Head drawing and the ideals of proportions have changed dramatically over the centuries. However, one thing has remained the same–a secret system of rules that few artists even know about, which are universally truthful and, when closely studied, can crack the code on understanding the mystery of how to draw the head.
|A Leonardo sketch of the head.|
Since the Renaissance there has always been a multifarious system to help guide the artist through the complexity of portraiture. Yet most contemporary artists never even use this method, either because they are unaware that these “systems” exist or over-confidently assume they don’t need to learn them. Looking back at Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketches, we can see that his painstaking, almost mathematical, process was instrumental to his greatness–not only in the way he understood the rhythms of nature but in the insights he shared, unknowingly, with the generations of artists who have applied his basic and advanced rudiments of formulaic head drawing.
|A straight on drawing of the head
For example, Leonardo found that the top of the helix of the ear lines up to the brow ridge and the bottom lobe lines up to the bottom of the nose.
In addition, he found that if you have a straight on view of the head you could find all your key features.
By drawing a diagonal from the helix of the ear through the tip of the nose, to the corner of the mouth down to the jowl you find your basic proportions.
|My approach to drawing the head.|
Since Leonardo there have been many “abstractions of the head” that have revealed the unknowns of head drawing. The great artist and instructor Frank Riley as well as Fred Fixler had their versions. I myself have created my own method that helps guide me through solid head drawing. Over the years I have modernized my technique based on the principles of Leonardo and Riley’s system and found this to be an invaluable tool for all of my drawings and paintings. I call my abstraction of the head the “BUAstraction.” By extracting the most important elements and key rules of head drawing, anyone can learn how to draw a solid portrait.
Here are two tips to better understand and execute a head drawing that I’ve realized after years of practice and study:
1) One of the most common mistakes is making the eyes too big. Drawing from a front view, one way to avoid this is to always measure the outside of the nostril to the tear duct of the eye. In other words, draw a straight line from the nostril to the tear duct. Proportions on point!
2) Another great technique is to line up the corner of the mouth vertically to the pupils. If you draw a straight line from the corners of the mouth to the pupils you are more than likely drawing proportionally!
For more information on my drawing system, visit my online school.