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

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A reminder: The global skill of drawing has five component skills.


Right Side Facing Forward, Portrait Drawing with Ease

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

HUMAN FACES HAVE ALWAYS FASCINATED ARTISTS. To Catch a likeness, to show the exterior in such a way that the inner person can be seen, is a challenging, inviting prospect. Moreover, a portrait can reveal not only the appearance and personality (the gestalt) of the sitter but also the soul of the artist. Paradoxically, the more clearly the artist sees the sitter, the more clearly the viewer can see through the likeness to perceive the artist. These revelations beyond the likeness are not intentional. They are simply the result of close, sustained R-mode observation.

Therefore, because we are searching for you through the images you draw, you will be drawing human faces in the next set of exercises. The more clearly you see, the better you will draw, and the more you will express yourself to yourself and to others.

Since portrait drawing requires very fine perceptions in order to produce a likeness, faces are effective for training beginners in seeing and drawing. The feedback on the correctness of perception is immediate and certain, because we all know when a drawing of a human head is correct in its general proportions. And if we know the sitter, we can make even more precise judgments about the accuracy of the perceptions.

But perhaps more important for our purposes, drawing the human head has a special advantage for us in our quest for ways to gain conscious access to our right-hemisphere functions. The right hemisphere of the human brain is specialized for the recognition of faces. People with right-hemisphere injury caused by a stroke or accident often have difficulty recognizing their friends or even recognizing their own faces in the mirror. Left-hemisphere-injured patients usually do not experience this deficit.

Beginners often think that drawing people is the hardest of all kinds of drawing. It isn’t, actually. As with any other subject matter, the visual information is right there, ready and available. Again, the problem is seeing. To restate a major premise of this book, drawing is always the same task—that is, every drawing requires the basic perceptual skills you are learning. Aside from complexity, one subject is not harder or easier than another. However, certain subjects often seem harder than others, probably because embedded symbol systems, which interfere with clear perceptions, are stronger for some subjects than for others.

Most people have a very strong, persistent symbol system for drawing the human head. For example, a common symbol for an eye is made of two curved lines enclosing a small circle (the iris). Your own unique set of symbols, as we discussed in Chapter Five, was developed and memorized during childhood and is remarkably stable and resistant to change. These symbols actually seem to override seeing, and therefore few people can draw a realistic human head. Even fewer can draw recognizable portraits.

Summing up, then, portrait drawing is useful to our goals for these reasons: First, it is a suitable subject for accessing the right hemisphere, which is specialized for recognition of human faces and for making the fine visual discriminations necessary to achieve a likeness. Second, drawing faces will help you to strengthen your ability to perceive proportional relationships, since proportion is integral to portraiture. Third, drawing faces is excellent practice in bypassing embedded symbol systems. And fourth, the ability to draw portraits with credible likenesses is a convincing demonstration to your ever-critical left hemisphere that you have—dare we say it?—talent for drawing. And you’ll find that drawing portraits is not difficult once you can shift to the artist’s way of seeing.

In drawing your profile portrait, you will be using all of the skills you have learned so far:

• How to perceive and draw edges

• How to perceive and draw spaces

• How to perceive and draw relationships

• How to perceive and draw (a bit of) lights and shadows

(I will present more in-depth instruction on lights and shadows in Chapter Ten.)

• And in addition, you will acquire a new skill, how to perceive and draw the gestalt of your model—the character and personality behind the drawn image—by focussing intently on the first four skills.

Our main strategy for accessing R-mode remains the same: to present the brain with a task that L-mode will turn down.

The importance of proportion in portrait drawing

All drawing involves proportion, whether the subject is still life, landscape, figure drawing, or portrait drawing. Proportion is important whether an artwork’s style is realistic, abstract, or completely nonobjective (that is, without recognizable forms from the external world). Realistic drawing in particular depends heavily on proportional correctness. Therefore, realistic drawing is especially effective in training the eye to see the thing-as-it-is in its relational proportions. Individuals whose jobs require close estimations of size relationships—carpenters, dentists, dressmakers, carpet-layers, and surgeons—develop great facility in perceiving proportion. Creative thinkers in all fields benefit from enhanced awareness of part-to-whole relationships—from seeing both the trees and the forest.


Fig. 9-1. The four figures are the same size.


Fig. 9-2. Mark the size of one figure on a piece of paper.


Fig. 9-1. The four figures are the same size.



Fig. 9-4. From Mind Sights by Roger N. Shepard, 1990. Reproduced by permission of the author.

On believing what you think you see

One of the problems of seeing comes from the brain’s ability to change visual information for the purpose of fitting incoming information to pre-existing concepts or beliefs. The parts that are important (that is, provide key information), or the parts that we decide are larger, or the parts that we think should be larger, we see as larger than they actually are. Conversely, parts that are unimportant, or that we decide are smaller, or that we think should be smaller, we see as being smaller than they actually are.

Let me give you a couple of examples of this perceptual phenomenon. Figure 9-1 shows a diagrammatic landscape with four men. The man at the far right appears to be the largest of the four. But all four figures are exactly the same size. Lay a pencil alongside first the left-hand man and the right-hand man to measure and test the validity of that statement. Even after measuring and proving to yourself that the figures are the same size, however, you will probably find that the man on the right will still look larger (Figure 9-2,9-3).

The reason for this misperception of proportionate size probably derives from our past knowledge and experience of the effect of distance on the apparent size of forms: Given two objects of the same size, one nearby and one at a distance away, the distant object will appear to be smaller. If they look the same size, the far object must be a great deal larger than the near object. This makes sense, and we don’t quarrel with the concept. But coming back to the drawing, apparently the brain enlarges the far object to make the concept truer than true. This is overdoing it! And this is precisely the kind of overdoing—of overlaying memorized verbal concepts onto visual perceptions—that causes problems with proportion for beginning drawing students.

Even after we have measured the men in the drawing and have determined with irrefutable evidence that they are the same size, we still wrongly see the right-hand man as being larger than the left. On the other hand, if you turn this book upside down and view the drawing in the inverted orientation that the verbal, conceptual mode apparently rejects, you will find that you can more easily see that the two men are the same size. The same visual information triggers a different response. The brain, apparently now less influenced by the verbal concept of diminishing size in distant forms, allows us to see the proportion correctly.

For an even more striking example of perceptual illusion, look at the drawing of two tables, Figure 9-4. Will you believe me that the two tabletops are exactly the same shape and size? You may have to use your plastic Picture Plane and trace one of the tabletops, then slide the Plane over the other tabletop to believe this. This wonderfully original illusion drawing is by Roger N. Shepard, a renowned psychologist of perception and cognition.

On not believing what you see

One more example: Stand in front of a mirror at about arm’s distance away. How large would you say is the image of your head in the mirror? About the same size as your head? Using a felt-tip pen or a crayon, extend your arm and make two marks on the mirror—one at the top of the reflected image (the outside contour of your head) and one at the bottom contour of your chin (Figure 9-5). Step to one side to see how long the image is in inches. You’ll find it’s about four and one half to five inches, or one-half the true size of your head. Yet, when you remove the marks and look again at yourself in the mirror, it seems that the image must be life-size! Again, you are seeing what you believe, not believing what you see.

Fig. 9-5.

Drawing closer to reality

Once we have accepted that the brain is changing information and not telling us that it has done so, some of the problems of drawing become clearer, and learning to see what is actually “out there” in the real world becomes very interesting. Note that this perceptual phenomenon is probably essential to ordinary life. It reduces the complexity of incoming data and enables us to have stable concepts. The problems start when we try to see what is really “out there,” for purposes of checking reality, solving real problems, or drawing realistically. To accomplish that, we shall try to prove in a logical way that certain proportions are what they are.

Fig. 9-6. A student drawing illustrating the chopped-off-skull error.

Fig. 9-7. The same facial features traced from the student’s drawing with two corrections: the size of the skull and placement of the eye on the right-hand side of the drawing.


Fig. 9-8. Central axis.


Fig. 9-9.

Fig. 9-10.


Fig. 9-12.


Many “police artists” are officers more or less assigned to putting together composite drawings of suspects from witnesses’ descriptions. The resulting drawings often display the perceptual error I’ve described in this section.

The mystery of the chopped-off skull

Most people find it quite difficult to perceive the relative proportions of the features and the skull.

In this introduction to profile-portrait drawing, I’ll concentrate on two critical relationships that are persistently difficult for beginning drawing students to correctly perceive: the location of eye level in relation to the length of the whole head; and the location of the ear in the profile view. I believe these are two examples of perceptual errors caused by the brain’s propensity to change visual information to better fit its concepts.

Let me explain. To most people, the eye level line (an imaginary horizontal line that passes through the inside corners of the eyes) appears to be about one-third of the way down from the top of the head. The actual measure is one-half. I think this misperception occurs because we tend to see that the important visual information is in the features, not in foreheads and hair areas. Apparently, the top half of the head seems less compelling than the features, and therefore is perceived as smaller. This error in perception results in what I’ve called the “chopped-off-skull error,” my term for the most common perceptual error made by beginning drawing students (Figures 9-6,9-7).

I stumbled on this problem one day while teaching a group of beginning drawing students at the university. They were working on portrait drawings and one after another had “chopped off” the skull of the model. I went through my “Can’t you see that the eye level line is halfway between the bottom of the chin and the top edge of the hair?” queries. The students said, “No. We can’t see that.” I asked them to measure the model’s head, then their own heads, and then each others’ heads. “Was the measure one to one?” I asked. “Yes,” they said. “Well,” I said, “now you can see on the model’s head that the proportional relationship is one to one, isn’t that true?” “No,” they said, “we still can’t see it.” One student even said, “We’ll see it when we can believe it.”

This went on for a while until finally the light dawned and I said, “Are you telling me that you really can’t see that relationship?” “Yes,” they said, “we really can’t see it.” At that point I realized that brain processes were actually preventing accurate perception and causing the “chopped-off-skull” error. Once we all agreed on this phenomenon, the students were able to accept their sightings of the proportion, and soon the problem was solved.

Now we must put your own brain into a logical box (by showing it irrefutable evidence) that will help it accept your sightings of the proportions of the head.

Drawing a blank to see better than ever

1. Draw a “blank,” an oval shape used by artists to represent the human skull in diagrams. The shape is shown in Figure 9-8. Draw a vertical line through the center of the blank, dividing the shape in half. This is called the central axis.

2. Next, you will locate the horizontal “eye level line,” which crosses the central axis at a right angle. Use your pencil to measure on your own head the distance from the inside corner of your eye to the bottom of your chin. Do this by placing the eraser end (to protect your eye) at the inside corner of your eye and marking with your thumb where your chin hits the pencil, as in Figure 9-9. Now, holding that measurement, raise the pencil, as in Figure 9-10, and compare the first distance (eye level to chin) with the distance from your eye level to the top of your head (feel across from the end of the pencil to the topmost part of your head). You will find that those two distances are approximately the same.

3. Repeat the measurement in front of a mirror. Regard the reflection of your head. Without measuring, visually compare the bottom half with the top half of your head. Then use your pencil to repeat the measurement of eye level one more time.

4. If you have newspapers or magazines handy, check this proportion in photographs of people, or use the photo of English writer George Orwell, Figure 9-11. Use your pencil to measure. You will find that:

Eye level to chin equals eye level to the top of the skull. This is an almost invariant proportion.

5. Check the photographs again. In each head, is the eye level at about the middle, dividing the whole shape of the head about in half? Can you clearly see that proportion? If not, turn on television to a news program and measure heads right on the television screen by placing your pencil flat on the screen, measuring first eye level to chin, then eye level to the top edge of the head. Now, take the pencil away and look again. Can you see the proportion clearly now?

When you finally believe what you see, you will find that on nearly every head you observe, the eye level is at about the halfway mark. The eye level is almost never less than half—that is, almost never nearer to the top of the skull than to the bottom of the chin (See Figure 9-12). And if the hair is thick, the top half of the head—eye level to the topmost edge of the hair—is bigger than the bottom half.

The “chopped-off skull” creates the masklike effect so often seen in children’s drawings, abstract or expressionistic art, and in so-called “primitive” or “ethnic” art. This masklike effect of enlarging the features relative to the skull size, of course, can have tremendous expressive power, as seen, for example, in works by Picasso, Matisse, and Modigliani, and great works of other cultures. The point is that master artists, especially of our own time and culture, use the device by choice and not by mistake. Let me demonstrate the effect of misperception.

Irrefutable evidence that the top of the head is important after all

First, I have drawn the lower part of the faces of two models, one in profile and one in three-quarter view (see Figure 9-13). Contrary to what one would expect, most students have few serious problems in learning to see and draw the features. The problem is not the features; it’s in perceiving the skull that things go wrong. What I want to demonstrate is how important it is to provide the full skull for the features—not to cut off the top of the head because your brain is less interested and makes you see it as smaller.

In Figure 9-13 are two sets of three drawings: First, the features only, without the rest of the skull; second, the identical features with the cut-off-skull error; and third, the identical features, this time with the full skull, which complements and supports the features.

Fig. 9-13.

You can see that it’s not the features that cause the problem of wrong proportion; it’s the skull. Now turn to Figure 9-14 and see that Van Gogh in his 1880 drawing of the carpenter apparently made the “chopped-off skull” error in the carpenter’s head. Also, see the Durer etching in Figure 9-16 in which the artist demonstrates the effort of diminishing the relative proportion of the skull to the features. Are you convinced? Is your logical left hemisphere convinced? Good. You will save yourself innumerable hours of baffling mistakes in drawing.

Fig. 9-14. Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890), Carpenter (1880). Courtesy of Rijksmuseum Kroller-Muller, Otterlo.

Van Gogh worked as an artist only during the last ten years of his life, from the age of 27 until he died at 37. During the first two years of that decade, Van Gogh did drawings only, teaching himself how to draw. As you can see in the drawing of the carpenter, he struggled with problems of proportion and placement of forms. By 1882, however— two years later—in his Woman Mourning, Van Gogh had overcome his difficulties with drawing and increased the expressive quality of his work.


Fig. 9-15. Vincent Van Gogh, Woman Mourning (1882). Courtesy of Rijksmuseum Kroller-Muller, Otterlo.

Fig. 9-18.

Fig. 9-19.

Fig. 9-20.


Fig. 9-21. Check the location of the bottom of the ear relative to the upper lip.

Fig. 9-22. Locate also the point where the neck joins the skull (the place that bends) relative to the upper lip.

Drawing another blank and getting a line on the profile

Draw another blank now, this time for a profile. The profile blank is a somewhat different shape—like an oddly shaped egg. This is because the human skull (Figure 9-17), seen from the side, is a different shape than the skull seen from the front. It’s easier to draw the blank if you look at the shapes of the negative spaces around the blank in Figure 9-17. Notice that the negative spaces different in each corner.

Fig. 9-16. Albrecht Durer, Four Heads (1513 or 1515). Courtesy of The Nelson Gallery-Atkins Museum. Kansas City, Missouri (Nelson Fund)

If it helps you to see, draw in some symbolic shapes for nose, eye, mouth, and chin, making sure that you have first drawn the eye level line at the halfway point on the blank.

Fig. 9-17. The side-view blank. Note that (a) eye level to chin equals (b) eye level to highest part of the skull.

Placing the ear in a profile portrait

The next measurement is extremely important in helping you perceive correctly the placement of the ear, which in turn will help you perceive correctly the width of the head in profile and prevent chopping off the back of the skull.

On almost every head, the position of the ear doesn’t vary much. On your own face, use your pencil again to measure the length from the inside corner of your eye to the bottom of your chin (Figure 9-18). Now, holding that measurement, lay the pencil horizontally along your eye level line (Figure 9-19) with the eraser end at the outside corner of your eye. That measurement coincides with the back of your ear.

Putting that another way, the length from eye level to chin equals the distance from the back of the eye to the back of the ear. Make a mark for the ear placement on the eye level line of the blank, as in Figure 9-20. This proportion may seem a little complex, but if you will learn the measurement, it will save you from another stubborn problem in drawing the human head: Most beginning students draw the ear too close to the features when drawing a profile. When the ear is placed too close to the features, the skull is once more chopped off, this time at the back. Again, the reason for the problem may be that the expanse of cheek and jaw is uninteresting and boring, and therefore beginning students fail to perceive the width of the space correctly

You can memorize this important measurement as a saying or mnemonic, similar to “i” before “e,” except after “c.” To place the ear in a profile portrait, memorize this mnemonic: eye level-to-chin equals back-of-the-eye to the back-of-the-ear.

Note that enlarging the features and diminishing the skull produce strong, expressive, symbolic effects, a device you can always use later if you wish. Right now, for this “basic training,” we want you to be able to see things as they really are in their correct proportion.

Visualizing is another useful technique for teaching the correct placement of the ear. Since you now know that two measurements are equal—from eye level to chin, and from the back of the eye to the back of the ear—you can visualize an equal-sided right-angle triangle (an isosceles triangle) connecting these three points, as shown in the drawing in Figure 9-12, page 170. This is an easy way to place the ear correctly. The isosceles triangle can be visualized on the model. See Figure 9-20, page 175.

Practice seeing proportional relationships now by looking at photographs or drawings of people in the profile view and visualizing the isosceles triangle, as in Figure 9-12. This technique will save you from a lot of problems and errors in your profile drawings.

We still need to make two more measurements on the profile blank. First, holding your pencil horizontally, just under your ear, slide the pencil forward as in Figure 9-21. You come to the space between your nose and mouth. This is the level of the bottom of your ear. Make a mark on the blank.

Again, holding your pencil horizontally just under your ear, slide the pencil backward this time. You will come to the place where your skull and neck connect—the place that bends, as in Figure 9-22. Mark this point on the blank. The point is higher than you think. In symbolic drawing, the neck is usually placed below the circle of the head, with the point that bends on the level of the chin. This will cause problems in your drawing: The neck will be too narrow. Make sure that you perceive on your model the correct place where the neck begins at the back of the skull. Now you will need to practice these perceptions. Look at people. Practice perceiving faces, observing relationships, seeing the unique forms of each individual face.

You are ready now to draw a profile portrait. You will be using all of the skills you have learned so far:

• Focusing on complex edges and negative spaces until you feel the shift to an alternative state of consciousness, one in which your right hemisphere leads and your left hemisphere is quiet. Remember that this process requires an uninterrupted block of time.

• Estimating angles in relation to the vertical and horizontal edges of the paper

• Drawing just what you see without trying to identify or attach verbal labels to forms (you learned the value of this in the upside-down drawing)

• Drawing just what you see without relying on old stored-and-memorized symbols from your childhood drawing

• Estimating relationships of sizes—how big is this form compared to that one?

And finally:

• Perceiving proportions as they really are, without changing or revising visual information to fit preconceptions about what parts are important. They are all important, and each part must be given its full proportion in relation to the other parts. This requires bypassing the brain’s propensity to change incoming information without “telling” you what it has done. Your sighting tool—your pencil—will enable you to “get at” the true proportions.

If you feel that you need to review any of the techniques at this point, turn to the previous chapters to refresh your memory. Reviewing some of the exercises, in fact, will help to strengthen your new skills. Pure Contour Drawing is particularly useful in strengthening your newfound method of gaining access to your right hemisphere and quieting the left.

If, as occasionally happens, your L-mode remains active as you start to draw, the best remedy is to do a short session of Pure Contour Drawing, drawing any complex object—a crumpled piece of paper is fine. Pure Contour Drawing seems to force the shift to R-mode and therefore is a good warm-up exercise for drawing any subject.


“People have many illusions which block them from acting in their own best interest as a species, as well as individuals. In dealing with the present problems of life, we must first be able to see the realities of our lives.”

—Jonas Salk

The Anatomy of Reality, 1983


A warm-up exercise

To illuminate for yourself the connection of edges, spaces, and relationships in portrait drawing, I suggest that you copy (make a drawing of) John Singer Sargent’s beautiful profile portrait of Mme. Pierre Gautreau, which Sargent drew in 1883 (Figure 9-23). You may wish turn it upside down.

For the past forty years or so, most art teachers have not recommended copying masterworks as an aid to learning to draw. With the advent of modern art, many art schools rejected traditional teaching methods and copying master drawings went out of favor. Now, copying drawings and paintings is coming back into favor as an effective means of training the eye in art.

I believe that copying great drawings is very instructive for beginning students. Copying forces one to slow down and really see what the artist saw. I can practically guarantee that carefully copying any masterwork of drawing will forever imprint the image in your memory. Therefore, because copied drawings become an almost permanent file of memorized images, I recommend that you copy only the work of major and minor masters of drawing. We are fortunate these days to have reproductions of great works readily and inexpensively available.

For how to do an exercise copy of Sargent’s profile portrait of Mme. Pierre Gautreau, also known as “Madame X,” please read all of the instructions before you begin.

What you’ll need

• Your drawing paper

• Your #2B writing pencil and # 4 B drawing pencils, sharpened, and your eraser

• Your plastic Picture Plane

• An hour of uninterrupted time

What you’ll do

These instructions will be appropriate for either right-side-up or upside-down drawing of the Sargent portrait.

Fig. 9-23. John Singer Sargent. Mme. Pierre Gautreau, 1883

1. As always, in starting a drawing, you will first draw a format. Center one of the Viewfinders on your drawing paper and use your pencil to draw around the outside edges. Then, lightly draw crosshairs on your paper.

2. You will be using your new skills of seeing edges, spaces, and relationships in this drawing. Since the original is a line drawing, lights and shadows are not relevant in this exercise.

3. Lay your clear plastic Picture Plane directly on top of the Sargent and note where the crosshairs fall on the portrait drawing. You will immediately see how this will help you in deciding on your Basic Unit and starting your copy of the drawing. You can check proportional relationships right on the original drawing and transfer them to your copy.

Ask yourself the following series of questions. (Note that I must name the features in order to give these verbal instructions, but when you are drawing, try to clear your mind of words.) Looking at the Sargent drawing and using the crosshairs as in Figure 9-24, ask yourself the following:


Fig. 9-24.

1. Where is the point where the forehead meets the hairline?

2. Where is the outermost curve of the tip of the nose?

What are the angles of the forehead?

3. What is the negative shape that lies between those two points?

4. If you draw a line between the tip of the nose and the outermost curve of the chin, what is the angle of that line relative to vertical (or horizontal)?

5. What is the negative shape defined by that line?

6. Relative to the crosshairs, where is the curve of the front of the neck?

7. What is the negative space made by the chin and neck?

8., 9., and 10. Check the position of the back of the ear, bend of the neck, and the slant of the back.

Continue in this fashion, putting the drawing together like a jigsaw puzzle: Where is the ear? How big is it relative to the profile you have just drawn? What is the angle of the back of the neck? What is the shape of the negative space made by the back of the neck and the hair? And so on. Draw just what you see, nothing more. Notice how small the eye is relative to the nose, and notice the size of the mouth relative to the eye. When you have unlocked the true proportion by sighting, you will be surprised, I feel quite sure. In fact, if you lay one finger over the features in Sargent’s drawing, you will see what a small proportion of the whole form is occupied by the main features. This is often quite surprising to beginning drawing students.

Now, the real thing: A profile portrait of a person

Now you are ready to draw a real portrait of a person. You’ll be seeing the wondrous complexity of contours, watching your drawing evolve from the line that is your unique, creative invention, and observing yourself integrating your skills into the drawing process. You will be seeing, in the artist’s mode of seeing, the astounding thing-as-it-is, not a pale, symbolized, categorized, analyzed, memorized shell of itself. Opening the door to see clearly that which is before you, you will draw the image by which you make yourself known to us.

If I were personally demonstrating the process of drawing a portrait profile, I would not be naming parts. I would point to the various areas and refer to features, for example, as “this form, this contour, this angle, the curve of this form,” and so on. For the sake of clarity in writing, unfortunately, I’ll have to name the parts. I fear that the process may seem cumbersome and detailed when written out as verbal instructions. The truth is that your drawing will seem like a wordless, antic dance, an exhilarating investigation, with each new perception miraculously linked to the last and to the next.

With that caution in mind, read through all of the instructions before you start and then try to do the drawing without interruption.

What you’ll need

1. Most important, you’ll need a model — someone who will pose for you in profile view. Finding a model is not easy. Many people strenuously object to sitting perfectly still for any period of time. One solution is to draw someone who is watching television. Another possibility is to catch someone sleeping—preferably upright in a chair, though that doesn’t seem to happen too often!

2. Your clear plastic Picture Plane and your felt-tip marking pen

3. Two or three sheets of your drawing paper, taped in a stack onto your drawing board

4. Your drawing pencils and eraser

5. Two chairs, one to sit on and one on which to lean your drawing board. See Figure 9-25 for setting up to draw. Note that it’s also helpful to have a small table or a stool or even another chair on which to put your pencils, erasers, and other gear.

6. An hour or more of uninterrupted time

Fig. 9-25.

Fig. 9-26.

Fig. 9-27.

Fig. 9-28.

Fig, 9-29.

Fig. 9-30.


Fig. 9-31.

Look for the shape of the space under the nostril. This shape will vary from model to model and should be specifically observed on each individual.


Fig. 9-31.

Fig. 9-32.

Fig. 9-33.















Fig. 9-38.

Fig. 9-39.

Fig. 9-40.

Fig. 9-41.


“Portrait of Joy” by student Jerome Broekhuijsen.

A student drawing by Heather Tappen.

Demonstration drawing by the author.

Portrait of Scott demonstration drawing by instructor Beth Firmin.

What you’ll do

1. As always, start by drawing a format. You may use the outside edge of your Picture Plane as a template.

2. Lightly tone your paper. This will allow you to erase out lighted areas and to add graphite for shadowed areas. I’ll give complete instructions for the fourth perceptual skill, perceiving lights and shadows, in the next chapter. You have already had some experience with “shading,” however, and I find that my students greatly enjoy adding at least some lights and shadows to this exercise. On the other hand, you may prefer to do a line drawing without toning the paper, as John Singer Sargent did in his profile portrait of Mme. Gautreau. Whether you tone the paper or not, be sure to add the crosshairs.

3. Pose your model. The model can be facing either right or left, but in this first profile drawing, I suggest that you place your model facing to your left if you are right-handed, and to the right if you are left-handed. With this arrangement, you will not be covering up the features as you draw the skull, hair, neck and shoulders.

4. Sit as close to your model as possible. Two to four feet is about ideal, and this distance can be managed even with the intervening chair for propping up your drawing board. Check the setup again in Figure 9-25.

5. Next, use your plastic Picture Plane to compose your drawing. Close one eye and hold up the Picture Plane with a clipped-on Viewfinder; move it backward and forward until the head of your model is placed pleasingly within the for-mat—that is, not too crowded on any edge and with enough of the neck and shoulders to provide “support” for the head.

A composition you certainly don’t want is one in which the model’s chin is resting on the bottom edge of the format.

6. When you have decided on your composition, hold the plastic Picture Plane as steadily as possible. You will next choose a Basic Unit—a convenient size and shape to guide proportions as you draw. I usually use the span from the model’s eye level to the bottom of the chin. You, however, might prefer to use another Basic Unit—perhaps the length of the nose or the span from the bottom of the nose to the bottom of the chin (Figure 9-27).

7. When you have chosen your Basic Unit, mark the unit with your felt-tip marker directly on your plastic Picture Plane. Then, transfer the Basic Unit to your drawing paper, using the same procedure that you have learned in previous exercises. You may need to review the instructions on pages 126-130 and Figures 8-11 and 8-12, page 146. You may want to also mark the topmost edge of the hair and the back of the head at the point opposite eye level. You can transfer these marks to your paper as a rough guide for the drawing (Figure 9-28).

8. At this point, you can begin to draw, confident that you will end up with the composition you have so carefully chosen.

Again, I must remind you that although this process seems cumbersome now, later on it becomes so automatic and so rapid that you will hardly be aware of how you start a drawing. Allow your mind to roam over the many complicated processes you accomplish without thinking of the step-by-step methods: making a U-turn on a two-way street; cracking and separating an egg yolk from the white; crossing a busy intersection on foot where there is no stoplight; making a phone call from a pay phone. Imagine how many steps you would need to put instructions into words for any one of those skills.

In time, and with practice, starting a drawing becomes almost completely automatic, allowing you to concentrate on the model and on composing your drawing. You will hardly be aware of choosing a Basic Unit, sizing it and placing it on the drawing paper. I recall an incident when one of my students realized that

she was “just drawing.” She exclaimed, “I’m doing it!” The same

thing will happen to you–in time, and with practice.

9. Gaze at the negative space in front of the profile and begin to draw that negative shape. Check the angle of the nose relative to vertical. It may help to hold up your pencil vertically to check that shape, or you may want to use one of your Viewfinders. Remember that the outside edge of the negative shape is the outer edge of the format, but to make a negative space easier to see, you may want to make a new, closer edge. See Figure 9-29 for how to check the angle formed by holding your pencil on the plane against the tip of the nose and the outermost curve of the chin.

10. You may choose to erase out the negative space around the head. This will enable you to see the head as a whole, separated from the ground. On the other hand, you may decide to darken the negative spaces around the head or to leave the tone as it is, working only within the head. See the demonstration drawings at the end of the chapter for examples. These are aesthetic choices—some of the many that you’ll make in this drawing.

11. If your model wears glasses, use the negative shapes around the outside edges of the glasses (remembering to close one eye to see a 2-D image of your model). See Figure 9-30.

12. Place the eye in relation to the innermost curve of the bridge of the nose. Check the angle of the eyelid relative to horizontal.

13. Use the shape under the nostril as a negative shape (Figure 9-31).

14. Check the angle of the centerline of the mouth. This is the only true edge of the mouth—the upper and lower contours only mark a color change. It’s usually best to draw this color-change boundary lightly, especially in portraits of males. Note that, in profile, the angle of the centerline of the mouth—the true edge—often descends relative to horizontal. Don’t hesitate to draw this angle just as you see it. See Figure 9-32.

15. Using your pencil to measure (Figure 9-33), you can check the position of the ear (if it is visible). To place the ear in profile portrait, recall our mnemonic: Eye level-to-chin equals back-of-the-eye to the back-of-the-ear. Remember also that this measure forms an isosceles triangle, which can be visualized on the model. See Figure 9-34.

16. Check the length and width of the ear. Ears are nearly always bigger than you expect them to be. Check the size against the features of the profile.

17. Check the height of the topmost curve of the head—that is, the topmost edge of the hair or of the skull if your model happens to have a shaved head or thin hair. See Figure 9-35.

18. In drawing the back of the head, sight as follows:

• Close,one eye, extend your arm holding your pencil perfectly vertically, lock your elbow, and take a sight on eye level to chin.

• Then, holding that measure, turn your pencil to horizontal and check how far it is to the back of the head. It will be 1 (to the back of the ear) and something more—perhaps 1:1 1/2 or even 1:2 if the hair is very thick. Keep that ratio in your mind.

• Then, turn back to your drawing to transfer the ratio. Using the pencil, re-measure eye level to chin in the drawing. Holding that measure with your thumb, turning your pencil to the horizontal position, measure from the back of the eye to the back of the ear, then to the back of the head (or hair). Make a mark. Perhaps you will not believe your own sights. If carefully taken, they are true, and your job is to believe what your eyes tell you. Learning to have faith in one’s perceptions is one of the principal keys to drawing well. I’m sure you can extrapolate the importance of this to other areas of life.

19. In drawing your model’s hair, what you want not to do is to draw hairs. Students often ask me, “How do you draw hair?” I think the question really means, “Give me a quick and easy way to draw hair that looks good and doesn’t take too long.” But the answer to the question is, “Look carefully at the model’s (unique) hair and draw what you see.” If the model’s hair is a complicated mass of curls, the student is likely to answer, “You can’t be serious! Draw all of that?”

But it really isn’t necessary to draw every hair and every curl. What your viewer wants is for you to express the character of the hair, particularly the hair closest to the face. Look for the dark areas where the hair separates and use those areas as negative spaces. Look for the major directional movements, the exact turn of a strand or wave. The right hemisphere, loving complexity, can become entranced with the perception of hair, and the record of your perceptions in this part of a portrait can have great impact, as in the portrait of ProudMaisie (Figure 9-36). To be avoided are the thin, glib, symbolic marks that spell out h-a-i-r on the same level as if you lettered the word across the skull of your portrait. Given enough clues, the viewer can extrapolate and, in fact, enjoys extrapolating the general texture and nature of the hair. See the demonstration drawings at the end of this chapter for examples.

Drawing hair is largely a light-shadow process. In the next chapter, we’ll take up the perception of lights and shadows in depth. For now, I’ll set down some brief suggestions. To draw your model’s hair, gaze at it with your eyes squinted to obscure details and to see where the larger highlights lie and where the larger shadows fall. Notice particularly the characteristics of the hair (wordlessly, of course, though I must use words for the sake of clarity). Is the hair crinkly and dense, smooth and shiny, randomly curled, short and stiff? Take notice of the overall shape of the hair and make sure that you have matched that shape in your drawing. Begin to draw the hair in some detail where the hair meets the face, transcribing the light-shadow patterns and the direction of angles and curves in various segments of the hair.

2 0 . Finally, to complete your profile portrait, draw in the neck and shoulders, which provide a support for the profile head. The amount of detail of clothing is another aesthetic choice with no strict guidelines. The major aims are to provide enough detail to fit—that is, to be congruent with—the drawing of the head, and to make sure that the drawing of details of clothing adds to, and does not detract from, your drawing of the head. See Figure 9-36 for an example.

Fig. 9-36. Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys (1832-1904), Proud Maisie. Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Fig. 9-37.

Note the position of the ear. The placement fits our mnemonic for locating the ear in profile view: Eye level-to-chin equals back-of-the-eye to the back-of-the-ear.

Some further tips

Eyes: Observe that the eyelids have thickness. The eyeball is behind the lids (Figure 9-38). To draw the iris (the colored part of the eye)—don’t draw it. Draw the shape of the white (Figure 9-39). The white can be regarded as negative space, sharing edges with the iris. By drawing the (negative) shape of the white part, you’ll get the iris right because you’ll bypass your memorized symbol for iris. Note that this bypassing technique works for everything that you might find “hard to draw.” The technique is to shift to the next adjacent shape or space and draw that instead. Observe that the upper lashes grow first downward and then (sometimes) curve upward. Observe that the whole shape of the eye slants back at an angle from the front of the profile (Figure 9-38). This is because of the way the eyeball is set in the surrounding bony structure. Observe this angle on your model’s eye—this is an important detail.

Neck: Use the negative space in front of the neck in order to perceive the contour under the chin and the contour of the neck (Figure 9-40). Check the angle of the front of the neck in relation to vertical. Make sure to check the point where the back of the neck joins the skull. This is often at about the level of the nose or mouth (Figure 9-22).

Collar: Don’t draw the collar. Collars, too, are strongly symbolic. Instead, use the neck as negative space to draw the top of the collar, and use negative spaces to draw collar points, open necks of shirts, and the contour of the back below the neck, as in Figures 9-40 and 9-41. (This bypassing technique works, of course, because shapes such as the spaces around collars cannot be easily named and have generated no preexisting symbols to distort perception.)

After you have finished

Congratulations on drawing your first profile portrait. You are now using the perceptual skills of drawing with some confidence, I feel sure. Don’t forget to practice seeing the angles and proportions you have just sighted. Television is wonderful for supplying models for practice, and the television screen is, after all, a “picture-plane.” Even if you can’t draw these free models because they rarely stay still, you can practice eyeballing edges, spaces, angles, and proportions. Soon, these perceptions will occur automatically, and you will be really seeing.

Showing of profile portraits

Study the drawings on the following pages. Notice the variations in styles of drawing. Check the proportions by measuring with your pencil.

In the next chapter, you will learn the fourth skill of drawing, the perception of lights and shadows. The main exercise will be a fully modeled, tonal, volumetric self-portrait and will bring us full-circle to your “Before Instruction” self-portrait for comparison. Your “After Instruction” self-portrait will be either a “three-quarter” view or a “full-face” view. I’ll define the three portrait views for you before we turn to lights and shadows.

Another example of two styles of drawing. Instructor Brian Bomeisler and I sat on either side of Grace Kennedy, who is also one of our instructors, and drew these demonstration drawings for our students. We were using the same materials, the same model, and the same lighting.

Demonstration drawing by the author.

Demonstration drawing by instructor Brian Bomeisler.



praxis | 9. Right Side Facing Forward Portrait Drawing with Ease