Just since being on this site I have read some statements that are factually incorrect. Many beginning artists want to draw celebrities and that's OK if you are doing them as a gift or for practicing. But if you decide to sell them you can be sued if you don't have a release. I know one artist who starting doing posters of celebrities...John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, etc. He was sued for $50,000 and lost.
While Sarah Palin was running for office I wanted to do her portrait. I called her office in Alaska and talked to a couple of people and eventually Sarah herself. She agreed. I faxed her a release which she returned signed with 13 reference photos.
I was lucky. It did not cost me anything because at that time she was looking for all of the exposure she could get. Usually, however, you won't get past an agent who works on a commission so you can expect a pretty sizable fee.
But even if your drawings or painting were exceptional there are too many good likenesses of the showbiz types out there for you to compete against.
My recommendation is to go find your own interesting characters. My best sellers in the portrait category have been old weather-worn cowboys. One of my most profitable was a drawing of a 104 year old Navajo woman. Her face was so wrinkled that she could hardly open her eyes and the rest of her face looked like a road map with detours. But not only did I get some pictures I got a three hour lecture in Navajo lore. Almost every time you do one of these kind of shoots you learn something new and interesting.
Carry a camera with you and don't be afraid to approach people. You'll be amazed how receptive many people are and you'll also meet some really interesting people.. I once got some photographs of two very rough looking fellows who were jumping a freight to Chicago. But even then always have a simple release and make sure that you get it signed Look up "free model or photographic release forms" on the internet.
Great advice! Thanks!
This is solid advice: Many beginning artists want to draw celebrities and that's OK if you are doing them as a gift or for practicing. But if you decide to sell them you can be sued if you don't have a release.
Drawing celebrities can be great for practicing, because they are professionally photographed so the lighting, detail, etc is usually very good. Celebrity photos are usually better quality than the portrait photos an ordinary person can take, so I understand why people gravitate towards drawing them, especially if it's someone they really look up to. But of course, the important thing is to not sell your celebrity drawings!
When I was 14, I drew pencil portraits of Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison. I was sorta goofing around, a bit unsure of myself, but I wanted to see what I could do and at the time, they were interesting subjects to draw. They were the first "real" portraits I'd ever drawn. I showed them to my friends and family and received lots of positive feedback - it was awesome. Their reaction to those portraits was pivotal in propelling me forward with pursuing art. It was so encouraging. People were starting to take me seriously as an artist... it was like I'd made the leap from being "a kid who could draw" to being "an artist"!
A year or so later, I wanted to take some Saturday morning art lessons in Classical Realism (charcoal drawing and oil painting) and the teacher wanted to see some examples of my work before accepting me as a student. I shyly showed him those 2 celebrity portraits and he liked them and let me in. I still have those 2 portraits and when I look at them, I smile at my 14 year old self. For me, it was a great way to learn, it piqued my interest in drawing realistically, and it caused others to take my art seriously. It was an important part of my artistic journey.
So yes, draw celebrities for practice, or to give as a gift, but as Richard says, remember not to sell them.
If you find you like drawing portraits, then it would indeed be worth the time and effort to learn how to take your own photos to work from. Plus it would make your art more personal, to draw a face that no one else has drawn or seen. Model releases are a good idea, especially if you want to sell or publicly display the work.