Drawing the Human Face
Drawing is Easy Art
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. 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.
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 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 spell-check!) 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.
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.
Do you like to doodle?
The History of Pencils
By the fourteenth century, the 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 the 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. HB is the clay and carbon in equal amounts in the lead and makes for a nice hard lead with light crisp lines. Then 2B through to 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. Also, you can buy 2H through to 6H, which 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.
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. 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.
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.
My Grandson in Charcoal
Consider the placement of the eyes. Usually, they are 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.
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.