May 18, 2020
Last week we looked at the head from the front. This time we are going to consider the profile view. Four years ago I ran a short course called ” Eyes, Ears, Nose, Mouth, Face” in which we explored facial features each week, alone, and in context with the rest of the head. For the last week we had a delightful model called Lea but for the first four weeks our models were each other. The students kindly gave permission for me to photograph their work and publish on my blog or social media pages. The drawings of Lea and Colin below, are among my favourites for their observation of the models and for their very different drawing styles.
Below is what I can only call a photo-fit of a fictional face but note just as the eyes are about half way down the head in front view the same applies to the profile view. All the features and the shape of the forehead are revealed in the profile view including the ear which may be seen totally or obscured by hair. Often when someone turns sideways we are surprised to find a nose that is a very different shape to what was imagined from the front. The information in profile view is quite different, lacking wholly the other eye and the other side of the face. It is why the most informative view and that which is perhaps most popular among portrait artists is the three quarter view because partial information about the face in profile and full face is combined, but more about that in two weeks time.
Here are a few suggestions for this week’s challenge.
Try finding some photos, preferably of someone you know in profile view, and spend a while just looking before drawing, better still if you have someone at home willing to sit for you. Look especially at the shape of the whole head and the placement of the ear. It may be further back than you might have thought. Look also at the relation of the line of the jaw to the ear. See how different the eye looks in this view. Look at the angles and shape of the nose and its relation to the eye socket and upper jaw.
When you start to draw sketch the largest shapes first and loosely enough so that you can refine the shapes as you work, always bearing in mind the relationship of the shapes to each other. Start to block in tones as you go, lightly at first and as your drawing becomes better defined work on the tones making them communicate the forms more strongly. Think about the underlying shape of the skull before adding the masses of hair.
This first drawing will have made you question. Next try drawing from life or from photographic reference the eye or both eyes, the nose and the mouth in full face and profile views. Also practice drawing several ears. You may like to try making a silhouette head and placing the ear.
When you have tried some of these exercises make a painting of a of a head in profile. If you prefer to continue drawing perhaps try making two further drawings one of a child and one of an older person in profile. What differences do you notice and how do they affect the way you draw?
Angela’s reference was in colour but I converted to gray scale so that everyone can see the tones in the reference. I would love to see another drawing or painting where the tones were as in the reference. When painting tonally the shapes of the back of the neck and hair are “lost”; the similarities in tone merge the head into the background. Another important lost edge in this reference occurs under the chin. These very soft almost indiscernible edges contrast with the sharply defined edges of the young man’s brow, nose, chin and front of the young man’s neck. In drawing it is good to be aware of all the structures and edges and then to think about the lost edges that will help the portrait to sit within the volume that the work is depicting. If too much emphasis is placed on delineating all the edges with sharp difference in tone between the background and the model, the artist risks the model appearing as a cut out on top of rather than part of the work. The drawing here is helped by the texture of the hair which softens the tonal differences with the background and also the well observed shadow in Angela’s drawing, under the chin. Love Angela’s handling of the hair!
May 12, 2020
This week’s challenge is to draw something found in a garden; anything from a lawn mower to a fishpond, ornament, watering can, topiary shears and a ladder if you have a very grand garden or remember what it was like to visit one! or perhaps a simple bench with a backdrop of flowers.
If you usually draw in pencil, try ink and a wash or two of watercolour.
If the weather is cold settle for doing a few sketches on the same page of a sketchbook with a view to painting a more considered work indoors with a warming coffee.
Hope these give you a few ideas!
Your Paintings and Drawings:
May 5, 2020
I have been asked to present a portrait challenge so I’m going to do three but every other week so that in between we’ll concentrate on the outside world of gardens, flowers and lawnmowers! We’ll be considering full front, profile and three quarter views and if you get really hooked the back of the head, though that may get left till I write a post on hair.
When you set about drawing a portrait head there are several considerations;
How much of the sitter to include apart from the head?
Even if the head is viewed full front is the sitter’s body also facing front or is the neck slightly turned?
Which direction does the main light come from?
Lit from the side the contrast between one side of the face and the other may be dramatic.
How do the features sit within the general form of the head and what is their spatial relationship with each other?
What measurements should I make to help construct a framework to build a convincing drawing?
Then the most important question:
What is it about the sitter I want to communicate and what will be the mood of the drawing?
Below are three very different portraits made for different reasons and from different kinds of reference;
This small portrait in scribbled pastel pencil began as a thumbnail sketch of a convicted criminal in a Russian Jail. I didn’t visit; he was featured in a television documentary. There was no time for detail, just an atmospheric drawing of a person possibly with much to hide but with a grim determination to carry on in harsh conditions. He is tight lipped and his eyes though open are scarcely defined.
He is looking straight at and through us, his face strongly lit from one side. The eyes are vertically in the middle point between the base of his chin and the top of his head and about one eye’s width apart. These measurements are approximations for when the head is turned fully towards us and this is true for nearly all heads, human heads, that is! In case the head is tilted a little it can be useful to make a feint line through the axis of the head before you start on drawing the features. I usually start by getting an idea of the overall shape of the head, sometimes measuring its overall width and height. I then indicate the neck and shoulders. After that I usually tackle placing the features, The eyes are usually in shadow so before marking out the detail I may work a pale layer of tone over the eye socket area.
Many people place the features with line, again usually starting with the eyes. Take care to look at the length of the nose, it is easy to make the nose too long. One famous artist quote is that ‘ the nostril is always nearer the eye than you think!’ Also the relation between the base of the nose and the upper lip and the lower lip to the base of the chin. Can you see the ears?
Place them and the mass of the hair if there is any! Then work tonally to describe the form of the head and ts features, adding any detail you feel is necessary. Look to see where areas of shadow are on your model or reference, especially under the nose, the upper lip, under the chin, the eye sockets and under the hair line.When you go back to working further on the hair it may be good to show the flow of the hair with line work in places but it can look laboured if you try to draw every individual hair. This is especially so if the tonal mass of the hair has already been well indicated. In the portrait of Lea below I scumbled masses of dark pastel so the hair became a texture. Always be guided by what you observe and use the appropriate technique. Explore line and texture on a separate paper, imagining the kind of hair you wish to depict.
For your first drawings use charcoal or pencil, about an A3 or larger sheet for charcoal and a much smaller sheet for pencil studies. You may like to make several quite small sketches in pencil, from different people or photos till you get used to describing various head shapes and features so that you become confident to tackle a more considered portrait.
Tackle a portrait of someone you know, perhaps a family member either from life or from a photograph. Try to draw directly or scale up your reference by using a grid. Use a grid just to place the main features then draw everything with as free and fluent a hand as you can. But please do not trace your image as it may become wooden and not have your own personality in the line. The way we draw is as unique as our signature.
For the portrait of Lea I decided to include her cape and the top of her dress to show off her beautifully braided black hair.
Just wish you could hear her sing!
If you have not tackled a head before don’t worry about likeness just go for making a convincing head!
Your drawings and paintings;