When beginning a portrait drawing, there are some basic measurements that you can consider to help you get your proportions correct. When looking at your subject straight on, the width of the head is two-thirds of the height. When looking at your subject from a perfect profile, the width of the head is seven-eighths of the height.
From a straight forward view the face can be divided into four equal sections. The top quarter is where the hairline begins, the center line is where the eyes are located (yes, the eyes are in the middle of the face!). The bottom of the nose falls just above the line for the bottom quarter. If you divide the bottom quarter in half again you can judge where the bottom of the lip falls.
From a direct profile view the features fall in similar places. The top quarter is where the hairline begins, the center line is where the eyes are located. The bottom of the nose hits above the line for the bottom quarter. Notice that the ear falls almost halfway back from the center of the head-- people often misplace ears in portrait drawings.
The eyes are a useful way to judge the placement of all the features on the face. -Seen straight on, your subject’s face should be five eyes in width. -There should be the space of one eye between the eyes. -The edge of the nostrils will fall in line with the center edges of the eyes. -And (not shown here) a line drawn from the pupil (the center of the eye) straight down will tell you where the corners of the mouth should be.
Drawing eyes on the face can be challenging. As always, be sure you are looking carefully at the subject and drawing what you see. Many people draw an eye as an even, almond shape. This is incorrect. Notice that the eye above has a much more complicated shape than that.
The red line in this illustration indicates the widest point at the top and bottom of the eye. Notice that they occur in different places.
The bottom lid of the eye has a slight thickness to it that observant artists will be certain to draw. You can also usually see the thickness of the top lid at the edge of the eye near the tear duct.
The top eyelid has an almost angular shape to it. The top edge nearly flattens out across the top of the eye before sloping sharply down in either direction.
A common mistake is to leave the white of the eye white, but shadows do fall on the eyeball. The eyelid casts a shadow across the top of the eye (shown in purple above) and there is shadow apparent in the corners of the eyes as well. The brightest part of the eye should be the highlight in the eye, which is determined by where the light source is.
When drawing the pupil and iris of the eye, remember that the iris is a circle. You can never see the full circle as the eyelid covers part of it.
When you begin the details of the face, start with simple contours to help guide you but finish the drawing using value to describe the face, not outline.
Finally, if you are drawing a person in profile, notice that the shape of the eye is different than when you are looking at the subject straight on. From the side an eye looks a lot like a triangle.
When drawing the mouth, the top lip curves down and therefore has darker shadows than the bottom lip which catches the light and is lighter than the top lip. The top lip is smaller than the bottom lip as well. Obviously, every mouth is different so it is most important to try and draw exactly what you are seeing!
Noses can also be tricky. The most important thing is rendering the nose with light and shadow. Begin with light lines and then begin to define the shadow. There is always a shadow on the underside of the nose, though the lighting will determine how dark it is.
The purple in this illustration shows where the shadow falls on the underside of the nose. You may also notice that this nose drawing is not from a straight on view-- when you see the face from a different angle the nose will be a different shape.
Look closely at this well drawn nose-- it is completely described with light and dark. NO OUTLINES. This should be your goal in your portrait drawing today and in your final self portrait.
This is a very well drawn portrait- notice that value describes all of the features on the face. Additionally, the subject is not looking at us straight on, which means that many of the rules we discussed won’t apply to this drawing.
This stunning portrait has wonderful observation of light and dark and the facial features all follow the rules for a profile that we discussed earlier.
Most of the time when drawing a portrait you will not have the advantage of viewing your subject directly from the front or the side. This means that most of the rules we discussed will not apply to your drawing. The best way to approach a portrait is to carefully look at your subject and consider basic drawing rules we have used all semester. Look for the negative space. What angle do different things intersect? Can you begin finding simple shapes and slowly working towards the more complex details?