“Why are drawing eyeglasses so darned hard? What am I doing wrong?” This is a common dilemma. I’ve seen it a million times … a beautiful portrait fails miserably because the subject of the drawing is wearing eyeglasses. Often, the face looks good, and the glasses look like a cartoon. Epic fail!
So what makes drawing faces with glasses such a problem? Over-thinking. Like all drawing issues, the problem is in our heads. It’s lack of observation, and way too much thinking. It’s representation of what we end up creating what we “think” something looks like, instead of looking deeply into the nuances for what it “actually” looks like. When we aren’t clear about what we’re seeing, we have a tendency to overdraw to fill in the blanks. The result is usually an overuse of line, which is a feeble attempt to make the details look more visible. This approach creates an outlined look resembling a cartoon drawing, or a comic book illustration.
Reality is subtle. Light and dark play off of each other, and fade gradually. Shadows create shapes that we’re not used to seeing, making things look differently. Edges seem to go in and out of light and dark, and become what are called “lost edges.” Yes, it can be confusing.
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But all of the problems can be corrected by simply studying the subject matter. Rather than looking at it for what you know it to be (“These are eyeglasses”), do this:
• Look at it as a puzzle full of interlocking shapes.
• See it more abstractly.
• Look for the patterns of light and dark.
• Be more objective, and less subjective.
• Draw it upside down, so you don’t connect with the reference so literally.
Look for shadows. The close-up profile of eyeglasses shows how important the shadows that are cast onto the face are. Many of my students don’t even see this when they’re studying their references. This is because we aren’t used to looking for things like this in everyday life.
Can you see how psychological art really is? It’s always about what we “see,” not what we think we “know.” For instance, look at all of the geometric patterns seen in the eyeglass lenses. They’re made up of reflections, and will change due to the surroundings. This is obviously not something we’re used to looking at. Close observation reveals a whole new perspective.
Look at the close-up of the front view. This shows how the rims of the glasses are never outlined. Look at the edges. You can see how the light depicts the edge, but it changes as it goes around. The edge is created by placing the darkness on either side. Let your dark create the light!
Sunglasses also exhibit light and dark patterns. It’s important to study the patterns of light and dark, because they’re a mirror image of the things close by.
All in all, drawing faces with eyeglasses can be challenging, but fun. Take the over-thinking out of the equation, and study the shapes. See the patterns. Allow all of those shapes to come together like a puzzle, and leave the outlining to the the comic books!
Hope that helps!
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