September 05, 2008

Head Drawing Demo

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Clark Allen. Compressed charcoal on rives lightweight paper.
This demo will specifically address the challenges of representational life drawing.
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Step 1: A construction drawing that emphasizes the simple geometry of the head and helps properly fit the parts into the whole. For you 3-d guys out there, think wireframe.
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Step 2: Add darks in the features and important lines so as to not loose them as the drawing progresses.
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Step 3: Block in the big simple masses of light and shadow. No detail yet! Most artists use the term "value" for the relative lightness or darkness of the tones they put down. That's the term I'll use here as well.
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Step 4: Work the halftones into the light. Wrap your strokes around the forms to help the illusion of 3-D. No mindless details! Make sure every tone you put down usefully describes the underlying form. I'm using my fingers alot in this particular drawing but technique is not nearly as important as getting the right value in the right place. Pencil strokes, tissues, blending stumps, bristle brushes, finger smudging and anything else you can think of can be useful techniques.
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Final stage: Add highlights and refine the drawing (I'm using a kneaded eraser at this stage). Always compare highlights to each other to judge their relative brightness. For instance, a highlight on a clean shaven chin may look very bright in contrast to the dark shadows surrounding it but don't be fooled. It will almost never be as bright as highlights on the cheek and forehead. The values of light and shadow must always maintain proper relationships to each other. Ignore this and you'll end up with something like the image below.
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Ughh is right, and yet I have never once had a student in my nine years of teaching whose value drawings didn't tend to drift in this direction. Why? Because it's how our brains are wired. We, all of us, most strongly notice "that which varies" (details, contrasts, anatomical bumps, highlights, wisps of hair, etc). And so we unconsciously give these variations undue emphasis which leads to bumpy, out of control drawings like the one above. (Such drawings might get an occasional compliment like "it's very expressive" or "It's a very rugged caricature" but these results are completely accidental and don't come out of any studied skillfulness or artistic intent, watch out!). Don't let yourself be derailed by this stumbling block. These tricks of perception are, in my experience, why so few hardworking students ever develop a full mastery of drawing from life.
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But you can avoid the bad drawing problem by seeking the "simplified statement". Compare the above "bad" drawing to this one: Ahhh, much better. You can put all the fancy, splashy technique you want into a representational drawing or painting IF it's used to emphasize clear values of light and shadow and the three dimensional nature of the subject.
For this image I fussed with the original drawing in photoshop to get the utmost simplicity in how the parts properly relate to each other and the whole.

Good Luck!

50 comments:

  1. wwooooo! thanks for this

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  2. Nathan my friend, this is really great. I'm sure a lot of aspiring artists will benifit from this. You're a talented man!! Great work!

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  3. Que dominio extraordinário do volumen e da luz/Magnífico!!
    abs Cárcamo

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  4. Thankyou!
    I am such an ughh so I really needed this lesson.

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  5. Nathan, thanks for breaking down the process on how to draw the head and for the refresher that we should strive for the simplified statement. I always try to keep your advice in mind whenever I do my studies. See you around LAAFA.

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  6. Great demo, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  7. Thank you, this was so helpful! I was first introduced to the concept of ignoring the little details and tiny value changes by a teacher at VCU named Robert Foster. Oh how I adored my little niggling details... and how much my work improved when I focused on big shapes and planes.

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  8. Nathan, Thanks for this demo. I've been wanting to start doing portraits again. When I took your class many moons ago. I made great advances in just a short time. Have you ever considered giving online classes? Claudia has done several. She says that they are more work than live classes. However they do have some advantages. I am painting again and your blog has been the inspiration that's got me going. Thanks for that.
    Don

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  9. This is an impressive study on how to advance portrait drawing skills.It looks great and the definition is developed.

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  10. NOW THIS IS AMAZING, THANKS A TRILLION FOR THIS NATHAN! HIGHLY APRECIATED!

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  11. that UGH is the uber-lesson of all lessons on value. i remember it vividly from your class--such a righteous truth when it is stripped down to the essentials like this.

    there should be an online gallery somewhere... "Bad Choices: Why I didn't do it like this"

    ps
    "that which varies" has such a sinister HP Lovecraft-ish ring to it. like "He Who Must Not Be Named." I dig it. puts a whole 'nuther spin on "the devil is in the details"

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  12. Great demo.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Cheers
    Ianb

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  13. ur progress and words. This is very usefull! I just started with charcoal and you're a inspiration.

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  14. Lovely Demo, Very helpful to hear your thinking process with the images. Thanks for sharing!

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  15. Thank you....This is truly informative and the draftsmanship, values and simplification are masterful!

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  16. really great to see how you do them, thanks!

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  17. Ahh, here's what we want to know. The nitty gritty. The 'how to'. Excellent post! I'll need to come back and reread it.
    You could write a book. I can already see it on the bookcase at Swain's.

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  18. Nathan,

    EXCELLENT!! Those stepsa re really eye opening. Thanks for the great info and demo.

    Barry

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  19. Sharon8:58 PM

    Each example on this demo leads up to a great product. You really know how to create great paintings . Every detail adds up to a masterpiece.

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  20. really instructive

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  21. Awesome breakdown Nathan. This a good smack in the head I needed to remind myself of the simple statement!

    Thanks again!

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  22. Anonymous9:36 PM

    Thank you so much for sharing your incredible talent with us. Great demo and comparison is where all learning takes place. Thanks for the comparison.

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  23. Great tutorial - a lot to think about and to practice on.
    Thank you
    Bogdan

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  24. Thanks for this useful post!

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  25. samantha5:38 PM

    im an illustration student in toronto, and i absolutely love your demos. they help me out so much with my own life drawing, and for the most part, i get pretty good results. you have to post a gouache demo sometime. thank you :)

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  26. Hello there! I want to thank u too, cause the simplication was REALLY unforgetable to me, linked from Concept Art.

    Best luck from Argentina!

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  27. Really nice seeing an instructive step by step! Thanks for taking the time!
    I tried it out, and couldn't even get past the first stage. Obviously my drawing skills need to be worked on more than just a little bit. Ha! But thanks for giving me some inspiration today!

    Rochelle.

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  28. what a talent to do something like that portrait, men if I have the half of your talent surely I make hundreds if this beautiful portraits, I be waiting for more of this artistic works.

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  29. I found a great deal of effective info here!

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  30. Thanks mate... just dropped by. Will look for BIKE STN when we get to Seattle. Still in Buenos Airies.

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  31. We invite artists to participate in the contest. The victory paid. The competition carries Freshirt.ru. Reference conditions for participation. http://freshirt.ru/auxpage_konkurs/
    Questions can be set at mrsvet@yandex.ru
    Regards, Alex

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  32. Well, I do not actually imagine it may work.

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  33. هل لديك ألكثير من العمل والقليل من الوقت؟ وأيضاً تريد منزلاً نظيفاً ، كيف يمكنك الحصول علي هذا؟
    ألجواب هوا : إستأجار شركه تنظيف محترفه لتقم بهذا العمل عنك وتخافظ علي منزلك نظيفاً ولكن يجب عليك أن تكون حريص في إختيار ألشركة ألمناسبه ، إذا كنت انت من يقوم بالأعمال المنزليه والتنظيف دائماً ،أو هذه أول تجربه لك فى تعيين شركه لتنظيف منزلك ،إذاً إسأل اصدقائك ومعارفك الذين قاموا بإستخدام تلك الشركات والخدمات من قبل لتنظيف منازلهم ، أسال عن الشركة التي يفضلونها ، ألأسعار المتوقعه، ألمواد المستخدمه فى عمليه التنظيف ، وإلمده الزمنيه التي يأتي بها العمال الذين تعينهم الشركه لتنظيف منزلك. شركة تنظيف منازل بالرياض


    التواصل ع الشركة عبر الهاتف هوا أول خطوه تمكنك من معرفه إجابات لكل الأسئله ألتي تدور فى عقلك مثل:منذ متي والشركة تعمل في مجال التنظيف،هل الشركه مرخصه ولديها تصاريح، هل الشركه تؤمن وتتحمل مسؤليه الخسائر وألأضرار التي يمكن لها أن تحدث أثناء ألقيا بعمليه التنظيف فى منزلك لأن الأخطاء ممكنه الحدوث ولذلك عليك إختيار شركه تتحمل عنك هذه المسؤليه، المهم هوا أن تسأل كل ألأسئله التي تدور فى زهنك للوصول الي قرار بشأن حتياجاتك. كما ذكرنا مسبقاً أن أهم شئ في الشركات التي تعمل فى هذا المجال هوا التأمين وإذا كانت الشركه لا تأمن فعليك البحث والحصول على شركه أخري توفر لك هذه الخدمه وهي(التأمين) لانه وبكل بساطه أثناء العمل علي تنظيف منزل وإنكسر شئ أو تدمرت قطعه من الاثاث لن تعوض في حاله أن الشركة لا تؤمن أما فى حاله ألتأمين تعوض بالكامل عن كل الخسائر والتلفيات التي تحدث أثناء العمليه. شركة تنظيف بيوت بالرياض

    في حاله التواصل مع مدير الشركه هناك عده أمور يجب وضعها محل إعتبار مثل: إذا كان يتم فحص الموظفين؟،هل الشركه مؤمنه أو مرخصه؟،وأن تعرف أن الموظفين المكلفين بتنظيف منزلك خضعوا لفحص جنائي قبل دخول منزلك.
    لانه وفي حاله فقدان أي شئ من المنزل سيتم تعويضك عنه بالكامل من قبل الشركة. بعض الشركات التي تعمل فى مجال تنظيف المنازل لا تقوم بتوظيف وتعيين عاملين لها بل تستعين بطرف ثالث وهوا مثل المقاولين والأفراد للعمل فى تنظيف الملابس، وبالتأكيد تريد التأكد من هويه كل شخص قبل دخول منزلك.

    قبل تعيين شركه لتقوم بتنظيف منزلك لابد لك وأن تعرف مساحه منزلك،وخدمات الشركة المختلفه لتتمكن من إختيار الخدمه التي تتوافر مع إحتياجات منزلك وبأسعار مناسبه فى نفس الوقت، يجب أيضاً معرفه ما هي خطوات تنظيف المنزل خطوة خطوة، هذا لان بعض الشركات توفر خدمه تنظيف الزجاج والنزافذ وبعض الشركات لا تقوم بهذا الجزء،بعض الشركات تكافح الفئران وأخرى لا،أما إذا كان لديك مهمه محدده فى ذهنك فعليك مناقشتها مع ممثل خدمه العملاء أو المدير في حاله التواصل مع الشركه، وماهي الاشياء التي ستتطلب تحريك أو نقل الاثاث.

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