Figuring out how to draw people is often a matter of breaking the body down into geometric shapes. When it comes to drawing people–specifically faces–you have to think of the sphere and the ovoid. Now, I’m not really a fan of looking at drawings of shapes. Booooooring. Instead, I study this concept by looking at how contemporary artists draw children and adults.
Susan Lyon is a great example of an artist who really understands the roundness of the face. This doesn’t mean she just draws people with full cheeks. Rather, Lyon is able to evolve the ovoid from a geometric form to a shape with the curving depth that mimics a face. She’s especially deft at creating subtle planes of gradation in children’s faces, which can often be rounded and lacking in sharp angles.
Lyon uses two devices really well to accomplish this. First, she knows how to subtly tilt the egg shape of the head to make it seem like it occupies three-dimensional space. For drawing children this is especially useful because it pulls the skin of the face taut and highlighting the line of the jaw and the hollows of the cheeks. Rarely does Lyon draw people straight on without any tilt to the head, because such straight, frontal drawings can diminish the illusion of three dimensions, especially when you haven’t yet mastered rendering a likeness.
The artist is also incredibly consistent in making sure that the features of the face follow the construction lines of the ovoid when the head is seen from different perspectives. What I mean by this is that the invisible construction line that runs across a person’s face–from the tip of the ear, over the eyes, to the tip of the other ear–bends up or down depending on the tilt of the face, but it always moves or curves as one. Lyon shows this to great effect.
Susan also strengthens her people drawings by constantly moving around the work while she draws and never staying in one place for too long. It’s made me really mindful of how I progress through my sketches as I am learning to draw people with more skill.
It is mesmerizing to watch a drawing of the human face appear out of nowhere on a blank piece of paper or canvas, but it is even more mesmerizing to do it yourself! If you want great tips on drawing children–whose faces carry such power and delight for their viewers–I hope you give the Secrets to Drawing Children Collection a serious look. You will receive portraiture skills and informative takeaways from Maureen Killaby in her Portrait Drawing Workshop DVD as well as a bonus eBook (for just $1.00!): Secrets to Drawing Realistic Children by Carrie Stuart Parks and Rick Parks. All of these come in one unique collection that will enable you harness your drawing abilities so you can create portraits of any man, woman, or child you set your mind to. Enjoy!