You are on page 1of 16

5/14/2017 3ThingsYouDon'tWanttoForgetWhenDrawingHeadsandFaces

ArtistsNetwork ArtistDaily NorthLightShop ArtistsNetwork.TV ArtistsNetworkUniversity ArtistsMarket CreateMixedMedia WetCanvas

facebook twitter Register LogIn

google plus



FREE ARTICLE: Painting Without Painting The

Artist's Magazine (July/Aug 2015). Enter your e-
mail address and get the Artist's Network
Enter your email address

I'm not a robot

Privacy - Terms

By: Austin R. Williams | May 13, 2017


Learning how to draw faces and heads is among the most challenging tasks for any artist. Even small errors are
immediately noticeable. To draw a convincing human head, you need a solid strategy.

Every head and face is different, of course, but there are some general principles that apply to just about
everyone. Here we share three pieces of advice about how to draw faces and heads, adapted from an article by
artist and instructor Jon deMartinthat appears in the new issue of Drawing magazine. 1/16
5/14/2017 3ThingsYouDon'tWanttoForgetWhenDrawingHeadsandFaces 2/16
5/14/2017 3ThingsYouDon'tWanttoForgetWhenDrawingHeadsandFaces

Head of a Young Man, by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, ca. 1725-1805, red chalk, 15 x 12 3/16. Collection The

Morgan Library & Museum, New York, New York.


The skull provides the framework of the head and face, and when looking at a persons face we can clearly see
the skulls influence everywhere, from the forehead, the temple and the brow ridge down to the cheekbones, the
bridge of the nose and the jaw. If you want to draw the figure realistically, youll want to develop a sound
understanding of the most important aspects of the skull.

Illustration 1(below) shows front and side views of the skull with dots indicating important points. A few of the
most important are (moving top to bottom):

The highest point of the head

The brow ridge
The orbits (the cavities in which the eyes sit)
The angle of the jawbone
The point of the chin

You can use these points as anchors to help construct the head. Memorize where they are located on the skull,
and then look for them when drawing from a real person. You can make a light indication of these points on
your drawing or just make a mental note of them. Either way, having these points properly in place will give
your drawing a solid foundation. 3/16
5/14/2017 3ThingsYouDon'tWanttoForgetWhenDrawingHeadsandFaces

Illustration 1: The Skull, by Jon deMartin


The head isnt really just one shapeits a complex form made up of numerous small planes and sub-shapes.
Put simply: Its complicated. To draw a head convincingly, we want to mentally break it down into smaller parts
that we can more easilyunderstand.

One way to do this is to look out for boundaries, the places where these smaller planes begin and end. We can
divide boundaries into two types: optical boundaries and base boundaries. Optical boundaries occur where the
edge of a form disappears from sight, for instance along the outer edge of a head, or the edge of a nose where
it overlaps another part of the face. Base boundaries are a little more subtle. These lines describe where one
form or shape meets or transitions into another.

We can practice finding these boundaries by looking at drawings by the Old Masters. Illustration 2 (below)
shows a drawing by Jean-Honor Fragonard (17321806). In Illustration 2b, I traced over some of this drawings 4/16
5/14/2017 3ThingsYouDon'tWanttoForgetWhenDrawingHeadsandFaces

most important boundaries. I use solid black lines to indicate optical boundaries and dotted blue lines to
indicate base boundaries. Youll note that Fragonard included some of these lines in his drawing. Others he did
not, and I drew those based on my own knowledge of the forms of the head.

You can try this exercise on heads of all different ages, and with practice youll learn to recognize the most
important forms of the head. As your knowledge increases, try drawing heads of younger people, where the
forms are subtler. 5/16
5/14/2017 3ThingsYouDon'tWanttoForgetWhenDrawingHeadsandFaces

Illustration 2: Man Wearing a Turban, by Jean-Honore Fragonard, ca. 1732-1806, ink wash, 11 3/4 x
9 1/2. 6/16
5/14/2017 3ThingsYouDon'tWanttoForgetWhenDrawingHeadsandFaces

Illustration 2b


Our first aim in a drawing is to delineate the boundaries of key forms. As the great draftsman and teacher
Deane Keller put it, Line first, modeling second. Once we have a firm concept of the heads surface and have
constructed it with line, we can proceed to modeling it with values. To work in the reverse order and begin with
light and shadow would be to merely copy the values we see in our subject, which would not produce a
convincing three-dimensional illusion.

When youre ready to add values to your drawing of a head, go in order of relief. This means you should start
out by adding shadows to the deepest-relief formsthe parts of the head that protrude the most, such as the
nose and the chin. In most cases, these parts will receive the most dramatic shadows. 7/16
5/14/2017 3ThingsYouDon'tWanttoForgetWhenDrawingHeadsandFaces

After youve modeled the deep-relief forms, move on to modeling the shallower forms, which will have subtler
shadows. In essence were modeling in the order of impression, because the eye is attracted to darker values
(the deeper-relief forms) before lighter values (the shallower-relief forms). As a result, our modeling will have a
sense of visual order. 8/16
5/14/2017 3ThingsYouDon'tWanttoForgetWhenDrawingHeadsandFaces

Illustration 3: Drawing of the Bust of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, by Jon deMartin, graphite, 7 x 5. For this
drawing I copied from the Bust of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, a sculpture by Bernardo Fioriti (active 1643-
1677) on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in Pennsylvania. 9/16
5/14/2017 3ThingsYouDon'tWanttoForgetWhenDrawingHeadsandFaces

Illustration 3b

This article is abridged and adapted from Constructing the Forms of the Head and Face by Jon deMartin. To
read the full article and learn more about how to draw faces and heads, check out the spring 2017 issue of
Drawing. To learn about Jon deMartins upcoming classes and workshops, visit

Want all the best drawing news and instruction? Subscribe to Drawing magazine here. 10/16
5/14/2017 3ThingsYouDon'tWanttoForgetWhenDrawingHeadsandFaces 11/16
5/14/2017 3ThingsYouDon'tWanttoForgetWhenDrawingHeadsandFaces


Drawing Is Painting Without Color

Tell Your Art Story
Only Six Steps to Exhibit-Worthy Pencil Portraits
Learn How to Draw a Cartoon of Yourself
Drawing Materials and Methods: Five Tips from Drawing Magazine, Winter 2017




ViewallpostsbyAustinR.Williams 12/16
5/14/2017 3ThingsYouDon'tWanttoForgetWhenDrawingHeadsandFaces


Join any of our fine art contests and competitions
to win cash, get your art published and get
noticed. The art contests we sponsor focus on
pastel art, watercolor art, all media, "Over 60"
artists and more!


5/14/2017 3ThingsYouDon'tWanttoForgetWhenDrawingHeadsandFaces







5/14/2017 3ThingsYouDon'tWanttoForgetWhenDrawingHeadsandFaces


Start Selling Your Art Online Build Your Art Career

Custom websites just for artists! Try FREE for a week!

Great Advice and Inspiration for Artists Get Art Smart!

Save on subscriptions to your favorite magazines! Shop with North Light and SAVE!

Find Great Books & Get Free Art Demos Learn from the World's Best Artists!
See what's new from North Light with Jen's Picks
Art instruction videos from the comfort of your 15/16
5/14/2017 3ThingsYouDon'tWanttoForgetWhenDrawingHeadsandFaces
See what's new from North Light with Jen's Picks Art instruction videos from the comfort of your

Competition Entries Now Being Accepted!

Don't miss the chance to get your art recognized

Start Download

Get your Free Software

Here 16/16