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View Full Version : Q & A on Drawing/Painting the Head


Dana Design
11-25-2008, 12:28 PM
Post any questions you might have with reference to drawing or painting the head and our generous and much-talented members will answer them for you and help you find your way through the process.

In addition to the Portraiture Classroom which is chock full of great tutorials and WIPs from our members, The Baron suggested that we have a one-stop shop for all head related questions.

Go for it! We'll all learn something new!

mickeyw3340
11-25-2008, 03:20 PM
Painting Portraits in General especially the head and face.... Is it better to lay down the shadows and darker areas first and then put down the base skin color and blend, or is it better to do the opposite, put down the base first and then blend in the shadows and darker areas?

TheBaron
11-25-2008, 03:59 PM
Painting Portraits in General especially the head and face.... Is it better to lay down the shadows and darker areas first and then put down the base skin color and blend, or is it better to do the opposite, put down the base first and then blend in the shadows and darker areas?
How do Mickey

I have two books by well known portrait artist and both stipulate in painting in the shadows first to keep within the profile of the facial features.
However thats ok if you are good at getting or mixing the correct shadow tones colour otherwise you will have to adjust the tonal range.

Mixing darks and trying to lighten them takes up more paint than mixing lighter colours and adding to darken them.

My own way is laying down a mid range(pinkish)or(90% of what the main flesh colour is in the face)flesh colour all over and darkening and adding highlights as I progress.

Basically its down to how comfortable you are in when it comes to losing the drawing and having to work from the source,theres nothing worse than losing a specific shadow or highlight which can throw the likeness right off course.

:wink2:

jocelynsart
11-25-2008, 04:20 PM
Basically, one of the biggest first steps is to get down the gesture of the proper perspective of the head. Then, it's a matter of working from large shapes and proper proprtions, towards shadow and light masses, then eventually towards detail specific to that person.

Perspective/ correct angle
Mass proportions
large light and shadow masses
only then begin detail

These are the steps I tend to take, myself.
if I have the perspective off, getting the mass shapes right won't matter, and therefore the details of that subject's specific face and features will also be off down the line.

mickeyw3340
11-25-2008, 04:20 PM
Thanks for the tip George. I'll try them both. :thumbsup: My background as a "hobbyist" is graphite, colored pencil, watercolors, acrylics mainly in landscapes. I know I can do this portrait thing so I am excited again. After all, I can do a tree, lay in a meadow full of flowers, scratch in a mountain or two, but nothing has challenged me like the human head and form.

Dana Design
11-25-2008, 06:38 PM
I also make sure the proportions are correct, measuring carefully. I then lay in my mid-tones, then shadow masses and finally start in on details. However, I at times, get impatient and begin with eye details before finishing the bottom of the face. The eyes are important to me to give me a direction. Crazy, I know.

Few portraitists that I know lay in shadows first. It can become to difficult to bring in the clean lighter colors.

TheBaron
11-25-2008, 06:46 PM
I also make sure the proportions are correct, measuring carefully. I then lay in my mid-tones, then shadow masses and finally start in on details. However, I at times, get impatient and begin with eye details before finishing the bottom of the face. The eyes are important to me to give me a direction. Crazy, I know.

Few portraitists that I know lay in shadows first. It can become to difficult to bring in the clean lighter colors.

Hah! D
You're like me..I want those eyes finished before I can continue,otherwise I might not be able to reach at em with the face covered in oils. :lol:

My previous update shows how I've left the lower jaw area so's I can still work the eyes

RADAR
11-25-2008, 07:13 PM
Heres some helpful info , not just the head but the whole human Anatomy :thumbsup:


http://www.posemaniacs.com/?p=624
p.s. you click and hold while moving your mouse on the selected pic and you can see any angle you wish!
Gary

Dana Design
11-26-2008, 11:42 AM
Gary, that's a sensational site! Thanks so much for this.

TheBaron
11-27-2008, 10:20 AM
So how do require your creases?

My usual ploy is to add the creases with a slighly darker colour and push up the surrounding skintone towards the creases and then blend in.

Bit finicky this way any other suggestions?

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/27-Nov-2008/107353-Image1.jpg

kentiessen
12-02-2008, 09:05 AM
So how do require your creases?

My usual ploy is to add the creases with a slighly darker colour and push up the surrounding skintone towards the creases and then blend in.

Bit finicky this way any other suggestions?


Creases are a detail very slight importance- particularly on a young person and even more so on a female. I agree with Jocelyn's priorities- expanding #4:
1. Perspective/ correct angle
2. Mass proportions
3. Large light and shadow masses
4. Detail- correct placement, proportion, shape, and form of: eyes, nose, lips, cheeks, neck, jaw, hair, etc.

Creases are not yet relevant in #4- the cheek and lower lid still create forms, not creases. The extremely subtle differences in the neck photo are best left out.
Ken

jocelynsart
12-02-2008, 09:46 AM
I think it depends how hyper realistic the portrait is to be, whether to get in to defining minute skin creases. Think about how your eye would see a person at a normal distance, say about 3 to 6 feet. That photo section of my daughter would mean the viewer or artist would need to be standing right in front of the person, their nose almost touching the neck. Notice you can not only see creases, you can see pores. Get used to knowing how the eye would see a person at a typical distance and see what detail is and is not visible.
When you take a photo ref and zoom it up like that, you have to remember that that is a huge advantage to what you would "see" standing in front of a subject.

If your intent is to work hyper realistic then it depends on what medium you are working in, how you would then render creases. If it is watercolour for instance, you could remove or scrub back and then redifine the edge, etc. In acrylic, you'd need to build up to the edges and literally paint the highlight. Oil there are various ways as you can scrub back and paint in. It depends on what way you use oil. Some do a certain amount of glazing then need to let that stage dry before continuing. Some use scrub back method, using the oil pretty translucent, some paint alla prima.
Jocelyn

jocelynsart
12-02-2008, 09:53 AM
I lay in shadows very near my beginning stages as value changes. I even indicate them in the drawing stage. They are not their deepest however, till much later. Shadow shapes will help define the proportion and the distances from plane to plane, as well as the terrain of the plains of the face.

jocelynsart
12-02-2008, 10:07 AM
In order, in my honest opinion, to paint a portrait, one needs to decide on what is the main focus. Is it important to the artist to paint each individual nuance, hair, pore, fine crease, etc? Or is it important to paint that person more as one's eye would likely be able to see them. I think that that decision alone will determine whether your intent is to be super hyper realist, painting beyond how the eye sees in general, and rendering each thing and feature (within that portrait) almost as it's own subject.
With a photo ref where it is so easy to go right up to each detail, one will get caught up with painting each individual little area and forget the portrait as an abstract whole of values, planes and shapes effected by the light. I think photo ref needs to be treated first as hwo one would see that person standing about normal "from life" distance. thsi will somewhat mimic what would be in focus and what would not. For instance, when you choose their face as focal, maybe even the eyes as very main focus within that focus, then treat the surround howour eye would view in life that surround when your eye is focused right on the eyes. Your eye would not be focusing on hyper detail in the ear or in the neck while being focused on the subject's eyes. Therefore, paint the way your eye would see.
In hyper or photo realistic portraits, the whole portrait is painted in the same focus as if a million eyes you owned could pick each individual area of miniscule size and bring it all in to focus.
So, one needs to decide how they wish to paint. Neither is wrong, just a decision needs to be made. The further one moves from hyper photo realism, the closer one moves down the scale to impressionism. There are a billion choices in between.

snoball
12-02-2008, 02:12 PM
I also make sure the proportions are correct, measuring carefully. I then lay in my mid-tones, then shadow masses and finally start in on details. However, I at times, get impatient and begin with eye details before finishing the bottom of the face. The eyes are important to me to give me a direction. Crazy, I know.

Few portraitists that I know lay in shadows first. It can become to difficult to bring in the clean lighter colors.

You're not crazy. The eyes are the windows to the soul and if you get them right the rest of the features can be more forgiving. I always paint the eyes in first and then go to the rest of the face. I tend to do the shadowed areas first and work toward light. Always thinking of a 3-D modeled version of the face as I go.

kevinwueste
12-28-2008, 07:25 PM
Pretty much to a teacher at The Academy of art in SF and Grand Central Academy in NYC - they all drive the basic drawing/painting from the darks and, then to some general bright/brightest areas and then work through local colors in the mid-tones. since many of the lighter colors are so opaque, then can remain truly vibrant and "clean" ontop of other tones.. but rarely am I painting a light color over a shadow shape anyway ( unless it's an eye form then I do it all the time when the lights are above .. many ways to skin the cat i spose' but since i draw in graphite and charcoal the same way - it seemed only logical..

Mikey
01-31-2009, 07:47 PM
Thaa's the way I was taught Kevin.

AndyfromVienna
02-24-2009, 04:46 AM
hey friends,

I do mostly as Jocelyn does, but I make one exception with the eyes: i have to get them absolutely right, before I continue. if the eyes are slightly off I dont continue. The soul of a person is in their eyes I believe.

cheers

Andy

elaine321
06-27-2009, 11:03 AM
I have a copyright question.
You will see from my gallery that I usually use pen and ink or qouche to illustrate animals.
I have decided to challenge myself to do something different and try a portrait. We have a local show coming up soon and one of the catorgories is a portrait.
What I would like to do since Michael Jackson was the idol of my teenage years, is an ink wash portrait of him.
But I need to work from a reference photo which are all pretty much from the media. How do you go with copyright on a photo of a celebrity.
Are you supposed to get permission to use the photo and how do I go about doing that. Somebody told me years ago that you can use a photo from a newspaper without breaching copyright as long as you change it at least 10 percent. Is this true!!

Dana Design
06-27-2009, 01:23 PM
elaine, the answer to the last part of your question, the 10%, is a strong no.

I think the answers to your questions are at the bottom of my post beneath my signature line...the copyright issues.

I'm sure there will be many interested in painting MJ just as there are painting Barack Obama. And it all depends on what you plan to do with the painting once you finish it.

If you still have questions after reading the copyright info, please ask!

Randa2000
07-05-2009, 08:47 AM
i start drawing eyes first,nose,mouth...the only difficulty i found is the shape of face roundness,head position,when i draw the line for the head it takes me time to erase & correct ...is there any specific rules to follow
another silly question..where is the signature must be,at the right side of the canvas or left side?
thank you

Dana Design
07-06-2009, 12:04 PM
i start drawing eyes first,nose,mouth...the only difficulty i found is the shape of face roundness,head position,when i draw the line for the head it takes me time to erase & correct ...is there any specific rules to follow
another silly question..where is the signature must be,at the right side of the canvas or left side?
thank you

Try looking at this:
http://www.worsleyschool.net/socialarts/body/proportions.html

And your sig can go anywhere as long as it's unobtrusive.

Steven1
07-31-2010, 08:05 AM
Hi everyone

I would be really grateful for some help with facial construction. As a relative newbie to portraits I decided that I should try and learn properly and so I decided to use the method of construction for facial drawings in the book by Andrew Loomis. Whether it's my lack of brain cells or just missing the point, I have had real problems with establishing the correct centre line and brow line from which to produce the plane to produce facial features. This is particularly difficult when I try to construct the facial features on a head that is observed anything other than straight on. From what I can tell, the Loomis method (whilst a little technical) is meant to take away the guesswork when placing the facial features and allow consistency.

I have tried to attach the relevant images and instruction from the book.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Jul-2010/215697-Loomis_head_construction.jpg

Any help that you can give would be gratefully received and help me retain my sanity :lol:

Thanks for helping.

Steven :)

nitepainter2
12-17-2012, 01:58 PM
very hard to not get caught up in small areas, thats the problem I have.

Moises Menendez
01-27-2013, 11:14 AM
I have a stupid question since I am an amateur artist-to be.
Since I like to work only on portraits from photos, I work immediately on the canvas and finish my work, however, I have learned that you should do an sketch of the proposed work and then bring that sketch to the canvas. This technique has been done by the old masters, as I have been told. What is the rationale behind this technique?
Thanks
Moe

flyfisherflyfisher1
05-14-2013, 10:15 AM
I did a portrait of my son last night and it did not turn out well.
what are the first or most important three or four things to render in
order to get a recognizable person out of a portrait. Is it eyes, head shape
moles, wrinkles, muscles, hair...charactature artists seem to have a knack
for pulling some of these features out of the model....I do not:lol: ...thank you
Pete

JUDERM
08-21-2013, 02:35 AM
I love drawing portraits in pencil. Based on my experience whether I do it from a photograph reference or live portrait drawing I will first draw an oblong to signify the whole face then a smaller circle inside the upper part of the oblong. Inside it I will draw a horizontal line across the smaller circle which will be the guide to draw the eyes and eyebrows and a vertical line in the center of the circles use as guide to draw the nose. I will also draw another horizontal line below the smaller circle of the oblong to use as guide to draw the lips. Then I will draw a rough sketch of the eyes, eyebrows, ears, lips and the nose using those lines as my guides. After drawing these rough initial sketch I will now make each of these exactly identical to the reference I am working on. Hope this helps!

jmcedeno
08-23-2013, 07:51 PM
Thank you Guys, your comments are very helpful to my journey in learning to draw the head, I normally use pencil or charcoal.

loozinit
10-06-2013, 08:25 AM
I paint in acrylics and start portraits by using Paynes Gray and white to "chisel"in the form and contours of the face. Beginning with the darkest forms around the eyes, nose,corner of the mouth. I then mix in white to indicate the medium and lightest areas. When that is dry I use a wash of purple for the darkest/shadow areas and Sap Green lightened with yellow to make a lime green shade for the highlight areas. When that dries, I start using a thin coat of the darkest flesh color (Violet, Ultramarine Blue, Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna, Naples Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Alizarin, Titanium White, 'because it's transparent, I use Zinc White for the highlights in the eyes')
I scumble several layers of paint allowing the purple and green under-painting to show through and highlight small areas with straight violet. The final color touches are applied with Acrylic Glazing Liquid to either accent the highlights or push back the shadows and edges of the face to give the appearance of roundness, blending into the background.

loozinit
10-06-2013, 08:59 AM
I begin drawing a 3/4 view by establishing the general shape and placement of the head. Then I draw a curved line across the head to indicate where the eyes will go (about the middle of the head with the left eye slightly higher than the closest, right eye). The nose will be a curved line half way between the eyes and chin and the mouth half way between the nose and chin. Keeping in mind that the head is "round" I then draw a line from the crown down the top of the head toward the center forehead and down the center of the nose and mouth to the bottom of the chin. The next several lines divide the head into sections from the top of the head through the temple and down the cheeks to the bottom of the jaw. Each section becomes narrower as it moves toward the sides and back of the head. Each "section" is painted in a different shade of flesh color to indicate the roundness of the face. Glazing is an easy way to push the flesh color back to indicate the roundness of the form.

JUDERM
10-13-2013, 01:47 AM
Studying the anatomy of the face is very important in drawing and painting the face. Becoming aware of the light and shadows is also essential in creating portraits. Check this out and you will find great resources with tutorials on how to draw portraits: http://www.learnportraitwithpencil.com :) Thanks!

jmcedeno
10-14-2013, 02:40 PM
Thank you Jude I just enrolled and look forward to all the classes.