Drawing Unknown Faces, part 144

13 May

Beautiful eyes

Originally uploaded by ABD AL-RAHMAN AL-TERKIT

Okay, here is a second attempt to use a photo as a reference, instead of literally copying it.

The idea is to draw the photo and see how it is taken, how the pose of the person is and try to see a three-dimensional “wireframe” in your mind.

This is a neat trick to have, because it allows you to use other people’s photos without any problems, because you’re only using them as an idea. As we know, ideas are free to copy, so copying an idea is always allowed.

When I started this mini-project I had no idea how to tackle this problem, so I guessed I had to find out by doing the work (by drawing). I was sure it wouldn’t be easy and would take a lot of practice (read: drawing), so please bear with me on that. If I knew all the answers in advance, I could be the riches man in the world.

The first thing I wanted to try is to draw something I have direct access to and try to imagine how it would change if I would see it from a different angle, without actually changing the angle. This is what I tried in this sketch with an ink bottle.

ink bottle

It’s not very well drawn, but that isn’t the thing I was after here. I wanted to find out a way to imagine another view of the ink bottle.

I also tried sketching the boy several times, but none of these looked very promising. I guess it is the extreme perspective that is throwing me off.

Drawing Unknown Faces, part 144 (1) Drawing Unknown Faces, part 144 (2) Drawing Unknown Faces, part 144 (3)

I guess I have to simplify the image, so I’m able to see more clearly what I’m looking at. So I turned to Bridgman for advice. The head really is a sphere with a plane attached to it, together with a block as the forehead, a cylinder as the teeth, and an hooked structure as the bottom of the head (the lower jaw). I have indicated those in the following rough sketch of the human head with bold lines.

Skull, part 2

Of course, you should not assume anything, but always test your assumptions with your observations. So I found a few profile photos and drew those, using this knowledge, together with a decomposition into the mentioned shapes (sphere, straight plane, block, cylinder and hooked structure).

Here is the first example. I’ve used the Bridgman method to figure out how this face is made up, and also how to get the elements in the right place. You see left to right, the original photo, the first sketch with the elements drawn in, the second sketch with the elements erased (I didn’t trace them with my rollerball pen). I’m still way out of my comfort zone with this, and it feels quite constructed, artificial, non-artistic. I guess you need it as a learning tool as long as you’re not able to eyeball it.

Drawing Unknown Faces, part 144 (4) Drawing Unknown Faces, part 144 (5)

Notice that in the first sketch, the plane of the face is perpendicular to the floor, as it is in the original photo. This is something I forgot in the second sketch. I guess, the order in which to draw the elements is:

  1. block of the forehead
  2. plane of the face
  3. hooked lower jaw
  4. sphere of the cranium
  5. cylinder of the teeth

This schematic diagram should be checked with the original, and adjusted where needed. Obviously, this stage should be done in (erasable) pencil.

So I tried three more faces in profile, of a girl and two women. Notice that the sphere that would fit inside the girl’s head (on the left) is proportionally bigger than a similar sphere would fit in the head of the woman on the right.

Drawing Unknown Faces, part 144 (6) Drawing Unknown Faces, part 144 (7) Drawing Unknown Faces, part 144 (8)

The last sketch was interesting, because I guessed the position and size of the sphere (the cranium) much too small. This led to a much too shallow face. Bridgman mentions that the head can be roughly seen as a cube, so in profile one would expect a square. It is important to be aware of the square shape of the head in profile . Luckily, I saw the mistake in time and was able to re-sketch the profile.

If there is one thing I have learned from all this, then that I now pay attention to the plane of the face (or in profile, the line of the face). I’m also getting a feel for the masses of the head, which is important, because (again, according to Bridgman) those masses stay proportionally the same, from whatever angle you’re observing.

These two ink sketches gave me further insight into the matter of drawing human heads. The rules aren’t really rules, but more recipes, with some allowance for variation. You have to adjust your expectations to what you see. The system is meant to let you identify the different parts of the head and how they relate to each other in a particular specimen of a head, namely, the one you are trying to draw. You still need a lot of practice to get the feel for it, to make it your second nature, so you don’t have to think about it anymore.

Drawing Unknown Faces, part 144 (9) Drawing Unknown Faces, part 144 (a)
yes, I know, the ear of the guy on the right is too small

I guess I should now try to draw both the simplified version of the head and the actual sketch next to each other, to develop a deeper understanding of the subject matter. My guess is that if you know how to turn the simplified version into a sketch, and you turn the simplified version around an axis, draw a sketch based on that, you have changed the perspective view of your subject.

This Asian woman was a blast to draw, because her face is simple, yet beautiful. Placing all the elements in the profile view is simple enough, although I sitll have problems with placing the ears at the correct position. I have found no better way than eyeballing it, using the lower jaw as a reference. I also use lines below the nose and along the eyebrows to give it the right height and vertical position. I guess the ear is behind the line between the tip of the chin and the crown of the head.

Drawing Unknown Faces, part 144 (b)

This woman had another head shape than the Asian woman. Her head is much flatter, her chin is much weaker, and her teeth are less upright (they are slanted backward).

Drawing Unknown Faces, part 144 (c)

I have been working on this article for more than 8 hours, so I guess I call it quits for today.

To be continued in a new blog post…

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