Fun Facts about Faces

I was in high school art class when I first learned the “rule” that when drawing a portrait, the eyes are halfway down. That always stuck in my mind because when I heard it, my immediate thought was “No, they’re not!” It sounded preposterous.

Of course, at the time I didn’t understand that the teacher was referring to the entire shape of the head, not merely the portion we designate as face. Once I realized what she actually meant, I had fun drawing ovals and marking the line for the eyes. Since I couldn’t draw and I was only in art class because it was mandatory, drawing ovals and a line was about as far as I ever got. At least I grasped the principle of proper facial proportions.

Last summer when I began learning to draw, it was inevitable that drawing faces would come up in my lessons. I smiled when I read about the “halfway mark” for the eyes. I already knew that. I was a step ahead of the game.

ManAs I read more about facial proportions, I got hooked on drawing faces. For me, there’s something comfortable about knowing where to put things — meaning, facial features. It’s fun to sit down and draw quick little sketches, like the fellow here.

When I first started drawing faces last year, I was actually surprised — and very pleased — when I saw that I could capture a resemblance in my portrait drawing. Then, when I started learning to use charcoal, it made portrait-drawing even more exciting.

Jackie Kennedy Drawing (2)One of my first attempts at drawing “a real person” was to do this charcoal drawing of former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

In looking back at it now, of course I can find a lot of things wrong with it, but I was very proud that I’d drawn a recognizable portrait. I recognized her, anyway. So did my husband. I’m not sure anyone else sees the resemblance though.

I’d been drawing for about five months when I did that portrait. It encouraged me to keep drawing. Since then, I’ve practiced drawing the eyes, drawing the nose, drawing the mouth. Yes, as you know, I’ve practiced drawing ears, too.

And all the while, I’ve continued to be fascinated by the proportions of the human face. Of course, we’re all created differently, and no one has a “perfect” face. That fact, I think, is what makes portrait-drawing so interesting.

eye (2)As part of my study on figure drawing, I’m re-visiting old lessons on drawing the head and face. I have an entire page in my sketchbook filled with eyes, another with noses — both male and female — and still another with drawings of the mouth.

nosemouth (2)



Seeing them jumbled together is a bit comical, isn’t it?

Like so many other things, facial features can be tricky to draw, so I keep practicing on them, and slowly but surely I’m making progress.

Recently, I learned something new about portrait-drawing, something that surprised me a bit. I’ve spent so much time going over facial proportions, I thought I knew it all! But before I share my new little tidbit of knowledge, let me first list a few of the proportion tips I’ve learned in the past year:

  • Did you know…the face — from hairline to chin — is approximately the same size as the hand?
  • Eyebrows align with the top of the ear
  • The bottom of the nose lines up with the bottom of the ear
  • The middle line of the mouth is at the same level where the angle of the jaw changes
  • Leave out most of the lines when drawing the female nose
  • Add more details for a masculine nose
  • You can omit eyelashes when drawing a man’s eyes
  • Five eyes should fit in the distance from the outside of one ear to the other
  • The eyes should be separated by about one “eye-width”
  • Cheekbones begin just below eye level
  • For men, the nostrils are the same width as the tear ducts
  • For women, make the nostrils the same width as the inner eyebrow
  • For men, the lips extend to the width of the iris or outer side of the pupil
  • For women, the lips should only extend to the inner pupil width
  • The lower lip is normally thicker than the upper lip

Again, though, no one has an ideally-proportioned face, but knowing these general guidelines make it easier to notice — and accurately draw — an individual’s unique features.

So, what was that little bit of information I learned? Portrait artists and illustrators have discovered that “bunching up” the features on the lower half of the face creates a more “youthful-looking” image. Instead of placing the eyes on or above the midpoint eyeline, place them immediately below.  So, now you know!

I guess what we need as we get older isn’t a face-lift as much as an eye-lowering!



  1. Goodness, I learned so much from you today! Thank you for sharing what you learned. I gave up learning doing realistic faces because I do not have the kind of patience it needed for all the details. I admire you for pursuing it though. Woot! Whimsical faces excites me the most and playing with different proportions makes it more exciting.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Some of my faces have been whimsical, indeed LOL…and not always intentionally so. I like drawing face, especially older faces that have lots of character. Like everything else in art, it takes practice. I keep working on improving the facial features I draw. Another little suggestion I heard and am now using is to always draw the eyes so they’re not looking straight ahead. Sometimes it really does get a little “creepy” or weird to see a face staring at you while you’re drawing. Shifting the gaze slightly away makes it much more comfortable. It’s really true.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Aww thanks for the advise! I want to learn how to draw old faces too. It is in my list of future projects. Though I have an idea in mind now. An old goth woman, with long wavy hair, with big, deep, dark creepy eyes, wearing black with a headdress and I don’t know where to start. Lol!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. There’s an interesting free portrait class on Craftsy you might want to check out. The teacher talks about starting with shapes which is really good advice. It’s good, too, to watch what he does.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. AMAZING Judith!!! Your eye and mouth and nose and those portraits are inspiring and amazing. GREAT tips too! You are definitely inspiring me to branch out!!! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s the fun part of being a “first-year” student LOL. I get to try all kinds of different things. Now, I’m wondering where I’ll be going and what I’ll be exploring as a “second year” student of art. 🙂 It’s about time for me to make an assessment of what I’ve learned — not so much about art itself but about where and how I want to fit into the art world.

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  3. Loved this post. I’m sitting here giggling as I smacked myself in the face while measuring from the hair line to the chin….yup…about the size of my hand. Then making sure my lower ears line up with my nostril and my eyebrows line up with my upper ears and oh no….that was fun. I double checked my face.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My sketchbook is also filled with noses, eyes, and lips. It’s great to practice on individual parts but equally important to know the proportions of the face. When you get the proportions right, the rest of the stuff should be easy.

    Great read! Thanks!

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      1. The ‘beautiful’ bit I may have gotten from my dad who’s also an artist. The ‘bizarre’… I think it’s something in the water. Awesome? YOUR awesome! I mean, the passion and the drive to want to get better is so inspiring! I’ve seen people quit art because they couldn’t draw hands properly, and here you are making ink washes of ghost ships!

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      2. Gee, thanks! It’s such a fun adventure, and to have talented artists cheering me on makes it even more exciting. Every day brings new discoveries. A year ago, I literally couldn’t draw a straight line. It’s amazing to see the progress I’ve made. By the way, have you had a chance to play with your Polychromos?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I love my Polychromos pencils! Buttery smooth and, really, well worth the money. My frustration with the Prismacolors was the constant breaking, but it’s never happened with the polychromos so far.

        It’s funny because just last weekend, Faber-Castell held an art jam at a local mall and they had a 60-pc set which was what I was looking for initially. And, oh how my mouth watered at the beautiful 120-pc set! As I stood there salivating, I saw unicorns with glittery butterfly wings sliding down a rainbow while being chased by the Teproleum monsters. I will have that set… soon.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I like my Prismacolors and my Polychromos. Lately I’ve been doing so much watercolor, my colored pencils have been a bit neglected. I do have one drawing started, but I haven’t done much on it yet. I should get back to it. I’ve just been having too much fun with watercolor and ink washes. 🙂

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      5. Don’t you just love the contrast between inks and watercolor? I assure you you’ll have a blast with them. I need to finish all the stuff on my plate so I could get back to my pens and brushes!

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I played around last night using mixtures of ink and watercolors to create backgrounds. Mostly I made a huge mess LOL but it was fun, and I did come up with some interesting effects. I do see possibilities with using ink. I’ll definitely be playing with it more.

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