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5/14/2017 3ThingsYouDon'tWanttoForgetWhenDrawingHeadsandFaces

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DrawingHeadsandFaces
By: Austin R. Williams | May 13, 2017

15

Learning how to draw faces and heads is among the most challenging tasks for any artist. Even small errors are
immediately noticeable. To draw a convincing human head, you need a solid strategy.

Every head and face is different, of course, but there are some general principles that apply to just about
everyone. Here we share three pieces of advice about how to draw faces and heads, adapted from an article by
artist and instructor Jon deMartinthat appears in the new issue of Drawing magazine.

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Head of a Young Man, by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, ca. 1725-1805, red chalk, 15 x 12 3/16. Collection The

Morgan Library & Museum, New York, New York.

1:ItsAllAbouttheSkull

The skull provides the framework of the head and face, and when looking at a persons face we can clearly see
the skulls influence everywhere, from the forehead, the temple and the brow ridge down to the cheekbones, the
bridge of the nose and the jaw. If you want to draw the figure realistically, youll want to develop a sound
understanding of the most important aspects of the skull.

Illustration 1(below) shows front and side views of the skull with dots indicating important points. A few of the
most important are (moving top to bottom):

The highest point of the head


The brow ridge
The orbits (the cavities in which the eyes sit)
The angle of the jawbone
The point of the chin

You can use these points as anchors to help construct the head. Memorize where they are located on the skull,
and then look for them when drawing from a real person. You can make a light indication of these points on
your drawing or just make a mental note of them. Either way, having these points properly in place will give
your drawing a solid foundation.

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Illustration 1: The Skull, by Jon deMartin

2:YouNeedtoSetBoundaries

The head isnt really just one shapeits a complex form made up of numerous small planes and sub-shapes.
Put simply: Its complicated. To draw a head convincingly, we want to mentally break it down into smaller parts
that we can more easilyunderstand.

One way to do this is to look out for boundaries, the places where these smaller planes begin and end. We can
divide boundaries into two types: optical boundaries and base boundaries. Optical boundaries occur where the
edge of a form disappears from sight, for instance along the outer edge of a head, or the edge of a nose where
it overlaps another part of the face. Base boundaries are a little more subtle. These lines describe where one
form or shape meets or transitions into another.

We can practice finding these boundaries by looking at drawings by the Old Masters. Illustration 2 (below)
shows a drawing by Jean-Honor Fragonard (17321806). In Illustration 2b, I traced over some of this drawings

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most important boundaries. I use solid black lines to indicate optical boundaries and dotted blue lines to
indicate base boundaries. Youll note that Fragonard included some of these lines in his drawing. Others he did
not, and I drew those based on my own knowledge of the forms of the head.

You can try this exercise on heads of all different ages, and with practice youll learn to recognize the most
important forms of the head. As your knowledge increases, try drawing heads of younger people, where the
forms are subtler.

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Illustration 2: Man Wearing a Turban, by Jean-Honore Fragonard, ca. 1732-1806, ink wash, 11 3/4 x
9 1/2.

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Illustration 2b

3:StartWithLine,FinishWithShadow

Our first aim in a drawing is to delineate the boundaries of key forms. As the great draftsman and teacher
Deane Keller put it, Line first, modeling second. Once we have a firm concept of the heads surface and have
constructed it with line, we can proceed to modeling it with values. To work in the reverse order and begin with
light and shadow would be to merely copy the values we see in our subject, which would not produce a
convincing three-dimensional illusion.

When youre ready to add values to your drawing of a head, go in order of relief. This means you should start
out by adding shadows to the deepest-relief formsthe parts of the head that protrude the most, such as the
nose and the chin. In most cases, these parts will receive the most dramatic shadows.

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After youve modeled the deep-relief forms, move on to modeling the shallower forms, which will have subtler
shadows. In essence were modeling in the order of impression, because the eye is attracted to darker values
(the deeper-relief forms) before lighter values (the shallower-relief forms). As a result, our modeling will have a
sense of visual order.

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Illustration 3: Drawing of the Bust of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, by Jon deMartin, graphite, 7 x 5. For this
drawing I copied from the Bust of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, a sculpture by Bernardo Fioriti (active 1643-
1677) on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in Pennsylvania.

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Illustration 3b

This article is abridged and adapted from Constructing the Forms of the Head and Face by Jon deMartin. To
read the full article and learn more about how to draw faces and heads, check out the spring 2017 issue of
Drawing. To learn about Jon deMartins upcoming classes and workshops, visit jondemartin.com.

Want all the best drawing news and instruction? Subscribe to Drawing magazine here.

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AboutAustinR.Williams
AustinR.WilliamsisthesenioreditorofDrawingmagazine.
ViewallpostsbyAustinR.Williams

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