This sounds a little bad, but I've been tracing my portraits to get them to be scaled correctly. I want to learn how to not do that anymore. Do you have any pointers on how to draw realistic portraits without looking deformed?
It doesn’t sound bad at all, it’s awesome that you want to learn a different way of doing things. I always remind myself that you should create in the way that you feel best creating (however that might be) and sometimes that takes a little trial and error.
Personally, I use grids to help get my proportions right, but practice has been a great help. Sketch as much as you can and work on whatever you find hardest. Hands used to really seem impossible to me, so I did lots of hand studies. Sometimes it helps to just break it down and focus on your weakest points, this way you can really learn about the human form in greater detail and that kind of knowledge is helpful when you start to piece it all back together again. Also, try not to be discouraged if you ever look at a portrait you’ve made and find faults, proportional or otherwise. If you can recognise the problem, it means that you’re entirely capable of fixing it.