Drawing Facial Features
During my initial, tentative efforts to draw the face, I consulted books and copied drawings from the books. While the books helped with general anatomy and portrait drawing tips, the best way to learn for me was to make my own observations rather than copying someone else’s. This resulted in lots of self-portraits – most of them very bad and unworthy of posting on here. The point is: read these tips, check out the links, but create your OWN drawings. Make your own mistakes and discoveries.
My early self-portraits relied on line to define the shapes. I did some rudimentary shading but the focus was definitely on line. I wasn’t satisfied with them as I found them to be quite cartoonish, particularly the mouth. Once I changed my focus from line to looking at tone and varying degrees of light and shade, my drawings improved dramatically. I also think there is a difference between drawing accurately and drawing with emotion.
A few tips
Here are a few portrait drawing tips from me.
- The white of the eye is not white. The upper lid casts a distinct shadow and the lower lid also casts a very thin shadow. You also need to give the feeling that the eye is a ball, so some of the edges of the “white” will have some tone.
- To bring some life to your drawing, add a glint to the eye. Not too bright – the brightness will depend on your lightsource. Always check your reference.
- If you find that your drawing has a stare-y, axe-murderer look, you may need to bring the upper lid lower down the iris.
- Note that there is a ridge on the lower lid above the lashes
- Also note the dark fold of the top eye lid
Have a close look at this eye and have a go drawing it.
Click here for the source photo.
Here is my quick sketch of my own eye. I do use line, but try to emphasise the shading to create the form. Notice that I am still drawing loosely, with the grip shown in the previous workshop. A good way to remain loose in your drawing is to work on a large or largish scale.
I have used a 2B, 4B & 6B pencil in this drawing and used a kneadable eraser to create the glint.
Here is how Arty Factory draws the eye:
For a fantastic video demo on drawing the eye, see: David Jon Kassan drawing the eye
- Don’t draw the outline of the lips – or if you do, just draw them lightly. Focus on shading instead of line.
- The top lip is usually darker than the bottom lip, depending on the light source.
- The top lip usually casts a shadow on the bottom lip.
- The darkest area is the line between the lips.
Here is how Arty Factory draws the mouth. You can see some of my drawings of mouths in my portraits further on.
- Need to use shading effectively to get the nostrils to “turn” at the edges.
- Don’t forget the shadow on the bottom of the nose in between the nostrils
How shading helps create form
The simplest way to explain how shading can improve your drawing and describe the form is to show you.
Here is a circle:
I shaded the same circle to create a sphere:
The light is coming from the top left, so the lightest part is at the top (although I may have over-emphasised it) while the darkest is on the low right side. There is some light being reflected from the table back on to the ball so it is slightly lighter on the bottom.
I used a 4B progresso pencil for the shading and picked out the lights with my kneadable eraser.
Hatching in its various guises.
Hatching is just one way to create shading. The Arty Factory drawings (see links above) and my sphere create shading without hatching.
I use a combination of hatching techniques in most of my pencil drawings but in a very loose (read: messy) way.
In basic terms, this is a way to create shading using short lines. To emphasise the form (3D shape) of an object, it is best to hatch in the same direction as the form.
It takes practice and observation to be able to see in which direction the hatching should move.
Exactly as the name suggests, the hatching crosses! As you can tell, straight and parallel lines aren’t my thing… but I am unapologetic about that. 🙂
I usually prefer this style of hatching. It is a curved line following the contour.
Cross Contour hatching
This is the same idea as contour hatching, but as contours can often move in several directions, the hatching can cross.
Albrecht Durer was a master at cross contour hatching:
Take a close look and observe how the hatching follows the contours of the face.
A few of my pencil drawings using hatching.
As you can see, I am not a very tidy hatcher.
- I have tried to emphasise the eye being a ball in this picture.
- You can see that under the eye, I have used simple hatching following the form.
- On the ridge beneath the eyeball I have also used simple hatching to give the impression of there being a ledge.
- I have used contour hatching on the actual eye and just scribbled around the eyebrow.
- I have used cross hatching in other parts of the face: initially all the hatching was travelling in the same direction. I didn’t like that so created some hatching travelling in the other direction – purely a compositional choice.
Working with white conte on black was a challenge. I could not rely on line to define the outline of the eye at all.
This one is an unusually controlled one for me using mostly hatching and cross-hatching. There may be a hint of contour hatching to describe the area under the eye. I have tried to create the sense of the eyeball. Pretend the inkblots aren’t there – willing suspension of disbelief.
This one is very loose with lines all over the place. Not sure it fits into any category! This was a study for my pastel painting in my gallery.
Now it’s your turn!
If you don’t feel comfortable drawing a complete face, you can try all of the hatching styles with a particular facial feature.
It would be best for your observation skills if you could do a self-portrait again. If you have had enough of analysing your face, you can have a go drawing Ronald. You can try any or all of the hatching styles, or you can go with a loose hatching style similar to mine.
It helps to bear in mind the shape of the skull underneath the skin. You might like to draw the skull, too.
Source: human skull
Please send me pictures of your work! I keep hearing Courtney from my “So you think you can dance get fit” DVD: “The most important thing is to HAVE FUN!”
I am also happy to provide help or advice with your drawings.
In the next workshop, I will be getting more expressive and looking at drawing techniques with charcoal. I hope you join me!