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Quick Drawing Heads Tutorial

I was recently reading Force, by Michael D. Matessi. It contains a lot of useful information, but something in particular caught my attention: he apparently uses cubes to block out heads. So I set out to try that, and I am here explaining my own point of view on the matter.Until now, I have been confronted with three techniques:

  • The classical one, taught in most drawing books: draw an ovoid shape, and hope for the best. This technique, at most, gives you a hint of the head's limits. It can work if you have already a long experience and a trained hand, but it does not cater for perspective or rotating needs, nor does it give an accurate shape of the human head. It is the worst technique a beginner could use, yet it is the first technique everyone learns.
  • Burne Hogarth (blessed by thy name) taught me to use a sphere to block out the crane, and then carve in the flatter sides. This is a structure that is more geometrically correct; it helps a lot when one needs to rotate the head, and follows more or less the underlying bone structure, which makes for a more accurate drawing.
  • Bruce Timm and other Disney Animators appear to use two intersecting spheres. This is really useful for rotating the head fast, and thus really good for animation drawing (duh). It is not nearly as accurate as Burne Hogarth's method, but it does the trick. When you need extreme rotations, this technique has it's limits, but you can always revert to "carved" for those tricky frames.
  • And then, Michael Matessi's "block". Very weird, as the motto in animation drawing is always "draw curves, draw curves!"

So I decided to try the block thingy. And it does work, and works good. It allows for extremely easy perspective (something that all other methods lack), even three points perspective if needed, without too much fuss. It is easy to locate the facial features in any position. Here is my first attempt (quick drawings, please disregard the quality)

But it lacked the muscle and bone structure hinted by Burne's method, so I decided to try and mix them, and here is my new method (for the next few months at least, until I find something new). This is intended for beginners and amateurs, not for professionals (although professionals might find a thing or two to chew on).

A few key points

  • The eyes marker is a bit above the mid line. The mouth marker is a bit above below the third. The nose marker comes more or less in the middle between the two (a bit low).
  • Do not forget: the eyes are spheres. They cannot ever look the same, or be simply mirrored. The eyelid runs along the sphere, so its shape changes according to your point of view. Also, the eyes are positioned inside the eye sockets, which are, depending on the bone structure, more or less carved, but always at least a bit curved inward.
  • Also, do not forget, the mouth is also protruding. Our ancestors were monkeys, so study monkey's faces. Our mouth, although less obviously protruding than theirs, still follows the same basic shape.
  • The face is extremely elastic. Never move a muscle independently from the rest. If the corner of the mouth raises – even a little -, the cheekbone is pushed upwards, which in turn raises one side of the nose and closes the corresponding eye a bit. If you are moving only one area of the face, you are doing it wrong.
  • Hair have volume; never attempt to draw hair as an external line. Even if you intend to color them in one flat shade, you should know where your hair strands are born, and which forces and dynamics drives them.
  • In real life, everything is always viewed with perspective. In other words, if both your eyes, or both sides of your nose, or both cheekbones have the same size, you are doing it wrong.
  • Flip your drawing often, it helps spot mistakes. If you are drawing on PC, your software surely has a flip function, use it. If you are drawing on real paper, then a light table helps a lot. If you don't have that at hand, then a window with sunlight does the trick.
  • As you can see, once you get the bone and muscle structure at least somehow "right", it becomes easy to add or remove fat in order to get very different faces. Not to say that one structure fits all, but just to emphasize on the importance of having a minimal knowledge of your facial muscles and facial fat pouches before trying this (or any other method for that matter).

Hope this helps anyone!
Of course, do not attempt to apply this as a method. There is no methods in drawing, only workflows. This works for me, but might very well not work for you. Nonetheless, if it gives you a new insight on how the head is structured, or new ideas on how to go on about blocking your main shapes, I will have accomplished my goal.
Have a nice day.

All drawings made on Ubuntu + myPaint + wacom Intuos 3


Category: tutorials

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