How to…

I was asked recently how to go about drawing faces after a comment I made on facebook:

I always discourage my pupils from drawing like this. It leads to a likely sense of failure.

Oscar replied:”

Oscar Surla

Mike D. if you don’t mind me asking; in what way are they drawing, and why does it lead to feelings of failure? How would you instruct your students to draw instead?

I’m asking because I’m genuinely curious. I like drawing but am not formally trained so seriously don’t know anything about it, and would love to learn to be better.”

The biggest problem here is that they are not drawing the whole face, they have completed one eye before starting the other. It’s much easier to work on all parts at the same time. Most students who try a bit by bit approach really struggle to get the pair of eyes to match for example. Similar problem with other facial features.
Try working on all the features at the same time, and measure often. Then measure again, it’s that important.
There is often heavy editing on videos like this that leave out vital processes in the process. I don’t see how a student could learn to draw from a video like this.”

Firstly, I can’t teach you how to draw or paint. You have to do that.
I can point you to a range of processes, methods and pitfalls that you ought to be aware of. My notes here are specific to faces and portraits (because that’s what I currently do; it’s at the fore in my mind).I can also describe processes that help me in the hope that they’ll help you too.

If you want to make portraits, it’s too easy to use methods that make the process difficult. Portraits are difficult. You have to use processes that make it easy. Be realistic; you need to use processes that your little mind can cope with. There are plenty of techniques that you can learn that make the process easy. Break it all down into easy steps. I will list examples later.

You need to learn an armoury of techniques that lead to a finished picture. There are many slightly smug videos on YouTube that show breath-taking skills and wizardry. They are a con, they are edited to seem polished and skilful. Make life easy for yourself, break the drawing into small steps. The small steps should be easy.

  • Draw every day (but…)
  • Spend a long time marking out, get the proportions right. Be disciplined in this because it’s too easy to get intoxicated with the lovely details and tonal work but; what’s the point if a feature is in the wrong place or the wrong size. When that happens, you have to move or scrub the fault so you can proceed. see next…
  • Make correcting easier- draw faintly first so errors are easy to correct. then measure!
  • Make lots of measurements, when you’ve done them, do some more – errors have a nasty habit of sneaking past you when your guard is down.
  • You can become blind to present errors (until its too late). Use a set of techniques to get around your mind which is tricking you that the picture is correct.
  • NEVER start with the outline of a face.
  • Lean all the rules of proportions. Your mind will try really hard to bend those rules but you have to be will-full and win. If you don’t you’ll be so annoyed when you’ve spent hours to find an irreparable mistake.
  • Many beginners love to learn how to draw an eye. Don’t do this. Only draw eyes in pairs. While you work keep both drawn eyes equally finished. NEVER finish one eye, then start the other. they will never match- you’ll end up with one eye that looks like it belongs to somebody else.
  • Evaluate your drawings and learn to spot what is wrong. If you can’t do this, it doesn’t matter how much you practice- you’ll never improve.