Don’t pay any attention to the critics. Don’t even ignore them

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Fig. 10-1. Drawing by student Elizabeth Arnold.

Light logic. Light falls on objects and (logically) results in the four aspects of light/shadow:

1. Highlight: The brightest light, where light from the source falls most directly on the object.

2. Cast shadow: The darkest shadow, caused by the object’s blocking of light from the source.

3. Reflected light: A dim light, bounced back onto the object by light falling on surfaces around the object.

4. Crest shadow: A shadow that lies on the crest of a rounded form, between the highlight and the reflected light. Crest shadows and reflected lights are difficult to see at first, but are the key to “rounding up” forms for the illusion of 3-D on the flat paper.

The Value of Logical Lights and Shadows

Source: The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards

Now that you have gained experience with the first three perceptual skills of drawing—the perception of edges, spaces, and relationships—you are ready to put them together with the fourth skill, the perception of lights and shadows. After the mental stretch and effort of sighting relationships, you will find that drawing lights and shadows is especially joyful. This is the skill most desired by drawing students. It enables them to make things look three-dimensional through the use of a technique students often call “shading,” but which in art terminology is called “light logic.”

This term means just what it says: Light falling on forms creates lights and shadows in a logical way. Look for a moment at Henry Fuseli’s self-portrait (Figure 10-2). Clearly, there is a source of light, perhaps from a lamp. This light strikes the side of the head nearest the light source (the side on your left, as Fuseli faces you). Shadows are logically formed where the light is blocked, for example, by the nose. We constantly use this R-mode visual information in our everyday perceptions because it enables us to know the three-dimensional shapes of objects we see around us. But, like much R-mode processing, seeing lights and shadows remains below the conscious level; we use the perceptions without “knowing” what we see.

Learning to draw requires learning consciously to see lights and shadows and to draw them with all their inherent logic. This is new learning for most students, just as learning to see complex edges, negative spaces, and the relationships of angles and proportions are newly acquired skills.

Seeing values

Light logic also requires that you learn to see differences in tones of light and dark. These tonal differences are called “values.” Pale, light tones are called “high” in value, dark tones “low” in value. A complete value scale goes from pure white to pure black with literally thousands of minute gradations between the two extremes of the scale. An abbreviated scale with twelve tones in evenly graduated steps between light and dark is shown in the figure:

In pencil drawing, the lightest possible light is the white of the paper. (See the white areas on Fuseli’s forehead, cheeks, and nose.) The darkest dark appears where the pencil lines are packed together in a tone as dark as the graphite will allow. (See the dark shadows cast by Fuseli’s nose and hand.) Fuseli achieved the many tones between the lightest light and the darkest dark by various methods of using the pencil: solid shading, crosshatching, nd combinations of techniques. Many of the white shapes he actually erased out, using an eraser as a drawing tool. (See the highlights on Fuseli’s forehead.)

In this chapter, I’ll show you how to see and draw lights and shadows as shapes and how to perceive value relationships to achieve “depth” or three-dimensionality in your drawings. These skills lead directly to color and subsequently to painting, as I outlined in the Preface.

As we proceed, keep in mind the following: The perception of edges (line) leads to the perception of shapes (negative spaces and positive shapes), drawn in correct proportion and perspective (sighting). These skills lead to the perception of values (light logic), which leads to the perception of colors as values, which leads to painting.

Fig. 10-2. Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), Portrait of the Artist. Courtesy of The Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Find the four aspects of light logic in Fuseli’s self-portrait.

1. Highlights: Forehead, cheeks, etc.

2. Cast shadows: Cast by the nose, lips, hands.

3. Reflected lights: Side of the nose, side of the cheek.

4. Crest shadows: Crest of the nose, crest of the cheek, temple.

The role of R-mode in perceiving shadows

In the same curious way that L-mode apparently will pay almost no attention to negative space or upside-down information, it seems also to ignore lights and shadows. L-mode, after all, may be unaware that R-mode perceptions help with naming and categorizing.

You will therefore need to learn to see lights and shadows at a conscious level. To illustrate for yourself how we interpret rather than see lights and shadows Look at Gustave Courbet’s Self-portrait, Figure 10-3. Upside down, the drawing looks entirely different—simply a pattern of dark areas and light areas.

With right side up you will see that the dark/ light pattern seems to change and, in a sense, disappear into the three-dimensional shape of the head. This is another of the many paradoxes of drawing: If you draw the shapes of lighted areas and shadowed areas just as you perceive them, a viewer of your drawing will not notice those shapes. Instead, the viewer will wonder how you were able to make your subject so “real,” meaning threedimensional.

Fig. 10-3. Self-portrait, Gustave Courbet, 1897. Courtesy of The Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut.


These special perceptions, like all drawing skills, are easy to attain once you have made a cognitive shift to the artist’s mode of seeing. Research on the brain indicates that the right hemisphere, as well as being able to perceive the shapes of particular shadows, is also specialized for deriving meaning from patterns of shadows. Apparently, this derived meaning is then communicated to the conscious verbal system, which names it.

Fig. 10-4.

How does R-mode accomplish the leap of insight required to know what these patterns of light and dark areas mean? Apparently R-mode is able to extrapolate from incomplete information to envision a complete image. The right brain seems undeterred by missing pieces of information and appears to delight in “getting” the picture, despite its incompleteness.

Look, for example, at the patterns in Figure 10-4. In each of the drawings, notice that you first see the pattern, then you perceive it as a gestalt, and then you name it.

Patients with right-hemisphere injuries often have great difficulty making sense of complex, fragmentary shadow patterns such as those in Figure 10-4. They see only random light and dark shapes. Try turning the book upside down to approximate seeing the patterns as these patients do—as unnamable shapes. Your task in drawing is to see the shadow-shapes in this way even when the image is right side up, while holding at arm’s length, so to speak, knowledge of what the shapes mean.

This “trick of the artist” is great fun. I’m sure you will enjoy these last exercises in which you will put together all of the basic skills—edges, spaces, relationships, lights and shadows, and, finally, expressing your unique response to the gestalt—the “thingness of the thing.” In this chapter, we’ll work with the remaining two of the three basic portrait poses.

John Singer Sargent, 1856-1925. Study for “Madame X.” Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Frances Ormond and Miss Emily Sargent, 1931

John Singer Sargent, 1856-1925. Olimpio Fusco, c. 1905-15? Courtesy of The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1828-82. Jane Burden, Later Mrs. William Morris, as Queen Guinevere. Courtesy of The National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.


Fig. 10-5.

Fig. 10-6.

Fig. 10-7. Drawing with an eraser.

a. A nibbed graphite ground of middle value

b. An eraser trimmed for precise erasing of light areas.

Then use a # 4 B or #6b pencil to darken shadowed areas.


Fig. 10-8.

Fig. 10-9.

The three basic portrait poses

In portrait drawing, artists have traditionally posed their models (or themselves in self-portraits) in one of three views:

• Full face: The model faces the artist directly with both sides of the model’s face fully visible to the artist.

• Profile: The view you drew in the last exercises. The model faces toward the artist’s left or right and only one side (one half) of the model’s face is visible to the artist.

• Three-quarter view: The model makes a half-turn toward the artist’s left or right, making visible to the artist three-quarters ofthe model’s face—the profile (one half) plus one quarter of the remaining half-face.

Note that the full-face and profile views are relatively invariant, while the three-quarter view can vary from an almost profile to an almost full-face pose and still be called a “three-quarter view.”

A warm-up exercise: A copy of the Courbet selfportrait

Imagine that you are honored by a visit from the nineteenth-century French artist, Gustave Courbet (pronounced goos-tav koor-bay), and that he has agreed to sit for a portrait drawing, wearing his jaunty hat and smoking his pipe. The artist is in a rather serious mood, quiet and thoughtful. See Figure. 10-3.

Imagine further that you have arranged a spotlight so that it shines from above and in front of Courbet, illuminating the top of his face but leaving the eyes and much of the face and neck in rather deep shadow. Take a moment to consciously see how the lights and shadows logically fall relative to the source of light. Then turn the book upside-down to see the shadows as a pattern of shapes. The wall behind is dark, silhouetting your model.

What you’ll need

1. Your #4B drawing pencil

2. Your eraser

3. Your clear plastic Picture Plane

4. A stack of three or four sheets of drawing paper

5. Your graphite stick and some paper napkins

What you ll do

Please read through all of the instructions before starting.

1. As always, draw a format edge on your drawing paper, using the outside edge of one of your Viewfinders. This format is in the same proportion, width to height, as the reproduction.

2. Tone your paper with a rubbed graphite ground to a medium-dark silvery gray—about the tone of the wall behind Courbet. Lightly draw the crosshairs as shown in Figure 10-5. You may wish to copy this drawing upside down.

3. Set your Picture Plane on top of the reproduction of the Courbet drawing. The crosshairs on the plastic Picture Plane will instantly show you where to locate the essential points of the drawing. I suggest that you work upside down for at least

the first “blocking in” of the lights and shadows (Figure. 10-6).

4. Decide on a Basic Unit, perhaps the light-shape from the center of the hat brim to the top of the upper lip, or perhaps the pipe stem, or you may decide on another Basic Unit. Remember that everything in Courbet’s drawing is locked into a relationship. For this reason, you can start with any Basic Unit and end up with the correct relationships. Then, transfer your Basic Unit to the drawing paper.

Note: The step-by-step procedure I offer below is only a suggestion about how to proceed. You may wish to use an entirely different sequence. Also note that I am naming parts of the drawing only for instructional purposes. As you draw, try your best to see the shapes of lights and darks wordlessly. I realize that this is like trying not to think of the word “elephant,” but as you continue to draw, thinking wordlessly becomes second nature.

5. You will be “drawing” with an eraser. Sharpen your eraser into a drawing tool by cutting one end into a wedge shape as shown in Figure 10-7.

Begin by erasing out the major shapes of light, on the face, hat, and shirtfront, always checking the size and position of those shapes against your Basic Unit. You might think of these light-shapes as negative shapes that share edges with the dark forms. By correctly seeing and erasing the light shapes, you’ll have the dark shapes “for free.”

6. Next, carefully erase the lightest parts of the hat, the side of the neck, and the coat. Your toned ground supplies the middle value of the hat and coat (Figure. 10-8).

7. Using your # 4 B pencil, darken in the area around the head, the shadow under the hat brim, the shadows below the eyebrows, under the nose, under the lower lip, the beard, the shadow of the beard, and the shadows under the shirt collar and the coat collar. Carefully observe the shapes of these shadows. Keep your tones quite smooth, either crosshatching or working a continuous tone or combining the two. Ask yourself: Where is the darkest dark? Where is the lightest light?

Notice also that there is almost no information in the shadowed areas. They are nearly uniform tones. Yet, when you turn the book right side up, the face and features emerge out of the shadows. These perceptions are occurring in your own brain, imaging and extrapolating from incomplete information. The hardest part of this drawing will be resisting the temptation to give too much information! Let the shadows stay shadowy, and have faith that your viewer will extrapolate the features, the expression, the eyes, the beard, everything (Figure. 10-9).

8. At this point you have the drawing “blocked in.” The rest is all refinement, called “working up” the drawing to a finish. Note that, because the original drawing was done in charcoal and you are working in pencil, the exact roughness of the charcoal medium is difficult to reproduce in pencil. But also, even though you are copying Courbet’s self-portrait, your drawing is your drawing. Your unique line quality and choice of emphasis will differ from Courbet’s.

9. At each step, pull back a little from the drawing, squint your eyes a bit, and move your head from side to side slightly to see if the image is beginning to emerge. Try to see (that is, to image) what you have not yet drawn. Use this emerging, imagined image to add to, change, reinforce what is there in the drawing. You will find yourself shifting back and forth: drawing, imaging, drawing again. Be parsimonious! Provide only enough information to the viewer to allow the correct image to occur in the viewer’s imagined perception. Do not overdraw.

At this point, I hope you will be really seeing, really drawing, really experiencing the joy of drawing. Later, when drawing a person from life, you will find yourself wondering why you never noticed how beautiful the person is, noticing perhaps for the first time the shape of the nose or the expression of the eyes (Figure. 10-10).

10. As you are working up the drawing, try to focus your attention on the original. For any problem that you encounter, the answer is in the original. For example, you will want to achieve the same facial expression: the way to accomplish that is to pay careful attention to the exact shapes of the lights and the shadows. For example, notice the exact angle (relative to vertical or horizontal) of the shadow in the corner of the mouth. Notice the exact curve of the shadow under Courbet’s right eye and the exact shape of that small shadow under the right cheekbone. Try not to talk to yourself about the facial expression.

11. Draw just what you see, no more, no less. You’ll notice that the whites of the eyes are barely lighter than the dark shadow surrounding the eye. You will be tempted to erase out the whites because, well, you know they are called “whites of the eyes.” Don’t do it! Allow the viewer of your drawing to “play the game” of “seeing” what is not there. Your job is to barely suggest, just as Courbet did.

Fig. 10-10. A copy in pencil of Courbet’s Self-portrait by instructor Brian Bomeisler.

After you have finished

In drawing the Courbet portrait, you were bound to be impressed by this work, its subtlety and strength, and how the personality and character of Courbet emerge from the shadows. I’m sure that this exercise has provided you with a taste for the power of light/ shadow drawing. An even greater satisfaction, of course, will come from doing your own self-portrait.

Fig. 10-11. Berthe Morisot (1841-1895). Self-Portrait, c. 1885. Courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago.

Taking the next step

I’m sure you are aware that we have moved from seeing and drawing every detailed edge, as in Pure Contour Drawing, to precisely seeing and drawing negative space, to seeing exact proportional relationships, to accurately seeing and drawing the large and small shapes of lights and shadows. As you continue to draw after completing these lessons, you will begin to find your own unique style of using these fundamental components. Your personal style may evolve into a rapid, vigorous calligraphy (as in the Morisot Self-Portrait, Figure 10-11), a beautifully pale, delicate style of drawing, or a strong, dense style. Or your style may become more and more precise, as in the Sheeler drawing, Figure 10-12. Remember, you are always searching for your way of seeing and drawing. No matter how your style evolves, however, you will always be using edges, spaces, relationships, and (usually) lights and shadows, and you will depict the thing itself (the gestalt) in your own way.

In this lesson, we are relying on the skills you’ve developed with the first three components to learn the fourth, lights and shadows, so the viewer can correctly see what you have left out.

Fig. 10-12. Charles Sheeler (1883—1965), Feline Felicity, 1934. Conte crayon on white paper. Courtesy of The Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University. Purchase-Louise E. Bettens Fund.

For this process to work, it is helpful to see the exact shapes of lights and shadows as positive and negative shapes, and to correctly see the angles and proportions of lights and shadows.

More than the other components, this fourth skill apparently strongly triggers the brain’s ability to envision a complete form from incomplete information. By suggesting a form with light/ shadow shapes, you cause to viewer to see something that is not actually there. And the viewer’s brain apparently always gets it right. If you provide the right clues, your viewers will see marvelous things that you don’t even have to draw! For examples, see the self-portrait by Edward Hopper, Figure 10-13.

Fig. 10-13. Edward Hopper (18821967), Self-Portrait, 1903. Conte crayon on white paper. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

The artist shadowed the left side of his head in an almost even tone. Yet the viewer ”sees” the eye that is bareley suggested.

The truth is, you can cause yourself to see what is actually not there, and you should strive for this phenomenon. Learning this “trick of the artist” is quite intriguing. As you are drawing, constantly squint you eyes to see if you can yet “see” the form you intend. And when you “see” it—that is, the envisioned image is there—stop! So many times in workshops, watching a beginning student draw, I find myself urgently saying, “Stop! It’s there. You’ve got it. Don’t overwork it!” There is an amusing saying in art circles that every artist needs someone standing right behind with a sledgehammer to let the artist know when the artwork is finished.

Fig. 10-14.


Fig. 10-15.

Fig. 10-16.

Fig. 10-17.

Fig. 10-18. Some examples of various styles of crosshatching.

Fig. 10-20.


Fig. 10-22.

Fig. 10-23.


“When drawing a face, any face, it is as if curtain after curtain, mask after mask, falls away .. . until a final mask remains, one that can no longer be removed, reduced.

By the time the drawing is finished, I know a great deal about that face, for no face can hide itself for long. But although nothing escapes the eye, all is forgiven beforehand.

The eye does not judge, moralize, criticize. It accepts the masks in gratitude as it does the long bamboos being long, the goldenrod being yellow.”

— Frederick Franck

The Zen of Seeing, 1973


Crosshatching a lighter shadow

Before we advance to the next drawing, your self-portrait, I want to show you how to “crosshatch.” This is a technical term for creating a variety of tones or values in a drawing by laying down a sort of “carpet” of pencil strokes, often crossing the strokes at angles. Figure 10-14 is an example of a tonal drawing built almost entirely of crosshatches. I’ll also review the proportions of the head in frontal view and in three-quarter view.

In former years, I thought that crosshatching was a natural activity, not requiring teaching. Apparently, this is not the case. The technique must be taught and must be learned. In fact, I now believe that the ability to Crosshatch is a mark of a trained artist. If you glance through this book at the many reproductions, you will see that almost every drawing has some area of hatching. You will also notice that crosshatching has almost as many forms as there are artists to use them. Each artist, it seems, develops a personal style of hatching, almost a “signature,” and, very quickly, so will you.

At this point, I will show you the technique and a few of the traditional styles of hatching. You will need paper and a carefully sharpened pencil.

1. Hold your pencil firmly and make a group of parallel marks, called a “set” (shown in Figure 10-15), by placing the pencil point down firmly, fingers extended. Swing off each mark by moving the whole hand from the wrist. The wrist remains stationary and the fingers pull the pencil back just a bit for each successive hatch. When you have finished one “set” of eight to ten hatch marks, move your hand and wrist to a new position and hatch a new set. Try swinging the mark toward you, and also try swinging it away from you in an outward movement to see which seems more natural for you. Try changing the angle of the marks.

2. Practice making sets until you have found the direction, spacing, and length of marks that seem right for you.

3. The next step is to make the “cross” sets. In classical hatching, the cross set is made at an angle only slightly different from the original set, as shown in Figure 10-16. This slight angle produces a very pretty moire pattern that causes a drawing to seem to shimmer with light and air. Try this. Figure 10-17 shows how to use crosshatching to create a three-dimensional form.

4. By increasing the angle of crossing, a different style of crosshatch is achieved. In Figure 10-18, see various examples of styles of hatching: full cross (hatch marks crossing at right angles), cross-contour (usually curved hatches), and hooked hatches (where a slight hook inadvertently occurs at the end of the hatch), as in the topmost example of hatching styles in Figure 10-18. There are myriad styles of hatching.

5. To increase the darkness of tone, simply pile up one set of hatches onto others, as shown in the left arm of the figure drawing by Alphonse Legros, Figure 10-19.

6. Practice, practice, practice. Instead of doodling while talking on the telephone, practice crosshatching—perhaps shading geometric forms such as spheres, or cylinders. (See the examples in Figure 10-20.) As I mentioned, crosshatching is not a naturally occurring skill for most individuals, but it can be rapidly developed with practice. I assure you that skillful, individualized use of hatching in your drawings will be gratifying to you and much admired by your viewers.

Fig. 10-19. Alphonse Legros, red chalk on paper. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Shading into a continuous tone

Areas of continuous tone are created without using the separate strokes of crosshatching. The pencil is applied in either short, overlapping movements or in elliptical movements, going from dark areas to light and back again, if necessary, to create a smooth tone. Most students have little trouble with continuous tone, although practice is usually needed for smoothly modulated tones. Charles Sheeler’s complex light/shadow drawing of the cat sleeping on a chair (Figure 10-12) superbly illustrates this technique.

Soon you will bring together all of your new skills, the basic component skills of drawing: perceptions of edges, spaces, and shapes, relationships of angles and proportions, lights and shadows, the gestalt of the thing drawn, and the skills of crosshatching and continuous tone.

Drawing on the logic of light for a fully modeled, tonal, volumetric self-portrait

In these lessons, we began with line drawing and we end with a fully realized drawing. The terms in the subhead above are the technical terms that describe the drawing you will do next. From this exercise onward, you will practice the five perceptual skills of drawing with constantly changing subject matter. The basic skills will soon become integrated into a global skill, and you will find yourself “just drawing.” You will shift flexibly from edges to spaces to angles and proportions, lights and shadows. Soon, the skills will be on automatic and someone watching you draw will be baffled by how you do it. I feel sure that you will find yourself seeing things differently, and I hope that, for you, as for many of my students, life will seem much richer by having learned to see and draw.

Before you start your drawing, we need to review briefly the proportions of the frontal or full-face view and the three-quarter view. You will use one of these views for your Self-Portrait.

The frontal view

Sit in front of a mirror with

a piece of paper, and a pencil. You are going to observe and diagram the relationships of various parts of your own head, as you go step by step through the exercise.

1. First, draw a blank (an oval shape) on your paper and draw the central axis dividing the diagram. Then, observe and measure on your own head the eye level line. It will be halfway. On the blank, draw in an eye level line. Be sure to measure to make sure you make this placement accurately.

Fig. 10-21. Vincent Van Gogh (etching, 1890), B-10, 283. Courtesy of The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Rosenwald Collection. An interesting example of the expressive effect of skewed features.

2. Now, looking at your own face in the mirror, visualize a central axis that divides your face and an eye level line at a right angle to the central axis. Tip your head to one side, as in Figure 10-23. Notice that the central axis and the eye level line remain at a right angle no matter what direction you tip your head. (This is only logical, I know, but many beginners ignore this fact and skew the features as in the example in Figure 10-22.)

3. Observe in the mirror: What is the width of the distance between your eyes, compared to the width of one eye? Yes, it’s the width of one eye. Divide the eye level in fifths, as shown in Figure 10-24. Mark the outside corners of the eyes.

4. Observe your face in the mirror. Between eye level and chin, where is the end of the nose? This is the most variable of all the features of the human head. You can visualize an inverted triangle on your own face, with the wide points at the outside corners of your eyes and the center point at the bottom edge of your nose. This method is quite reliable. Mark the bottom edge of your nose on the blank. See Figure 10-24.

Fig. 10-24. The full-face view diagram.

Note that this diagram is only a general guide to proportions that vary from head to head. The differences, however, are often very slight and must be carefully perceived and drawn to achieve a likeness.

5. Where is the level of the centerline of the mouth? About a third between the nose and chin. Make a mark on the blank.

6. Again, observe in the mirror: If you drop a straight line down from the inside corners of your eyes, what do you come to? The edges of your nostrils. Noses are wider than you think. Mark the blank.

7. If you drop a line straight down from the center of the pupils of your eyes, what do you come to? The outside corners of your mouth. Mouths are wider than you think. Mark the blank.

8. If you move your pencil along a horizontal line on the level of your eyes, what do you come to? The tops of your ears. Mark the blank.

9. Coming back from the bottoms of your ears, in a horizontal line, what do you come to? In most faces, the space between your nose and mouth. Ears are bigger than you think. Mark the blank.

10. Feel on your own face and neck: How wide is your neck compared to the width of your jaw just in front of your ears? You’ll see that your neck is almost as wide—in some men, it’s as wide or wider. Mark the blank. Note that necks are wider than you think.

11. Now test each of your perceptions on people, photographs of people, images of people on the television screen. Practice often, observing—first without measuring, then if necessary corroborating by measuring—perceiving relationships between this feature and that, perceiving the unique, minute differences between faces; seeing, seeing, seeing. Eventually, you will have memorized the general measurements given above and you won’t have to analyze in the left-hemisphere mode as we have been doing. But for now it’s best to practice observing the specific proportions.

Fig. 10-25. A sketch by the author from a three-quarter view portrait by the German artist Lucas Cranach (1472-1553), Head of a Youth with a Red Cap.

Fig. 10-26. First, see this whole area as a shape.

Fig. 10-27. Observe the tilt of the central axis compared to vertical (your pencil). The eye level line is at a right angle compared to the central axis.

Fig. 10-28.

Fig. 10-29.

A three-quarter portrait, Bandalu, by the author. Note the tilt of the central axis.

Fig. 10-30. A three-quarter selfportrait by instructor Brian Bomeisler.

Fig. 10-31.

Fig. 10-32.

Fig. 10-33.

Fig. 10-34.


This lesson leads to one of the two additional basic skills I mentioned in the Introduction: the “dialogue” that goes on in drawing from the imagination. This is drawing at a more advanced level. You check the information “out there” or in your imagination and just barely indicate placement of the first marks. This causes an imagined image in the mind of the artist, who then draws what he or she has already “seen.” Thus drawing becomes a kind of dialogue between the artist’s intent and what develops on the paper. The artist makes a mark. That mark generates a further image. The artist reinforces the imagined addition, which triggers more imaging, and so on.


Fig. 10-35. A diagram of the three-quarter self-portrait shown in Fig. 10-37.

Fig. 10-36. The full-face view diagram.


Fig. 10-37. The completed drawing: A self-portrait by instructor Brian Bomeisler.


”One of life’s most fulfilling moments occurs in that split second when the familiar is suddenly transformed into the dazzling aura of the profoundly new… These breakthroughs are too infrequent, more uncommon than common; and we are mired most of the time in the mundane and the trivial. The shocker: what seems mundane and trivial is the very stuff that discovery is made of. The only difference is our perspective, our readiness to put the pieces together in an entirely new way and to see patterns where only shadows appeared just a moment before.”

— Edward B. Lindaman

Thinking in Future Tense, 1978


“The object, which is back of every true work of art, is the attainment of a state of being, a state of high functioning, a more than ordinary moment of existence… We make our discoveries while in the state because then we are clearsighted.”

— Robert Henri

The Art Spirit, 1923


Two additional self-portraits by instructor Brian Bomeisler. Note how they differ one from another. You will find that your selfportraits will differ, reflecting the mood, feeling, and surroundings of each sitting. Remember, drawing is not photography.

Now we’ll turn to the three-quarter view

Recall our previous definition of the three-quarter view: one-half of the head plus one-quarter. Still sitting in front of a mirror, pose your head in this view by starting with a full, frontal view and then turning (either left or right) so that you can only partly see one side of your head. You are now seeing one full side plus one-quarter—in other words a three-quarter view.

Artists of the Renaissance loved the three-quarter view, once they had finally worked through the problems of the proportions. I hope you will choose this view for your self-portrait. It’s somewhat complicated, but fascinating to draw.

Young children rarely draw people with heads turned to the three-quarter view. Children generally draw either profiles or the full, frontal view. Around age ten or so, children begin to attempt three-quarter view drawings, perhaps because this view can be particularly expressive of the personality of the model. The problems young artists encounter with this view are the same old problems: the three-quarter view brings visual perceptions into conflict with the symbolic forms developed throughout childhood for profile and full-face views, which by age ten are embedded in the memory.

What are those conflicts? First, as you see in Figure 10-25, the nose is not the same as a nose seen in profile. In three-quarter view, you see the top and the side of the nose, making it seem very wide. Second, the two sides of the face are different widths—one side narrow, one side wide. Third, the eye on the turned side is narrower and shaped differently from the other eye. Fourth, the mouth from its center to the corner is shorter on the turned side and shaped differently from the mouth on the other side of the centerline. These perceptions of nonmatching features conflict with the memorized symbols for features that are usually more symmetrical.

The solution to the conflict is of course to draw just what you see without questioning why it is thus or so and without changing the perceived forms to fit with a memorized-and-stored set of symbols for features. To see the thing-as-it-is in all of its unique and marvelous complexity—that is always the key.

My students have found it helpful if I point out some specific aids to seeing the three-quarter proportions. Let me again take you through the process step by step, giving you some methods for keeping your perceptions clear. Again note that if I were demonstrating the three-quarter-view drawing, I would not be naming any of the parts, only pointing to each area. When you are drawing, do not name the parts to yourself. In fact, try not to talk to yourself at all while drawing.

1. Again, sit in front of a mirror with paper and a pencil. Now, close one eye and pose in the three-quarter view so that the tip of your nose nearly coincides with the outer contour of the turned cheek, as in Figure 10-25. You can see that this forms an enclosed shape (see Figure 10-26).

2. Observe your head. Perceive the central axis—that is, an imaginary line that passes through the very center of the face. In three-quarter view, the central axis passes through two points: a point at the center of the bridge of the nose and a point at the middle of the upper lip. Image this as a thin wire that passes right through the form of the nose (Figure 10-27). By holding your pencil vertically at arm’s length toward your reflection in the mirror, check the angle or tilt of the central axis of your head. Each person may have a different characteristic tilt to the head, or the axis may be perfectly vertical.

3. Next, observe that the eye level line is at right angles to the central axis. This observation will help you to avoid skewing the features as I mentioned on page 212. Next measure on your head to observe that the eye level line is at half of the whole form.

5. Now, practice making a line drawing of a three-quarter view on your scratch paper. You will be using the method of modified contour drawing: drawing slowly, directing your  gaze at edges, and perceiving relational sizes, angles, etc. Again, you can start anywhere you wish. I tend to start with that shape between the nose and the contour of the turned side of the cheek because that shape is easy to see, as in Figure 10-25. Note that this shape can be used as an “interior” negative shape—a shape you have no name for. I’ll describe a definite order for the drawing, but you may prefer a different order.

6. Direct your eyes at the shape and wait until you can see it clearly. Draw the edges of that shape. Because the edges are shared, you will have also drawn the edge of the nose. Inside the shape you have drawn is the eye with the odd configuration of the three-quarter eye. To draw the eye, don’t draw the eye. Draw the shapes around the eye. You may want to use the order 1, 2, 3, 4 as shown in Figure 10-28, but any order will work as well. First the shape over the eye (I), then the shape next to it (2), then the shape of the white part of the eye (3), then the shape under the eye (4). Try not to think about what you are drawing. Just draw each shape, always shifting to the next adjacent shape.

7. Next, locate the correct placement of the eye on the side of the head closest to you. Observe on your model that the inside corner lies on the eye level line. Note especially how far away from the edge of the nose this eye is. This distance is nearly always a distance equal to the full width of the eye on the near side of your head. Be sure to look at Figure 10-28 for this proportion. The most common error beginning students make in this view of the model is to place the eye too close to the nose. This error throws all of the remaining perceptions off and can spoil the drawing. Make sure that you see (by sighting) the width of that space and draw it as you see it. Incidentally, it took the early Renaissance artists half a century to work out this particular proportion. We benefit, of course, from their hard-won insights (Figures 10-28 and 10-29).

8. Next, the nose. Check on your reflection where the edge of the nostril is in relation to the inside corner of the eye: Drop a line straight down, following (that is, parallel to) the central axis (Figure 10-29). Remember that noses are bigger than you think.

9. Observe where the corner of your mouth lies in relation to the eye (Figure 10-29). Then observe the centerline of the mouth and the exact curve. This curve is important in catching the expression of the model. Don’t talk to yourself about this. The visual perceptions are there to be seen. By seeing clearly and drawing exactly what you see—exact angles, edges, spaces, proportions, lights, and shadows. In R-mode, you do respond—but not in words.

10. Observe the upper and lower edges of your lips, remembering that the line is usually light because these are not true edges or strong contours.

11. On the turned side of your head, observe the shapes of the spaces around the mouth. Again, note the exact curve of the centerline on this side.

12. The ear. The mnemonic for placing the ear in profile view must be slightly changed to account for the added quarter in three-quarter view.


Profile: Eye level-to-chin = back-of-the-eye to the back-of-the-ear


Three-quarter: Eye level-to-chin = front-of-the-eye to the back-of-the-ear

You can perceive this relationship by measuring it on your reflection in the mirror. Then note where the top of the ear is, and then the bottom. See Figure 10-30.

Ready to draw!

Now that we’ve reviewed crosshatching and the general proportions for the frontal and three-quarter views, you are ready for the last drawing exercise, your Self-Portrait in fully articulated lights and shadows.

What you’ll need

• Your drawing paper—three or four sheets (for padding), taped to your drawing board.

• Your pencils, sharpened, and your eraser

• A mirror and tape for attaching the mirror to a wall, or you may want to sit in front of a bathroom mirror or dressing table mirror

• Your felt-tip marker

• Your graphite stick

• A paper tissue or towel for rubbing in a ground

• A dampened tissue for correcting marker-pen marks on plastic

• A floor lamp or a table lamp to illuminate one side of your head (Figure 10-31 shows an inexpensive spot lamp)

• A hat, scarf, or headdress, if that idea appeals to you

What you’ll do

1. First, prepare your drawing paper with a ground. You may choose any level of tone. You may want to do a “high-key” (meaning light) drawing by starting with a pale ground, or you may decide to use the drama of a dark ground for a “low-key” (meaning dark) drawing. Or, perhaps you prefer a middle value. Be sure to lightly draw in the crosshairs.

Note that in this drawing, you will not need your plastic Picture Plane. The mirror itself becomes the picture-plane. Try to think that through—I’m sure you will see the logic of it.

2. Once your ground is prepared, set yourself up to draw. Check the setup in Figure 10-32. You will need one chair to sit in and one chair or small table to hold your drawing tools. As you see in the diagram, you will lean your drawing board against the wall. Once you are seated, adjust the mirror on the wall so that you can comfortably see your image. Also, the mirror should be just at arm’s length from where you are sitting. You want to be able to take sightings directly on the mirror as well as directly on your face and skull as you observe the measurements in the mirror.

3. Adjust the lamp and test out various poses by turning your head, raising or lowering your chin, and adjusting your hat or headdress, until you see in the mirror a composition in lights and shadows that you like. Decide whether to draw a full-face view or a three-quarter view, and decide which way you will turn, left or right, if you choose the three-quarter view.

4. Once you have carefully chosen your composition in the mirror and the pose is “set,” try to keep all of your gear in the same places until the drawing is finished. If you stand up to take a break, for example, try not to move your chair or the lamp. Students often find it very frustrating if they can’t recapture exactly the same view when they sit down again.

5. You are now ready to draw. The instructions that follow are really only a suggestion for one procedure among myriad possible procedures. I suggest that you read through all of the remaining instructions and then begin to draw following the

suggested procedure. Later on, you’ll find your own way to proceed.

A self-portrait in pencil

1. Gaze at your reflection in the mirror, searching for negative spaces, interesting edges, and the shapes of lights and shadows. Try to suppress language entirely, particularly verbal criticism of your face or features. This is not easy to do, because this is a new use of a mirror—not for checking or correcting, but to reflect an image in an almost impersonal way. Try to regard yourself the way you would regard a still-life setup or a photograph of a stranger.

2. Choose a Basic Unit. This is entirely up to you. I generally use eye level to chin, and I often draw in a central axis (a line that vertically bisects the head, running through the center of the bridge of the nose and the center of the mouth). Next, draw in the eye level line.

These two guidelines, the central axis and the eye level line, always cross at right angles, whether in full-face view or three-quarter and whether the person’s head is tilted relative to vertical or is held perfectly upright. I suggest drawing the central axis and eye level line directly on the mirror with your felt-tip pen. (You may prefer to start your drawing another way, perhaps relying only on the crosshairs printed on your mirror. Please feel free to do so.) You must, however, be sure to mark the top and bottom of your Basic Unit directly on the mirror.

3. The next step, of course, is to transfer your Basic Unit to your drawing paper with its crosshairs and toned ground. Just make marks at the top and bottom of your Basic Unit. You may wish to add marks for the top edge and side edges of the image in the mirror. Transfer these marks to your drawing.

4. Next, squint your eye a bit to mask out some of the detail in your mirror image and find the large lighted shapes. Note where they are located relative to your Basic Unit and to the crosshairs on the mirror and in your drawing and to the central axis/eye level lines, if you are using them.

5. Begin your drawing by erasing out the largest lighted shapes, as in Figure 10-34. Try to avoid any small forms or edges. Right now you are trying to see the large lights and shadows.

6. You may wish to erase out the ground around the head, leaving the toned ground as the middle value of the head. You may, on the other hand, want to lower the value (darken) the negative spaces. These are aesthetic choices. Figure 10-34 shows both.

7. You may want to add some graphite to the shadowed side of the face. For this, I recommend your # 4 B pencil, not the graphite stick, which is somewhat hard to control and becomes rather greasy if pressed hard on the paper.

8. I’m sure you’ve noticed that I have said nothing about eyes, nose, or mouth up to this point. If you can resist the impulse to draw the features first, and allow them to “come out” of the light/shadow pattern, as I describe in the margin, you will be able to exploit the full power of this kind of drawing.

9. Rather than drawing the eyes, for example, I recommend that you rub your #4B pencil point on a scrap of paper, rub your forefinger over the graphite, and, checking back in the mirror for the location of the eyes, rub your graphited finger where the eyes should be. Suddenly you will be able to “see” the eyes, and you need only to reinforce that ghostly perception.

10. Once you have the large shapes of lights and shadows drawn, begin to look for some of the smaller shapes. For example, you may find a shadowed shape under the lower lip or under the chin or under the nose. You may see a shadow-shape on the side of the nose or under the lower lid. You can slightly tone the shadow-shape with your pencil, using crosshatching, or, if you wish, rub the tone in with your finger to smooth it. Be sure that you place and tone the shadow-shapes exactly as you see them. They are the shapes they are because of the bone structure and the particular light that falls on the shape.

11. At this point, you are ready to decide whether you want to leave the drawing at this somewhat rough or “unfinished” stage, or whether you want to work the drawing up to a “high finish.” Throughout this book, you will find numerous examples of drawings at various degrees of “finish.”

12. I will briefly list again some of the main proportions to watch for. Remember that your brain may not be helping you to see what is really “out there,” and these reminders may encourage you to take sights on everything!

• For a full-face self-portrait: Eye level to chin = eye level to the top of the skull.

• If the hair is thick, the upper part will be greater than half.

• The space between the eyes is approximately one eye-width.

• Determine the length of the nose by imaging an inverted triangle with the outside points at the outside corners of the eyes and the point at the bottom edge of the nose. This is a variable proportion. The inverted triangle is a particular shape for each particular model.

• The outside edges of the nostrils of the nose are usually directly under the inside corners of the eyes. This proportion also varies.

• The outside corners of the mouth fall under the pupils of the eyes. This proportion varies. Note with special care the position and shape of the outer corners of the mouth, where much of the subtle expression of a face is located.

• The tops of the ears fall approximately at or slightly above eye level line.

• The bottoms of the ears are approximately at (or slightly above or below) the upper lip. Note that if the head is tilted up or down, the location of the ears—as seen on the picture plane—relative to the eye level line will change.

• Observe the neck, collar, and shoulders relative to the head. Make sure that the neck is wide enough by checking the width in relation to the width of the face. Use negative space for the collar (draw the spaces under and around the collar). Notice how wide the shoulders are. A frequent student error is making the shoulders too narrow. Sight the width relative to your Basic Unit.

• In drawing the hair, look for the largest lights and shadows of the hair first and then work down to the finer details later.

Note the major directions in which the hair grows and the places where it parts to shows a darker tone underneath. Note and draw details of how the hair grows and what its texture is close to the face. Give your viewer enough information about the hair to know what it is like.

The portrait drawings throughout this book will demonstrate various ways of drawing different types of hair. There is obviously no one way of drawing hair just as there is no one way to draw eyes, noses, or mouths. As always, the answer to any drawing problem is to draw what you see.

If you have decided on a three-quarter view, please review the proportions for that view that I provided earlier in this chapter. Also, see Figure 10-35. One caution: Beginning students sometimes begin to widen the narrow side of the face and then, because that makes the face seem too wide, they narrow the near side of the face. Often, the drawing ends up a frontal view, even though the person was posing in three-quarter view. This is very frustrating for students, because they often can’t figure out what happened. The key is to accept you perceptions. Draw just what you see! Don’t second-guess your sightings.

Now that you have read all of the instructions, you are ready to begin. I hope you will find yourself quickly shifting into R-mode.

After you have finished

When the drawing is finished, observe in yourself that you sit back and regard the drawing in a different way from the way you regarded the drawing while working on it. Afterward, you regard the drawing more critically, more analytically, perhaps noting slight errors, slight discrepancies between your drawing and the model. This is the artist’s way. Shifting out of the working R-mode and back to L-mode, the artist assesses the next move, tests the drawing against the critical left brain’s standards, plans the required corrections, notes where areas must be reworked. Then, by taking up the brush or pencil and starting in again, the artist shifts back into the working R-mode. This on-off procedure continues until the work is done—that is, until the artist decides that no further work is needed.

Before and after: A personal comparison

This is a good time to retrieve your pre-instruction drawings and compare them with the drawing you have just completed. Please lay out the drawings for review.

I fully expect that you are looking at a transformation of your drawing skills. Often my students are amazed, even incredulous, that they could actually have done the pre-instruction drawings they now find in front of them. The errors in perception seem so obvious, so childish, that it even seems that someone else must have done the drawing. And in a way, I suppose, this is true. L-mode, in drawing, sees what is “out there” in its own way—linked conceptually and symbolically to ways of seeing and drawing developed during childhood. These drawings are generalized.

Your recent R-mode drawings, on the other hand, are more complex, more linked to actual perceptual information from “out there,” drawn from the present moment, not from memorized symbols of the past. These drawings are therefore more realistic. A friend might remark upon looking at your drawings that you had uncovered a hidden talent. In a way, I believe this is true, although I am convinced that this talent is not confined to a few, but instead is as widespread as, say, talent for reading.

Your recent drawings aren’t necessarily more expressive than your “Before-Instruction” drawings. Conceptual L-mode drawings can be powerfully expressive. Your “After-Instruction” drawings are expressive as well, but in a different way: They are more specific, more complicated, and more true to life. They are the result of newfound skills for seeing things differently, of drawing from a different point of view. The true and more subtle expression is in your unique line and your unique “take” on the model—in this instance yourself.

At some future time, you may wish to partly reintegrate simplified, conceptual forms into your drawings. But you will do so by design, not by mistake or inability to draw realistically. For  now, I hope you are proud of your drawings as signs of victory in the struggle to learn basic perceptual skills and to control the processes of your brain.

Now that you have, with great care, seen and drawn your own face and the faces of other human beings, surely you understand what artists mean when they say that every human face is beautiful.

A showing of portraits

As you look at the portraits on the following pages, try to mentally review how each drawing developed from start to finish. Go through the measurement process yourself. This will help to reinforce your skill and train your eye. Three of the drawings are instructional demonstration drawings from our five-day workshop.

A suggestion for a next drawing

A drawing suggestion that has proven to be amusing and interesting is a self-portrait as a character from art history. A few such examples might include “Self-Portrait as the Mona Lisa”; “SelfPortrait as a Renaissance Youth”; “Self-Portrait as Venus Rising from the Sea.”

A beautiful self-portrait in light/shadow by instructor Grace Kennedy.

A three-quarter self-portrait by student Mauro Imamoto. The composition is especially fine.

praxis | 10. Right Side The Value of Logical Lights and Shadows