Most people have the predetermined concept that the skull is more or less formed like an oval. Actually, the head is much rectangular than we suppose. The egg concepts is one of those simplified set icons the brain uses as a means for quick identification.
Most beginning students will usually render the face on paper as a flat disk or oval which it is not. Also, compared to the entire head, the face is quite small particularly in babies. Your hand can fit the entire face. Place that same hand on top of your head and you will experience at once how large your head really is.
To appreciate planes and thus obtain a sculptural sensibility in your drawing you must appreciate and use simple geometric shapes.
Generally, the skull can be framed within a rectangular box. More accurately, this square box should be adapted to a phalanx-like box with the face on the smallest side. The head tapers towards the front which is the face. This is the essential form of the skull in the frontal view.
In the profile view the head is generally a cube. The difference is the facial angle (the muzzle) that slopes somewhat forward at the chin. In the 7/8 profile, the cube has simply been turned in space.
Once more, it is very critical to think about the skull in terms of simple geometric forms. Once you have situated the large simple shapes you can start situating the smaller shapes inside the large ones. Pretty soon that collection of simple forms becomes quite complicated and starts resembling a head.
Keeping the above in mind you can start with striking the complete arabesque which is the entire outside contour of the skull, hair included. Then you break down the complete arabesque into its different parts such as the hair, ear, jaw and neck.
As you hatch-in the darks and think of the head as a collection of simple geometric solids you will by now begin to see the three-dimensional outcome, even at this early point.
The key is to think simply and large. At this early stage, do not pay attention to the minutia – they tend to delude your sense of length and direction.
Once the major elements are established placing the features (eyes, nose, etc.) becomes relatively easy. But, if you do not establish those entities properly you will never be successful.
The frontal view of the portrait poses a distinctive challenge. If you are not careful you can end up with a flat, two-dimensional face. In this view, the plane changes are often quite subtle and hard to locate.
Be sure to note all plane changes in this front view and render them carefully in your sketch:
– Showing the forward tapering of the sides of the skull is significant to achieving a subtle three-dimensional result in this front view.
– The front of the face lies approximately in one plane.
– The plane of the forehead changes direction as you move towards the top of the skull.
– The plane along the cheek has a different bearing than the adjoining one along the temple.
The idea is to carefully observe the directions of all the various planes that make up the skull and take these differences into account when you draw. If you do, your sketches will possess a sculptural, 3-dimensional sensibility. It is not necessary to draw out the geometry of the actual planes, but the differences in bearing must be plainly rendered.
In closing, it is very critical that you are aware of the fact that a models skull consists of planes with different bearings and is not just an oval. This sculptural structure should be reflected in your drawing because it is critical to the likeness and to the illusion of three-dimensionality.
Do you want to learn the secrets of pencil portrait sketching? Download my brand new free pencil portrait drawing tutorial here: portrait drawing tutorial.
Remi Engels is a pencil portrait artist and oil painter and skilled drawing teacher. See his work at graphite pencil portraits by Remi.
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