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Circles Spiral An Artist’s Career Upwards
Drawing is a learned skill. Every course along the way helps, but as one who has drawn for over 30 years, I can help anybody start drawing better pencil portraits. Everyone loves a likeness, and I can help break down what is a mega-task into small, doable increments. My students and their friends will be amazed at what happens when they follow me. These exercises will help make drawing faces easy and even the hardest steps easier.
This article specializes in an introductory overview for facing drawing via the circle. Now we are not made to conveniently draw circles. Think of the needlepoint of a protractor, the position for holding a pencil, the grip it has to have, and the limited radius of the instrument. A human hand cannot make this maneuver. It is a very mechanical thing. My whole stance as an art teacher is making our bodies into machines on the one hand, and taking the machine out of drawing, on the other. So your products will at once become warmer, more human, on the one hand, and more accurate on the other. I teach all of my students just how to do this.
Let’s visualize a face in general. A face is made up of so many round areas. Name them. the frontal face is an oval, the neck is a column, the ears are a wedged oval. The cheeks are circular, the lips are arced, the eyeball is a round sphere, the iris is a round color, the pupil is round darkness. The upper head is a round to where the nape of the neck begins. The nose is made up of circular motions, as well, the chin is curved or it is squared.
What is a square other than a circle with edges? Or a circle other than a square with the edges rounded off?
In any case, if one holds a pencil and lifts his hand up off the table, going around in circles without stopping, then approached the paper still making those circles, hits the paper with the circling pencil, then will result some of the most rounded and best lines for circular and oval objects going. The deal is, the person has become the protractor and so hit the paper without ‘drawing’ from a point that distorts the circle. Hard to explain, easy to show. However, in my eBook, Pencil Portrait Drawing Techniques Easy(ier), there is a sample of multiple circles which illustrates this procedure, and I can’t emphasize enough just how important getting REAL circles is. They can have no warp in them, at all. Eyes must have only circular lines, no flat ones. Pupils must be exactly concentric, a circle in a circle, the exact same distance showing between the two circular lines at every point.
Once the concept of a friction-less circle is mastered, one can lean on hand on the table and make fingers go round and round in fast movement, and they will produce a small, but perfect circle.
Nothing beats practicing circles. It is mindlessly entertaining. Practice making thin ovals and all continuously rounded objects in-between. This will take a student so far, so fast. See the picture in my eBook, Pencil Portrait Drawing Techniques Easy(ier). link-link
Then, when preparing to copy the face chosen to draw, the artist will be ready to do the right shape of an oval. Try one from a magazine. Too thin? Throw out a rounded extension on either side, and connect. Now that the concept of perfect circle making is within the realm of possible, the psychological barrier is broken, and constructing faces in rapid fashion has begun.
The next thing to do is to consider the form, and actually shade in the dark side. I tell my students these things, they shake their heads up and down enthusiastically, and then they start drawing a tedious outline just like they always did. No one knows about the passage in the Bible in the book of James, which talks about looking in the mirror, seeing what’s wrong, and walking away without doing anything about it. The problem is, they can’t ‘see’ beyond, or maybe I should say beneath those circles to the whole form and where the shadows fall on it. Nor where the features fall, yet they think the contour of a face can be drawn without any reference to the features. They think it has no reference to the basic light-side, dark-side, as well.
Now when one draws a face straight on from a perfectly symmetrical viewpoint, everything is the ‘same in reverse.’ The tear duct on the right-facing eye is on the left. The tear duct on the left-facing eye is right, mirror images of each other. But wait. Maybe the nose is slightly at an angle: it may be a five-eighths or a three-quarter view of the face. That face with the two sides the same width will succeed in making a ‘fat-flat’ face, which I have seen coming out of a whole high school class of students. No, no, no. When drawing a three-quarters view, there is a smaller side and a larger side. Think literally, one-quarter for the less seen side, three-quarters for the larger view. Literally. Actually. For real. I mean this. The eye is as high on the smaller side, but it is not as wide. It is scrunched together, telescoped. Try it: this achieves a 3-dimensional face perspective in 2 dimensions.
With a conical round shape, one must not forget eye level. Eye level is the most important thing. Looking down on it? Then all three curves of a cross-section will be concave, starting from top down, the next more so, the final, more so still. I just saw a professional painter miss this on a lighthouse. At the eye level, the cross stripe is straight, but he had all three straight. He might have been a professional painter, but he was by far not a professional draw-er. The top would have been convex; the bottom concave, the middle one only slightly one way or the other, almost straight.
There is so much to learn, folks, and it is a fun process, doing so. I love guiding people into ‘seeing’ correctly for 3-dimensional placement on a 2-dimensional surface. More to it than some might think.