Friday, 21 September 2012

Basics of the Human Head

I promised a couple of weeks ago to post some guidelines on drawing the head. First of all, these are guidelines only, broad generalizations about the structure of the head and face. The basic proportions are a great starting place, but it is the tiny changes in those proportions, the little differences in the relationships between the features and their placement on the face, that creates the individual portrait. Always be observant of your subject.

My approach to drawing the head and face owes a great deal to the teachings and drawings of the mid-twentieth century American illustrator Andrew Loomis. I highly recommend his books as studio resources. Other influences, for a large part, come from comic books and strips, artists like Alex Raymond, Stan Drake, Al Williamson, Neal Adams and many others.

Many sources begin with, "start with an oval, or egg shape." That's not a bad suggestion, but what sort of oval are we looking for? We need to be a little more specific. I think we need, as so many cartoonists say, to start with a circle.

This is where the mental process starts to get a little odd; we will be working on producing a two-dimensional image, but much of our thinking has to be in three dimensions. Draw flat, but think in the round. We want to think of this circle as a sphere, perhaps more specifically as a globe. The globe spins on an axis and has an equator around the middle. We also need a line of "longitude" that will become the centre line of the face. Mark a point on the centre line halfway between the north pole and the equator.

The sides of our globe need to be somewhat flattened, so we slice a bit off either side. These cuts are a little bit angled from top to bottom and from front to back. the centre line is extended straight down from the equator, parallel to the axis, as if you were hanging a plumb line from the north pole. Mark the centre line with divisions equal to the length between the equator and the top mark on the centre line. The first mark below the equator is roughly the bottom level of the nose, and the second mark will be the bottom of the chin. A line halfway bewteen the chin and the top of the head will mark the level of the eyes. The equator will become the brow line, and the top mark indicates the edge of the hair line. A line about one third of the way down between the nose and chin indicates the mouth.

Some more very general proportions: the width of the eyes is approximately one fifth of the width across the eye line, with about one eye's width between the eyes. The nose is about one eye wide; the mouth is about as wide as the space between the centres of the eyes; the ears might fit neatly in the part of the original circle that were cut off - the tops are about level with the brow, and the bottom of the lobes about level with the base of the nose. The angle of the jaw is about level with the mouth line.

In profile, the jaw begins at the halfway point and sweeps down and forward; the ear begins at the half and curves back. The head in profile fits pretty well in a square; this means you might have to add just a sliver more mass to the back of the skull to lengthen the original circle a little. The hair sits on top of and surrounds the skull; it has shape and mass of its own.

The advantage of thinking about the "globe" first is that it allows to fairly easily draw the head in any position, from any angle. But remember, these are only guidelines and generalities; it will always be to your advantage if you draw from life. The more practice you get from observing how the head is constructed, the more visual information you will be storing for future reference.

Monday, 17 September 2012

The Grid

One of the biggest challenges for artists is the accurate transfer of a drawing to the painting surface, especially if the process involves enlarging or shrinking the image. But take heart, there is a time-tested tool to assist you - the grid.

This technique has been used by artists for centuries, and it's very straightforward. Create a grid over your original image, create a second, matching grid, on your transfer surface, and match the intersection points.

There is one aspect of this technique that must be kept in mind, and is very important. To make an accurate transfer, your original and transfer must be in the same proportions! Here is why:

This drawing of a bowl of apples has a grid placed over it; the image can conveniently be broken down into a grid of 3 rows by 4 columns of squares. But if I place that 3x4 grid on a differently shaped rectangle, the transfered image will be distorted:

There is an easy way to ensure that your duplicate is in the same proportion as your original. Simply draw a diagonal line from corner to corner of your original, and extend the line beyond its border. Any rectangle that you can make with the corner on the same diagonal line will be in the same proportion as the original.

These three rectangles are all the same proportion.

The square grid above is only one possibility. Any regular, easily reproduced grid will work. The rest of this tutorial will use another grid shape, one of crosses, sometimes called the Union Jack. To make this grid, start by drawing diagonal lines from corner to corner; this will always give you the centre point of the rectangle. Carefully measure to find the mid-points of the sides, or use a T-square and set sqares to draw right-angle lines through the centre point. Then join the midpoints diagonally as well. You should end up with this pattern:

When you draw the grid on your original, you might consider placing a sheet of tracing paper or acetate on your drawing or photo first. If you are copying a photo, perhaps place it in a plastic page protector and draw your grid on that. My example uses a coloured line grid to show up against the colour of the photo; I found that black lines disappeared into some of the dark shadows.

Next, look for the places where the edges of the objects (or the lines of your drawing) intersect with the grid. I have marked a number of them here:

Begin to transfer these intersection points to your copy grid. This is all about proportion; does this point fall about a third of the way along this line, is this line half the length of that one? Be thoughtful about this. Although this is a mechanical transfer technique, your must still give careful consideration to your placement of these points.

Here, I've started placing my points. You can already see the beginnings of the shape of the pitcher. From here on, it becomes a little bit of connect-the-dots, and a lot of careful consideration of the directions, angles and curves of the lines you are copying.

Here is the rough beginnings of the layout. There are some inaccuracies, but those will be smoothed out in the finish.

This is the final rough layout of the transfer, but I wouldn't consider it a finished drawing. If you were doing an oil or acrylic painting, this probably has enough information for you to begin. Be careful if you want to do this for watercolour - make sure you use a soft pencil and draw very lightly, so as not to damage the surface of the paper, especially when you erase the grid. Be gentle. If you were planning on a fully rendered drawing, now is the time to erase the grid and refine your shapes further and begin adding your values.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Here We Go

I've been considering publishing a blog dedicated to drawing, comics and illustration for a while now. I recently had a student ask me for some help with a portrait she is attempting, so I thought this might be the perfect time to try a vehicle like this, something that could include some to how-to demonstartions.

So, starting next week, the basics of the portrait drawing. Or the superhero, adventurer, monster, glamour girl or whatever - they all share a common, basic construction. See you soon.