Drawing hair is dictated by several factors: the type of hair, its tint, quality, quantity, the arrangement and styling of the hair, the personality and mood of the sitter or the photo, and the light effect upon the hair.
The arabesque of the hair is part of the overall arabesque. A correct construct is important to the likeness of the hair. Many novice artists begin with the face and grow outward from there. This is however a poor approach and instills bad practices that will prove hard to break.
In fact, the arabesque is especially relevant when draw a hairdo. Attempting to render the hair working from the inside out, bit by bit, is a recipe for disaster. The hair will end up in being either too small for the head or too large.
Drawing within the arabesque of the coiffure, first put in the primary darks. These darks are best seen by squinting until a general pattern of light and dark is seen.
Next, you need to stump down the graphite in a sculpturally manner following the general gesture and motion of the hair. For this you can employ your fingers, a tissue, or a paper stump. If you use a paper stump be cautious not to dull the look. If you employ your fingers make sure they are dry and also wipe them constantly with a paper towel.
Then, use your kneaded eraser like a loaded paint brush to lift out the significant lights. Do not be overly picky here. A more virtuoso approach creates a sense of life and rhythm into the hairdo. If you make an error just stump down the graphite again with your fingers or stump and do it again.
Sometimes when you block-in the hairdo other light parts of the head pop out. This is one reason why sketching the head as a whole is necessary.
French braiding is a striking hairdo style, but extremely complex and hard to sketch. The purpose is to render these French braids fluidly and with motion. A balancing act is required here: the intricacy of the hairdo’s styling is best handled by first line-rendering the main locks and braids. As you map out the braids make certain to plumb and carefully measure and situate each important lock and braid.
When working from a photo there is the temptation to reproduce it down to the smallest detail. You may or may not give in to this temptation but you should always make sure that the hair maintains its liveliness. However, in most cases, you will not need to draw every detail.
Further block-in the darks taking into account the bearing and motion of the essential locks of the hair. The most difficult thing is to refrain from plunging into an area of detail. Not to do this requires mental discipline. Best is to follow a layered procedure that progressively piles the arrangement of the hairdo, lock by lock.
You also should smooth the edges of the coiffure line so that it blends into the forehead and sides of the face. Hair does this naturally.
Be sure to used sharp pencils because dull pencils lead to dull, dead coiffures.
Having first mapped out and blocked-in the critical locks of hair makes the drawing of the finer regions much easier, but is still labor intensive. You should be prepared to spend quite a lot of time on a coiffure.
Also, step back from the drawing to maintain an overview of the main light/dark pattern because detailing can result in a flat mess in which the values close in on each other.
Hold back from sketching bangs too early in the process. This helps ensure that the hairdo and flesh can be unified into a coherent sense of spirit.
Rendering hairdos so that it reads naturally and has a rhythmic gesture is challenging. Commonly it takes as much time and effort to render the hair as it does the face and neck. You must spend as much care in preparing the hair as you would for the remainderof the portrait. If you draw from life make sure you do the hairdo before your model takes a rest because the hair will very likely have changed when the break is over. The strategy, then, is to devote a whole 20 to 30 minutes of a pose segment to the coiffure.
With these instructions you can be certain that in time your drawn hair will look real and lively. Do not forget that drawing hairdo takes time so that you do not get impatient.
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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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