I worked on making a portrait of Aleksandra over and over for a couple of months (see the terrible work below). I finally surrendered and chose a different photo of her. The drawing above went smoothly and I did it in one afternoon. (Sktchy photo reference for above sketch.)
What originally inspired me to paint her was the bright yellow-green background in this Sktchy photo. But I learned the hard way that selfies shot close up distort the features and shape of the face.
Our eyes and brains automatically correct for things like photo distortion and lighting, but trying to draw exactly what is there from a distorted photo doesn’t work unless you’re ok with a distorted drawing. Sometimes that can make for a fun caricature, but in this case I was trying to capture a complimentary likeness of a pretty woman.
Below are some of the failed attempts. The first colored image is an oil painting with about 15 layers of failed attempts beneath the final failed attempt. The second colored image is a gouache painting that I put too much paint on, tried to wash some off, then gave up because the sketchbook paper was ruined.
Below are the really terrible initial drawings.