Monthly Archives: March 2015


Using a grid is the easy way to reproduce a photograph, and IT’S NOT TRACING!  Renaissance artists such as Durer and da Vinci used a standup grid to get correct proportions of a live subject.  In my last portrait drawing class, I showed my students how to use a 1″ grid on an 8×10″ photograph to draw their own self-portraits.  Here is the result from one of my students, Linda Keesee.  She placed the grid on the photograph and made another 1″ grid on her drawing paper, then drew from the photo square by square to complete the final product.  If you want to enlarge a photograph, either use a 1″ grid on the photo and a 2″ grid on your drawing paper, or a 1/2″ grid on the photo and a 1″ grid on the paper.  Either way, your drawing will be twice the size of the photograph.

Of course,  if you’re confident of your ability, you could skip the grid and draw free hand, but that could get you in trouble!  Also, some of you who have done this before might like to try the alternate method – making an x on the corners and dividing  each section equally.  If you do this, you’ll need to trace your photo and use the grid on the tracing.


photo                                            Linda




You may think the ear is hard to draw because of its intricate folds and wrinkles, but if you just get the basic shape right, it’s not that difficult.  If the head is drawn straight on, like a wanted ad, you can hardly see the ear, especially if hair covers it.  The problem comes when the head is seen in 3/4 view, or in profile.  That’s when you need to look carefully at the ear’s inner and outer shapes.  Here is an example of the ear seen in profile:


This is a man’s ear — a woman’s ear is more rounded, or course.


img002    Here is an older man’s portrait.





And here is a young girls’ portrait





Other examples:




Noses are very much unique to the individual.  They can be straight, crooked, with a big bump in it, have widely flared nostrils, slim, or large.  My mother had what she called a “roman nose — it roamed all over her face!”  Pay a lot of attention to the different shapes, angles, and planes of the nose. The bridge of the nose is a bone, while the edges are cartilage. There is a round ball at the end of the nose, and the flares of nostrils are wedge shapes.  The overall shape of the nose is narrow at the top, and wide at the base.

After the structural lines have been made, shading the nose is the best way to define the form.  If you’re drawing the nose from a front view, the only way to show the form is by the subtle variations of lights and darks.  Don’t draw lines on the side of the nose. The darkest shadows lie next to the bridge.  Drawing noses from a profile view is easier, because then you can ouline the nose.   Nostril openings face down and should not be overstated.  Because the tip of the nose is spherical, it usually has a highlight.  Look carefully at the light source and the reflected light.  The nose will also cast a shadow beneath it.

Here are some examples:



This example is from the Watercolor Artist magazine of June 1212.






One of the most expressive features of the face is the mouth — it can express a person’s age, gender, ethnicity, and emotion.  Everyone’s mouth is different, so look for the uniqueness in your model’s mouth and lips.  Generally speaking, however, the top lip is slimmer and more in shadow than the lower lip, because it recedes slightly backward.  Full lips look youthful, while thin lips look older.  The top lip has a little indentation in the middle and slants downward toward the edge of the mouth.  The lower lip seems to have two ovoid shapes on either side.  See example below:


Be careful if you include the teeth.  You don’t want them to look like pickets in a fence.  You can define an adult’s teeth by showing the gums at the top and a division at the bottom.  The teeth are shaded more as they recede into the mouth.  Children’s teeth are usually seen as individual, since their’s are not fully developed.

Be aware of the subtle shading of the lips.  There is usually a slight highlight on the lower lip.  Watch especially what happens in a three-quarter and profile view.   Remember also, that there is some shading under the mouth.  Since the lips protrude slightly from the face, there are several tonal variations in the skin and surrounding areas.  So be observant, and practice in your sketchbook.