked her was this:

“What do you think is the number one thing holding you back in your art right now? What’s keeping you from getting the results you want?”

That’s it.

That question was what had brought tears to Lydia’s bright blue eyes, and caused her to crumble into self-doubt and shame.

Finally, she took a shaky breath and focused her eyes on me once more. “I am. I’m what’s holding me back.”

She went on to recount her life-long desire to draw portraits. She told me of her endless frustrations, the roadblocks and challenges.

She told me about how life just kept getting in the way, and while she loved her children and grandchildren more than anything, she also felt frustrated that she’d never had the chance to really focus on the thing she had always loved.


She told me she’d done everything she knew to do.

She’d bought books, taken lessons, and watched tutorials online until her eyes were red.

But in the end, nothing really seemed to get her anything more than a vague resemblance in her portraits.

“If I’d just had more time, maybe I could have gone back to school or found the right class… Had more time to practice…” She sighed and shrugged. “But really, I don’t know if it would have been worth it anyway…

I just don’t think I have what it takes. I’m just not naturally very talented.

As we continued to talk, Lydia told me that she had begun to feel ashamed and guilty of her obsession with drawing.

She was embarrassed to show her family and friends what she worked on because, after all these years, she still hadn’t made any real progress.

She felt she’d wasted time and money on stuff that ultimately just didn’t matter.

And as Lydia talked, I began feeling something rise in me. It took me a moment to realize what it was… anger.


I was angry! 

I was angry that Lydia had felt this way for so long, because there was no need for her to feel that way!

I was angry because I’d been exactly where Lydia was at that moment. I was angry because I remembered that feeling of shame and frustration.

And I was angry because it seemed like so many people felt the same way, all because the tools available to them were FAILING them in so many ways.

I hated that so many artists were out there feeling like something was WRONG with THEM because they couldn’t figure this stuff out.

The thing is…

…So many artists have spent years and years, and thousands of dollars on materials and workshops and training and books and lessons…

Only to walk away thinking that THEY were the problem.

It isn’t right. And I’m done pretending there’s not a big problem here.

Next up: Part 2 (of 6): It’s Time We Called This Scam Out


  1. Most people aren’t getting the results they want through the learning methods available today (it’s not just you).
  2. Many aspiring artists end up quitting because they aren’t getting the results they want… and they think it’s their fault (they couldn’t be more wrong).