I can already see you non-artists shriveling up and glaring at me. Guys, please stop. I’m not going to kick you off just because this topic isn’t related to you. Keeping to the typical tradition of Myself, I shall try to make things as entertaining as is humanly possible. Even for the section of you who wouldn’t know the difference between an HB pencil and an 8B pencil if they both hit you in the head. (Though I will say this: FOR SHAME, you ignorant children.)
ANYWAY. Back to the point. When I really started to take drawing seriously, about three or four years ago, I began to produce quick-fire sketches of people. Sketches that my mother affectionately labeled “Pinheads,” for reasons that shall become obvious in a few moments. Unable to lay my hands on a copy of one of these pinheads (that’s what happens when you’ve moved seven times…), I decided to recreate one. For the purpose of science.
I would like you to know that it caused me physical pain to draw this.
Disregarding the fact that I thought I was the best artist in the world at the time, I think we can all agree that this drawing is horrible. Of course, after four years, I am happy to say that I’ve gotten over most of the stumbling blocks that made those early sketches so awful. But I think that many artists in my peer group still struggle to draw people, their sketches floundering in that state of “almost human, but not quite.” Sometimes, you know what your fingers are creating is horrible, but you can’t seem to grasp the means to make it better. The vision. The technical knowledge. The brain-hand coordination.
So today, I thought it would be fun to go through the five top hitches that make our humans look like mutants, and how to correct them—using that drawing up there (which I have affectionately named Maud) as an example.
Let us commence.
1. The Head, in General
Yeah, yeah, we’re gonna start out boring. But what I am about to impart to you is possibly the most crucial bit of face-drawing knowledge I have ever learned:
Draw the outline first.
*taps mic* Did we get that? No? Do I need to say it again?
DRAW THE OUTLINE FIRST.
Don’t start with a random eye in the middle of the paper, and, oh, let’s add the nose, and maybe the eyebrow, and work on some shading over here, and, oh look at that, a line for the forehead, and let’s add the other eye, maybe put the mouth in, draw a chin, and VOILA, lovely human being.
Starting that way is dooming yourself to a disaster of unaligned eyes and too long faces and a mess of human proportions. START like THIS.
Ya got that?
2. Feature Placement
For some reason, people don’t know where the features of their own species go. And instead of figuring it out, they just sit around and whine about it, because IT’S TOO COMPLICATED, MAN….
However, after a couple months of staring intensely at the people around me (and creeping them out of their wits), I devised a very simple way of figuring out human proportions. We shall use my own face as an example.
Do you see how the face divides into perfect quarters, with almost every major feature falling on one of those four lines? Hairline, eyes, nose. With the mouth almost exactly between the nose and the chin.
God’s symmetry is astounding.
So now that you’ve got the outline of your face, you can draw very faint lines on it to help you properly place the features.
Maud looks a little better.
3. Scalp ‘Em
Our cranium is a lot bigger than you think. Please, please, PLEASE do not cut the head off at the hairline. The head continues sloping up, even with hair on it. Fact of nature.
And, speaking of which, there needs to be room inside the head for a brain. If you do not think your person’s head will fit a brain, then chances are, you need to make it bigger. Not necessarily UP, but BACK. Behind the ear.
Also, foreheads are important. Please do not give your person a forehead the height of a thimble. They will look dumb.
Maud is starting to resemble a human.
4. Nose Holes
Yeah, yeah, the dreaded nostrils. You have to juggle two equally horrible evils of a stupid looking ‘L’ for a nose, or nostrils that make your person look more like a hog and less like a human. I feel your pain. Really. But adding nostrils does NOT mean you have to draw twin black-holes of doom on your person’s face.
For the sake of your drawing, the paper’s dignity, and—I need hardly mention it—your own self-respect, don’t do this. Just don’t.
It depends on the nose, obviously, but nostrils are generally closer in resemblance to slits than circles. And if you’re questioning putting them in because you’re afraid you’ll have to use that evil technique known as shading, let me put your mind at ease:
A nostrils without shading is better than an L. Trust me.
Aw, Maud actually looks normal now. Fancy that.
It’s pretty easy to draw an eye.
Without the other one.
Then you try to get that second one down, and you end up with something that looks vaguely reminiscent of Maz Kanata missing one of her eye-pieces.
I wish I could impart some great secret that will make all your eye troubles disappear in a big cloud of sparkles, but unfortunately, I haven’t figured it out yet myself. Give me another four years. BUT there are a few things that will make the eyes you have a little more lifelike.
Yup, that little white circle beside the pupil is practically more important than the entire eye itself. Without it, you are dooming your person to spend all the ages of this world locked in a blank and stupid stare. With it, they actually look somewhat… intelligent.
Also, eyelids are nice. They help you blink. And your eyelashes come out of them. And your eyeball would probably shrivel up and die without them. So yeah. Eyelids are nice.
On the Subject of Shading
Let’s get one thing straight: Shading is optional. There are plenty of good drawings out there that don’t have it. But if you want your person to look really realistic, you’ll eventually have to give some thought to this.
Now don’t freak out. At first, shading is a daunting prospect, full of much wailing and, “I’M NOT A DOCTOR!! HOW SHOULD I KNOW THE FULL MUSCULAR PROPORTIONS OF THE FACE, AND HOW THE LIGHT WILL LOOK ON IT???”
You see this?
This be a makeup chart for girls who contour their faces. For the record, I have tried my hardest to keep at least a mile of space between me and anything pertaining to this sort of thing—until I realized that it might actually have a use, after all. For drawing.
Yup. This thing has just become your best friend, and will serve you long and well as a shading guide. Where the chart says to contour, you shade dark. Where the chart says to highlight, you leave white. Everything else can either remain white, or a very light shade of gray.
It be that easy.
And look at that. Maud has been reborn.
So has Greg.
The best part is, these are just the preliminaries. Once you get this stuff down, you can start tweaking things, messing around with proportions and trying new stuff. Because obviously, every face looks different. Just because most faces are a certain size doesn’t mean they’re all going to be. But when you start messing with proportions, you have to remember one thing: For every change you make, you have to compensate. If you want the eyes to be higher and thus have a longer face, that’s fine. But if you move them up and not adjust anything else, you’re going to end up with a tiny forehead and a scalped cranium. If the eyes go up, the height of the entire head head has to go up as well.
For every change, compensation.
So there you have it, folks. The basics of a decent face. Hopefully this is helpful to someone, and at least somewhat interesting to those who don’t have a clue what I’m talking about. If it’s not, come up here and I’ll whack you with a frying pan.
(I have literally no idea why I just said that.)
May your mutants look like humans, your humans look like elves, and your week be ten times less confusing than this statement. Until next Thursday!