Advice, please.

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Harry
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Advice, please.

Post by Harry » Fri May 24, 2019 1:05 am

I have always had a desire to draw portraits and over the years I have collected a fair amount of literature on the subject.
Now, an almost universal approach in all these books is to start with an oval, divide it appropriately, placing the eyes, on this lone, the nose here, the brow there.

In fact I have found this to be a teaching method that crosses all manner of subjects. If you want to draw a car, start with a rectangle etc.

I have two questions that are just note answered in any of my tutorials:

I seem to get better results when I just dive in and draw. I don't draw an oval for the face but start with the line from the top of the forehead to the chin. I try to draw this as close to how it really is as possible. My books tell me I should not be worried about detail or a likeness at this stage but it seems to work for me.

My question is will my approach stifle or slow down my progress? I am not an accomplished artist but I have learned a lot so I am not at the starting gate.

My second question is along the same lines. Assuming preliminary outlines are the way to go does the artist ever arrive at a point where their eye is good enough to simply let them draw without first drawing an oval, a line for the eyes, a line for the mouth, a semicircle which will later be modified for the ear?

It seems to me that if the object is to draw an ear, why not start off with an ear, or something as close to the desired object as possible?

Sorry, that was 3 questions.

And you know what they say; There are 3 kinds of people in this world; those who can count, and those who can't.

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mdmattin
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Re: Advice, please.

Post by mdmattin » Fri May 24, 2019 2:49 am

This is an interesting topic. I think that doing the schematic construction is a good exercise to practice getting the proportions right and in the proper perspective. Practice with the schematic will help to avoid the typical mistakes that beginners make if they try to start with the eyes and other features without much thought to the overall construction of the head, such as placing the eyes too high or making the features too large relative to the head.
However, this may not be the way you want to start when you are trying to capture the essence of a person in a portrait. You might want to identify a salient feature that expresses the personality of the sitter, or some characteristic that will make for a dramatic picture. At some point you will probably need to fall back on some structural rules of thumb, assuming you want a realistic or natural looking portrait rather than an expressionistic or cartoon like image.
My personal approach is to very carefully measure the posture of the head, as reflected in the angles of the eyes and the center line, then to locate one or two landmarks, such as a eye or the corner of the mouth, and only then to start building the overall structure around those points. At this stage I do use the same rules that I learned as a beginner to get the overall shape and the relationships of the features to each other right.
Matthew

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Rebecca
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Re: Advice, please.

Post by Rebecca » Sat May 25, 2019 9:20 pm

Harry wrote:
Fri May 24, 2019 1:05 am
...I seem to get better results when I just dive in and draw. I don't draw an oval for the face but start with the line from the top of the forehead to the chin. I try to draw this as close to how it really is as possible. My books tell me I should not be worried about detail or a likeness at this stage but it seems to work for me.
...will my approach stifle or slow down my progress? I am not an accomplished artist but I have learned a lot so I am not at the starting gate.
It sounds like you are satisfied with your approach. I don't think there are any examples of your portraits here for us to check, but even if we saw your portraits and thought you could improve, it's your satisfaction that matters most. However, if you are making portraits to please others, and you can't quite see how to make improvements, following the systems in your tutorials may help. I've dealt with portraiture from both ends -- taking commissions and teaching how to draw and paint portraits. Since I started very young, I did what came naturally: I drew by the seat of my pants. I just looked and drew. No measuring.

I've made thousands of portraits for money without ever using construction lines or those simplified shapes. Then two things changed. I got into high end portraiture, and I started teaching portraiture. Devoting days or weeks to a portrait, I did not want any errors forcing major time wasting redo's. And when I taught, I needed a language or context to communicate visual concepts. Both of these needed a thought structure. I invented one that was most effective for accuracy (accuracy is connected to likeness), and then I taught that structure. Until I "graduated" to serious full time portraiture and teaching, I didn't want to deal with all that annoying setup. Once I started using this structure, however, everything became more accurate and proceeded more quickly, allowing more room to play with creative effects. And giving students a structure helped them identify their problem areas, where before they were satisfied with their beginner efforts. The structure slowed them down, and perhaps they felt stifled, but those who kept at it gained speed and freedom.

If you learn a structured approach, you can always ditch it until you need it. If you try to force structure to the point where you stop thinking about the effects you originally wanted, and/or your art looks like someone else's, then yah, you have been stifled.
Harry wrote:
Fri May 24, 2019 1:05 am
...Assuming preliminary outlines are the way to go does the artist ever arrive at a point where their eye is good enough to simply let them draw without first drawing an oval, a line for the eyes, a line for the mouth, a semicircle which will later be modified for the ear?
Yes, absolutely.
Harry wrote:
Fri May 24, 2019 1:05 am
It seems to me that if the object is to draw an ear, why not start off with an ear, or something as close to the desired object as possible?
Well, if using base shapes, they should be as close to the desired object as possible. If they are not at least 90% on target, it's not helpful.
Rebecca

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Harry
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Re: Advice, please.

Post by Harry » Sat May 25, 2019 10:58 pm

Thanks , Matthew and Rebecca. I appreciate you taking the time out of your days to create such thoughtful replies. The internet and books are my only access to information at the moment. I care for my wife who has Parkinson's disease and so I can't attend night classes, or any classes for that matter. Drawing is for me, quite apart from being an artistic outlet, an escape. (Don't get me wrong; my wife is the love of my life, my sweetheart, but I sometimes need to disappear for a while. Drawing gives me that.)

I guess I should be able to answer my own question with my own experience; I am a musician and until I retired to care for my wife I worked professionally.
Students would occasionally ask when would they be able to simply play the music without thinking of chords, scales, arpeggios, dynamics, all the elements that make up a piece of music or a performance.

The irony is we practise these things so we can forget them. Hopefully these will be infused in a mature musical performance. When we listen to a concert pianist in full flight it is inconceivable to think that he or she is worrying about scales. They did that. Years ago. Now it can be left behind in order to simply play.

I don't know whether this is true; I am prone to flights of fancy, but it sits pretty well with me.

Thanks again for your answers. I am grateful.
cheers

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Andre Jute
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Re: Advice, please.

Post by Andre Jute » Sun May 26, 2019 12:13 am

When I was a portraitist in oils, many years ago, I would draw two lines on the canvas, one through the centre of the forehead, nose and chin, one at right angles to it through the corners of the eyes. It's helpful for capturing the light to get the angle of your sitter's head right and fix it permanently on the canvas, which is what those two lines do, and I'd redraw them over the paint until all the features were in place and their outlines as firm as I intended making them. At every redrawing the vertical or near-vertical line would be given more definition as features were assembled on it, much like a sculptor works, from the inside out. Also at every redrawing the line would be notched or moved to one side in various places to allow for the fall of light, for instance on the bridge of the nose or at a dimple in the chin. It is a method that makes for dramatic portraits, but long before that it controls the confusion of lines and planes your eyes show you in the subject.

You seem to be past that awful aspirant stage when the blank page frightens you. You've survived the novice hump of a thousand possible lines all in your mind teasing you with the impossibility of getting them all down. You've already got down to one continuous line as a start. I think you're well on your way, though it is great to have confirmation.
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Rebecca
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Re: Advice, please.

Post by Rebecca » Sun May 26, 2019 5:29 pm

Harry wrote:
Sat May 25, 2019 10:58 pm
Thanks , Matthew and Rebecca...
Sure, Harry.
If you like, we can talk about your portraits. You don't need to use construction lines when you draw them, but we might use concepts that construction lines support to explain ourselves. Or, maybe the issues have nothing to do with alignment and shape. Issues might relate more to volume expression with illumination and reflection.
Rebecca

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Re: Advice, please.

Post by Alitogata » Wed Jun 26, 2019 12:17 am

My usual method to start is with a cross as a guide line. A vertical line that defines the middle of the face and the angle that the face has and a vertical one that passes under the base of eyes.
Then it is very easy to get the proportions of the face features as you can divide further these lines according to where the features of the face of your model are.

The method of creating first the oval of the head and then add the jaw and then put the ears on the extension of where the eyes are supposed to be etc. is more useful when you don't have a model but you want to draw a random face from your imagination. With this method there is no chance to lose the proportions that the average human head has.

There is also the method of drawing what you see without bothering to measure accurately the proportions. I draw for instance this portrait from a photograph without bothering to measure that much as photographs have some sort of lens distortion either way.

First image is the pencil drawing in my sketchbook and the second one is the same after adding the watercolours.
Pencil_sketch_Chinese_Woman- Artist Marialena Sarris_.jpg
Pencil_sketch_Chinese_Woman- Artist Marialena Sarris_.jpg (368.93KiB)Viewed 2677 times
Chinese_Woman-_Watercolour_Sketch_Portrait-_Artist_Marialena_Sarris-_7-3-2017.jpg
Chinese_Woman-_Watercolour_Sketch_Portrait-_Artist_Marialena_Sarris-_7-3-2017.jpg (653.75KiB)Viewed 2677 times



I have more portraits here

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