Drawing the Human Face (Tips for Beginner Artists) - FeltMagnet - Crafts
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Drawing the Human Face (Tips for Beginner Artists)

Denise has been studying and teaching art and painting for 40+ years. She has won numerous prestigious awards for her art and design.

Turning the face.

Turning the face.

Drawing Tips for Beginners

In this article, we'll look at six drawing tips for beginners:

  1. Remember That Anyone Can Draw
  2. Doodling Is Still Drawing
  3. Learn About the History of Pencils to Understand Lead Grades
  4. Try Charcoal Instead of Regular Pencil Lead (Instructions on How to Use and Sharpen Charcoal Pencils)
  5. Try Toned Paper
  6. Consider the Placement and Shape of the Eyes

Tip #1: Remember That Anyone Can Draw

The idea that people cannot learn to draw is ludicrous. Just the idea that you aren’t talented enough to learn creates a mental block that will prevent you from learning. Talent isn’t some aristocracy that you are born into, or if you are not you are doomed to mediocrity. If that were so all my children would be artists, or perhaps I would not. Just like learning the piano, languages or mathematics, drawing can be taught and learned. It is time and practice that makes all the difference.

Tip #2: Doodling Is Still Drawing

Drawing is one of those things that everyone likes to do. Sure, we call it doodling, noodling, scribbling or dabbling and not drawing, but that’s what we are really doing. You might call it cartooning, depiction, design, etching, graphics, likeness, picture, sketch, layout, art, composition, doodle, portrayal, outline, tracing, caricature, representation, rendering, illustration, image, portraiture, conception, brain-storming, form, motif, stylization, abstraction, decoration, replica, copy and more.

Drawing Is Easy Art

The great thing about drawing is that it eliminates color and only concentrates on line and form, so it is really the easiest form of art there is. I doodled from a very early age and it wasn’t till I was 13 that someone told me I had a talent and should think about taking art classes in high school. It was a revelation. Before that, no one told me much more than that I had really poor spelling skills. One English teacher told me to buy a pocket dictionary and WEAR IT. I would be offended but I was totally aware of my atrocious spelling (thank God for spellcheck!).

Tip #3: Learn About the History of Pencils to Understand Lead Grades

By the fourteenth century, paper was being used more and more by artists. Early drawings done by Leonardo da Vinci and other High Renaissance artists were done in sanguine or red chalk, pen and ink or silverpoint. Silverpoint was actually expensive to use because it was made of real silver combined with an element to make it softer and shaped like a pencil. As you know, silver tarnishes or turns black with age. This is perfect for drawings. One soft silver line turned into a dark line with age. Too bad we can’t really draw with silver today. I would love that. Later they made pencils out of real lead, but lead is poisonous and prolonged contact with it can give the artist lead poisoning. Even surrounded by wood, the lead was dangerous because people love to put things in their mouths… enough said.

Carbon was the likely alternative. Carbon or charcoal is very fragile and breaks easily. So some genius mixed the carbon with clay. The clay stabilized the carbon making it stronger and the carbon was still dark enough to be visible on paper. Today this “lead” has various grades of hardness.

Pencil Lead Hardness Scale

  • HB is the clay and carbon in equal amounts in the lead and makes for a nice hard lead with light crisp lines.
  • 2B through 6B are softer and softer, mixing less clay with the carbon so the lines made are darker and softer. The problem is that these leads are also easier to break than the HB.
  • 2H through 6H have less and less carbon to the amount of clay. They are very hard and make lighter and lighter lines. These are often used by architects, who want very thin, very precise lines.
drawing-the-human-face

Tip #4: Try Charcoal Instead of Regular Pencil Lead

I find regular pencil lead, even the 6B soft ones, to be extremely shiny. This is no problem when you are just sketching for yourself, but if you want to scan and share these drawings the glare makes them hard to scan. The shininess of the lead photographs poorly and can’t be saved digitally without plenty of camera and lighting expertise. I prefer charcoal.

How to Use Charcoal Pencils

  • The charcoal pencils also come in HB through 6B and sharpen well if you use a knife (or Exacto blade) and sandpaper. Never try putting a charcoal pencil in a pencil sharpener. You will be very disappointed with the outcome.
  • Also, sharpening manually allows you to give yourself a very long point to the pencils so that using the side of the pencil gives wide soft lines, while the point still gives crisp ones.
  • On top of this, I buy vine charcoal. This is not mixed with any clay or binder and the vine charcoal is so soft it can be rubbed off with your finger. It makes it perfect for changing things of fixing mistakes before committing to the HB or other charcoal pencils.
  • They do NOT erase easily. You will need to use a kneaded gum eraser with charcoal. The kneaded gum eraser is not like regular erasers. You don’t rub with it. You knead it and shape it into a point or thin space and blot with it. It pulls up the charcoal a little at a time. Knead it some more and keep blotting to pull up the charcoal.

Video: How to Sharpen Charcoal Pencils

Tip #5: Try Toned Paper

Sometimes I used toned paper and pretend that the tone on the paper is the middle value. Then I have to build up the darker values and use a white charcoal pencil or white pastel pencil for the highlights. I like the toned paper because some of the work is already done with the middle value already there. Also, I like being able to add a highlight just where I want it.

The deal is that you cannot and should NOT mix the white with the black. It doesn’t look right or good. The area where the white goes must first be free of any black smudges to be pure. This is done with a kneaded gum eraser.

The eyes turn as the face does.

The eyes turn as the face does.

Tip #6: Consider the Placement and Shape of the Eyes

  • Point of View Is Key to Eye Placement: Usually, eyes are placed halfway between the top of the head and the chin… but not always. The exceptions to the rule happen with points of view and ethnicity. If the person is tilting the head up the eyes will appear higher, if the person has his head tilting downward the eyes will appear lower and you will see more of the top of the head. Always consider the perspective so that you can get the placement right.
  • Eyes Are Not Almond-Shaped (And They're Tilted): Consider the shape of the eyes as well. Eyes are not really almond-shaped. The upper curve does not usually match the lower eyelid curve. Also, some eyes are tilted so that the outer point is higher than the inner eye tear ducts, or vice versa. Take note of this as you draw and you will get a better likeness.

Video: My Grandson in Charcoal

drawing-the-human-face

Drawing Guestbook

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on September 25, 2020:

Candi,

I'm so happy you found my tips helpful. I draw something every day and so I have honed my skills. Just like an athlete must exercise every day to get strong, if you will just keep it up you will see improvement every day. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Candi on September 15, 2020:

Your work is soooo amazing Denise. I love it!!! And I have used your tips to draw some not so amazing pictures!!!!

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 25, 2020:

Vanshika Anand,

I'm so glad you found these tips helpful. Do come again and check out my other articles on drawing. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Vanshika Anand on July 25, 2020:

It's really helpful to me and I like these tips thanks for these tips it will help me in my drawing

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 12, 2018:

Terry Daisley,

I would love to look at your work. Send it to my email listed above under contact author.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 12, 2018:

Thank you, John. I do try to work on good content.

Blessings,

Denise

Terry daisley on October 12, 2018:

Hi there, I have never took any at clear and just want your opinion on were I land with skill levelHey ya. Can I send you a couple of pics.? Denise

Johnc792 on August 16, 2018:

As I web site possessor I believe the content material here is rattling great , appreciate it for your hard work. You should keep it up forever! Good Luck. eedaeddfdfbd

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 30, 2016:

Oh my friend, Cornelia, you make me blush. So kind of you to think I am great. I really want to be someday, but I don't think I am there yet. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Korneliya Yonkova from Cork, Ireland on July 30, 2016:

Thank you for this tutorial hub, my friend. I learned so many new things and techniques. Maybe you are right that anyone could draw. But I think that very small amount of people could be great artists like you. Your works are really amazing! :)

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 21, 2016:

Hi Norma, do you still live in Fresno? We could be neighbors. I'm glad you are going to try again. It isn't easy keeping a likeness but creating a face drawing isn't so hard. People want the drawing to look like them so that's where the real study comes in. The smallest change of eye placement or length of nose and suddenly the drawing doesn't look like the subject anymore. It's all about measuring and practice. Good luck. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Norma Lawrence on July 16, 2016:

I loved your article. I can draw animals but drawing people is out. I have tried but the results are terrible. After reading your article I am going to try again. Thanks so much. I went to college in Fresno.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 26, 2016:

hari,

I'm so glad you will start again. Inspiration is everywhere; old faces, young faces, family faces, friends faces. Draw whatever is closest to you and expand from there. You may be surprised where it leads you. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Hari Prasad S from Bangalore on June 26, 2016:

Inspirational hub. Thanks paintdrips. I stopped it but will start again. Wiill refer this article to keep the momentum.

- hari

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 25, 2016:

DDE,

Thank you for saying so but I think anyone can draw who really wants to learn. It does take a lot of time and dedication, though. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on June 25, 2016:

Art is amazing and requires talent.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 20, 2016:

MsDora,

Well, a good drawing is necessary for a good painting. And it is easier to draw in black and white than to work out all the color variations. I think that's what I meant about easier. It is the black and white plus shading without color that is easiest. Sorry for the confusion. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on June 20, 2016:

Drawing is easy art? I still don't think so, but you're a good teacher and illustrator. Thanks for the challenge, the instructions and the inspiration.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 17, 2016:

Dbro,

I'm really sorry to be confusing. I'm a professional freelance artist working with publishers of children's books and sometimes working with fine art photography as well. My father was one who discouraged me from the arts because he was rightly concerned that I wouldn't be able to make a living. But I love it so much... as you say, the sheer joy of it. You just couldn't dissuade me from pursuing it and though I may never make a fortune, I make a small living and that's enough for me. Still it has taken me many years of practice all the time, every day without fail to get to place where I think I'm marketable. That's all I meant. Thanks for talk to me about it.

Blessings,

Denise

Dbro from Texas, USA on June 17, 2016:

Hi, again, Paintdrips. I'm kind of confused by your response to my comment. Nowhere in my comment on your article did I mention anything about monetary profit. I know from my own experience that pursuing a career in the arts, maybe especially the visual arts, is no way to try to make a lot of money. I think most people, myself included, create art for the sheer joy of it.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 17, 2016:

jeffduff,

You make a good point. Few have the drive, tenacity and sheer love of art to continue practicing year after year when there are easier methods at their disposal such as photography. Still I find a person with both artistic skill and a good camera can marry the two and come up with some fabulous combinations. The spark of art comes from within. If you haven't the time or inclination to put in the kind of practice it take, then get a camera and develop your talents there. By the way, all these drawings were done by myself. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Jeff Duff from Southwest Wisconsin on June 17, 2016:

In a general sense I agree that anyone with modest (or better) intelligence can learn to draw, but I will admit to my belief that drawing with great skill is an artistic talent. All of the pencil artists who did the drawings above are talented, far better than I and the majority of people will ever be! Anyone can splash oil paints around on a canvas, but extremely few oil painters come close having the artistic talent of a Rembrandt, Monet, Van Gogh or Picasso.

To go a step further, I believe that this is part of the impetus of the widespread popularity of photography. It allows for an impressive artistic expression by people - like myself - who have not the manual dexterity (and patience) to become good at drawing or painting!

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 16, 2016:

AudreyHowitt,

My sister is also a singer and guitarist but not me. I'm so glad you like my process. I appreciate you saying so. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Audrey Howitt from California on June 16, 2016:

I just have never done this--although I doodle all the time--I was always a singer and my sister was always the artist--and we still inhabit those roles--I loved that you shared your process with us--it helps demystify it a bit more for me

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 16, 2016:

Dbro,

My friend, you are very welcome. I love encouraging fellow learners in the arts. It isn't a popular thing, in that it often isn't profitable. All the more reason to encourage people to pursue it. It think it has other benefits far beyond monetary "profit"; such as its therapeutic qualities, aesthetically pleasing and personally calming. And I have the added incentive of remembering how it felt to be told I was wasting my time and all artists starve to death, etc. I never want to be guilty of that kind of inhibiting, negative, belittling dogma. If art is in you, let it out where everyone can benefit from seeing it. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Dbro from Texas, USA on June 16, 2016:

This is a great article, Paintdrips! I really appreciate all of the lovely drawings you used to illustrate your ideas. I agree with everything you said about learning to draw. I'm not sure I'd say drawing was "easy," though. It is as challenging to me as it was 50 some odd years ago when I first started making marks on paper. It is, however, endlessly compelling and rewarding to me. I appreciate your encouragement to people learning to draw (I still am). I think gaining proficiency in drawing is more a matter of motivation than it is "talent."

Thank you again for this valuable article.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 16, 2016:

Thank you so much, Nell. I figure many people are artists deep down and were never given the chance to explore that side of their creativity. It probably came out in other ways, like cooking, baking, music, singing, or interior decorating. The shading thing does take some practice to actually see the 5 values in a form. But after a while it become second nature. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 16, 2016:

Reynold Jay,

Thank you very much for that. I was thinking I could maybe teach at the college level, maybe online classes so I don't have to travel far. I would love that. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 16, 2016:

billybuc,

Well, that "Anyone can draw" remark does imply anyone who really wants to. Those that have no interest need not apply. However all artists need and appreciate the patrons. Thank you as always for the encouragement and the virtual high-five. I always love that.

Blessings,

Denise

Nell Rose from England on June 16, 2016:

Wow! I am blown away by your talent! I can't draw, well I can, as you say, we all can, lol! but the one thing I am useless at is shading. That's why I could never say my drawings are up to much. My aunt was an exceptional artist, and my brother is pretty good too. I love this hub, its really fascinating to watch the whole process form, nell

Reynold Jay from Saginaw, Michigan on June 16, 2016:

Hi Denise, This lesson is one I never received in college art classes! I could have used it to good practice. Lots of good information--you would have made a great college art professor for me! Well done.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 16, 2016:

I'm just going to move right by that section that says "anyone can draw" and return to my own reality....I'll just sit back and enjoy your talent and not try to force mine, which has been hidden now for 67 years. LOL