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

Part Two: Woman’s Head

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Drawing by J. Singer Sargent




Drawing by J. Singer Sargent

Part Two: Women’s Heads

In american advertising and magazine illustration the ability to draw women’s heads effectively is the greatest boon to the pocketbook. While commercial art has many departments, no other is quite so lucrative. This skill opens the door of advertising agencies, editorial offices, and calendar producers as nothing else can. Portrait drawings are much easier to sell than finished paintings, since the price is much lower. Drawings, nicely framed, can be hung anywhere in the house, while painted portraits are more or less restricted to the space over the living-room mantelpiece. A man often prefers a nicely done drawing of himself or his wife or children to an elaborate painting. Fortunately, the artist can make such drawings inexpensively, in much less time than a painting takes, and he can well afford to keep his price within the normal family budget.

There are possibilities in portrait drawing which should not be overlooked. It is pleasant work. It can be part-time work, and it is remunerative. If you do studies for one family, others become interested. Such studies make attractive pictures for dens, halls, offices, and other places where furnishings are not elaborate. There is hardly a mother who would not like to have sketches of her children. There are many artists in this country already doing very well at making portrait drawings. The prices usually range from $50 to $150* and even higher, which is not too bad for a few hours’ work. These sketches may even be done from camera studies with the personal ability and knowledge added to the photographic appearance.

When you are drawing women’s heads, be sure to use freedom and looseness of technique in representing the hair. Usually simple planes are much more effective than the photographic representation of every strand or curl. Another important quality, which I have pointed out earlier, is a blocky effect. The camera sees everything in its roundness; the artist sees its rhythms and its angles.

For some reason a little masculinity is much more tolerable in a woman’s head than roundness and femininity is in a man’s. The fashion experts seem to pick the lean-faced, angular-jawed, and bony types of models oftener than the purely feminine types. It may be that to get the rest of the figure slim enough to go on a fashion page, a bony face is required. Somehow the appearance of bone in the face docs seem to give more character to a woman, just as it does to a man. Perhaps most of us admire leanness more than plumpness because leanness is hard to attain and keep. At least in that we have changed since the days of the old masters.

All this means that in drawing women we still must be conscious of planes, even if we do not stress them as much as we do in drawing men. Plate 42 shows a man’s head contrasted with a woman’s head in the same pose. Note that the feeling of planes is evident in both, but more stressed in the man’s head. Note also that the handling of the mouth and nose is more delicate in the drawing of the woman than in that of the man. If I do nothing else here I want to impress on you that smoothness and roundness are basically associated with the female, and squareness or angularity with the male. The degree to which you emphasize the one or the other in either case is determined by personal feeling about your subject. Plate 44 demonstrates how blockiness may be applied to women’s heads.

Plates 45 and 46 arc technical examples of women’s heads which you may find of some interest. Plates 47 and 48 are sketches in which both roundness and squareness have been felt. I suggest that you make a great many sketches of this kind from life and from the wealth of material provided in magazines.

Plates 49 and 50 deal with the characteristics of aging. Drawings of elderly women are the one place where fat seems permissible. Everyone loves a plump grandma.

It is in drawing older women that your knowledge of anatomy is most evident. Younger women strive to keep the anatomy of the face pretty well covered up, and we please them most by doing the same in drawings. But sooner or later wrinkles and creases will come. We can subordinate the wrinkles, but we must take the forms very much into consideration. New forms have developed in the cheeks; indications of the way the muscles are attached in and under the flesh have begun to show through. Bone comes to the surface, for it is no longer so firmly covered by flesh. Pockets form between the muscles for the same reason. Soft flesh stands out in little lumps and begins to drape somewhat toward the chin.

We can be kind about it and not put too much emphasis on the aging process, but to ignore it entirely would be to lose both character and likeness. There is beauty in maturity and even in old age. By then character shines through, and there is no graciousness and charm greater than that of an elderly woman of character, who has put away most of the foibles and frivolities of youth. Be kind in your drawings, but do not fabricate. Insincere work does personal harm to your reputation, and that is more important to you than any single drawing of any face in the world. Study the aging process, be thoroughly familiar with what happens, and then treat it tenderly.

*Long time ago

Plate 40

Plate 40. Constructing the female head

The over-all proportions of the female head vary only slightly from those of the male head, but the bone and muscle structure is lighter and less prominent. In commercial art feminine types with rather firm jaw’s seem to have more appeal than do the very rounded. Womens eyebrows are usually a little higher above the eyes than men’s are. The mouth is smaller; the lips are more full and rounded, and the eyes slightly larger. Do not stress the jaw and cheek muscles.

Plate 41

Plate 41. Establish the construction of each head

It is almost impossible to draw a beautiful woman unless the construction and placement of features are accurate. Keep the nostrils small and watch carefully the placement of the jaw and ears. The eyes and mouth must be in perfect placement and drawing to avoid some very strange and unpleasant results. Just now the brows are left fairly thick. A few years back they were just a thin line. Personally, I like natural-looking brows, but brows and lips, since they are so often made up, follow the trends of fashion. The same is true of hair-dos. Look for the mass effect of forms in the hair rather than the detail. Beauty of face is beauty of proportion, so learn the proportions first; then study your subject individually. The fashion magazines contain quantities of material for study, and will also keep you up to date on make-up and hair styles. Be careful not to draw flat lips. Place the highlight on the lip very accurately; if it is in the wrong place it can change the mouth and the whole expression.

Plate 42

Plate 42. Bone and muscle are less apparent in women’s heads

The underlying anatomy of a girls head is shown at the top of the page. In drawing a fairly young woman, we let very little of the anatomy show on the surface, though we must know what is underneath to make the surface convincing. At the bottom of the page a male and a female head are shown for direct comparison. Note the heavier bone and muscle construction and the more obvious planes in the male head.

Plate 43

Plate 43. Charm lies in the basic drawing

Plate 44

Plate 44. “Blockiness” also applies to women’s heads

Plate 45

Plate 45. Some girls’ heads

Plate 46

Plate 46. More girls’ heads

Plate 47

Plate 47. Sketches

Plate 48

Plate 48. Sketches

Plate 49

Plate 49. Grandmothers

Plate 50

Plate 50. The aging process

praxis | Part Two: Woman’s Head