Today we learned how to sketch a portrait by our resident artist and husband of LIFEer Lorraine, Tony Afkram. According to Tony, sketching a portrait is as easy as sketching an apple. Instead of trying to accurately reproduce what you see, try to draw the shapes that you see in the person's face. Break the person down into shapes first, then put in your details and shadows.
To get the general shape down, try the following:
- Lightly draw an oval. Make the oval fairly large since it will contain all the facial details. Do all the next steps lightly since this is building a frame that you will later erase as you sharpen your details. The top of the oval is the crown of the head, and the bottom is the chin.
- Draw a line through the center of the oval vertically and horizontally. The horizontal line is called the eye-line, and is where you will draw the eyes.
- Halfway between the eye-line and the chin, draw another horizontal line. This is the underside of the nose.
- About a third of the way between the bottom of the nose and the chin, draw another horizontal line; this is the mouth line.
- Draw a small square box to fit in the bottom of the oval to be the chin highlight.
- Draw a small isosceles trapezoid (I looked up the term, how often do we say "trapezoid") on the line making the base of the nose. This trapezoid (I used it twice) will become the tip of the nose.
- From the inner/top corners of the trapezoid (three times!) draw two vertical lines upward to the eye line. This shape becomes the bridge of the nose. From the outer/bottom corners of the trapezoid, draw two vertical lines upward to the eye-line. These become the sides of the nose.
- From the the two spots where the nose-bridge lines hit the eye-line, draw two hexagons that extend not-quite to the edge of the circle, making sure the eye-line bisects the hexagons across the middle. These hexagons become the eye sockets. The eyebrows will eventually go on the top of the hexagons. Under-eye shadows and wrinkles will go toward the bottom. The eyes (horizontal ovals) will sit comfortably in the middle.
- Draw a line connecting the tops of the two trapezoids. You've just made another isosceles trapezoids which will become the highlighted space between the eyes and eyebrows.
- Draw three arches to mark the forehead area. One arch above each hexagon and one above the trapezoid marking the space between them. These areas will later be used for highlighting and shading.
- Extend the upper/outermost line of both hexagons down a little, maybe halfway the distance from the bottom of the hexagon. Connect this line with the upper corners of the chin box. This line marks the bottom of the cheek bones and shows where you will do cheek shading later. It also marks the outer edges of the mouth now, on the mouth line.
- Extend the lines making the tops of the hexagons out of the oval on both sides. Extend the line marking the bottom of the nose out of the oval on both side. This marks where the ears go. Ears are usually very thin and look like skinny ovals on the side of the head, but some peoples' ears stick out!
- Now you have the general face in proportion, with lines showing roughly where to highlight and where to shadow. Now start adjusting these shapes to your actual subject. Maybe your subject's face is wider than an oval. Maybe their chin is more rectangular than square. Maybe their eye-line isn't exactly in the middle of their face. Maybe their nostrils are wider. We drew all of the preliminary shapes lightly so we can edit/erase some of that work and put in better details later.
- Consider where your light source is coming from and start shading.
We hope you enjoyed our class today. Portraiture is much easier when you think of faces as a jumble of connected shapes. The next time you are bored (not LIFE class) whip out a pencil and start sketching the people around you. You'll see how easy and fun it is.