We’ve all seen drawings of people that just don’t look right. Sometimes the person that created the drawing will say “I can’t draw” and claim that they just do not have the special gene that gives people artistic ability. In reality, we are all capable of drawing people well. Two main things are the root causes of a bad drawing. They are the lack of understanding of proportion and perspective.
Proportion describes how the parts of the drawing, a person’s body parts in this case, should be portrayed in relation to each other. People’s faces and features vary, but in general most people can be accurately drawn using standard measurements. These measurements help the artist to get a better likeness of the person.
Perspective refers to the angle that your subject is being seen from. Three common examples, of different perspectives that portraits are drawn in, are profile, straight on and three quarters. In a straight on portrait, you can see the whole subject’s face; in profile, you see half of the face, and in three quarters you see one full side (the side that is closest to you) and one side that is foreshortened because of the angle.
Before you begin a drawing of a person, observe what perspective or angle you will be portraying them from. Then lightly draw the contours of the face. You can sketch out the subject’s main features; their eyes, nose, mouth, and ears, as well as the contour or outline of their head. Doing this lightly provides you with a guide for how the drawing should be laid out. Remember to measure, using a standard unit of measurement, such as how many eyes apart are the eyes, or the nose and mouth.
Drawings turn out better when the artist refers often to the subject, for guidance on what to add to the drawing. It’s good to be observant; rather than just guessing at where things should be placed. This is especially important when you are adding shading to your drawing.
When you are satisfied with your contour sketch, you can add shading. Identify what your darkest areas are in the drawing and then identify the mid-tones and the lightest area. Start out shading lightly and don’t be afraid to erase. Add details, such as facial hair or glasses, as you get more of the shading worked in. Soon you should come to a point where you are satisfied with the drawing. Step back from it and compare it to your photo or model. Evaluate what you like about the drawing and think about whether, or not there was anything, which you could try to do better next time. Most drawings aren’t perfect and they can be seen as practice exercises as you work towards being a better artist.
Your drawings are sure to improve, if you bear in mind proportions and perspective from the outset. Take your time and map out your drawing. Planning saves you the frustration of having to erase or start all over. Remember, drawing people should not be rushed. Take your time and be deliberate. You should keep practicing and improving your skills of observation. Soon enough, drawing will come naturally for you.
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