The Complexity of Being Simple

The self portrait continues!

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The key to a method like this is the ability to look at a complex face with its many features and details and to ignore them for the underlying structure. When I was new to drawing I always drew what appealed to me first- the hair, the eye, an ear. These drawings never came out the way I wanted them to.

Starting with the simplest form- the construct- is very hard! It requires a lot of fact-finding: where is the top of the head? Where is the chin? Now get widths. Break the face into thirds and place the nose and eyes before moving on.

From left to right: The Construct, The Cartoon, Mapping planes of the face

Once the Construct is done, then it is time to move on to the Cartoon. Now that I can be sure where major features are on my face, it’s time to block in the shadows. I do this by drawing smaller shapes. We call these “shadow-shapes.” It is important to have one light source that never moves for the duration of the portrait. Drawing natural light is what makes realist art look, well, real. (As opposed to a photo!)

Once I’m sure I’ve got the shadows as they are, I shade them in lightly to differentiate them. I then take a piece of tracing paper and map the planes of my face. They should look like tiles, or puzzle pieces. This map will help me as I shade in my values in charcoal. (The image up top is at this stage!) Planes tell a viewer what light is bouncing off of. The bridge of my nose will have dark shadows, and where it recedes from the shadow will require lighter values. Some planes are the same on every person (the forehead must protrude, for instance) and then additional ones must be articulated to fit the model.

Patience, practice, layers. This requires a lot of dedication and discipline. I’ll be sure to update as I render further!

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