“Yes, I can do this.”
I wrote those words in my personal journal in regard to today’s “Day 7” assignment in my fashion illustration course. As you’re well aware, I’m following the day by day lessons in “Master Fashion Sketching in 9 Days“. I’m nearing the end, so do I feel that I’ve mastered this art form?
No, but I’ve definitely made great strides forward. I still have two more days to go, though, so I’ll reserve further comments until the end.
My positive statement this morning was borne not so much by confidence as it was by hope and determination. The lesson, you see, was on facial features. After all, if we’re going to draw glamorous long-legged models to showcase our glamorous fashion designs, we should give them a glamorous face, too, don’t you think?
The fancy faces I see in fashion illustrations have always intrigued me. I’ve long been captivated by those sophisticated, well, all right, “snooty” looks, those exotic cat-eyes, and the long, narrow noses that come from a fashion illustrator’s pencils and pens. In the past, my previous attempts to copy such looks were laughable.
Over the years since I first started learning to draw, I’ve played a lot with facial features. Maybe for some artists they’re easy to draw. Most of us, though, find it a bit challenging to draw eyes, noses, lips, and even ears, that really look human. Trying to create both human-looking and beautiful simply adds another layer of complexity. But, over those years, my ability to draw facial features has improved. I’m not great at it, but I’m better than I once was, and certainly with practice — and a determined attitude — I can improve. Thus my morning mantra: “Yes, I can do this.”
I won’t say that my results were incredibly good. They weren’t. In fact, I’m not going to show you any of the “high-fashion faces” I’ve created so far. Instead I’ll mention a few of the problem areas I’m working on:
- The biggest problem, I think, is symmetry. I might get one eye just right and the other completely wrong.
- Getting the right orientation. If a model is facing forward and looking straight ahead, that helps, but even then it’s easy for me to get a nose slightly crooked or the mouth a bit ajar. When the head is tilted, it’s even more difficult, of course.
- Proportionate sizes are difficult. I do know where the features go. I’ve studied portrait drawing enough to have mastered the basics of where to put which features. But getting them the right size is a challenge all its own.
So, there are the problems. Now, a few tips and tricks from Mastering Fashion Sketching in 9 Days, a handy reference sheet, and a few suggestions based on my own learning experiences.
- Probably the best reference you can find for learning to draw heads, faces, and facial features is still Andrew Loomis. You’ll find his drawing books on Amazon, or as PDF files to download. You can also see “The Loomis Method” in action on YouTube with artist Stan Prokopenko. Links are provided at the end of this post.
- While “The Loomis Method” is excellent for figure drawing and portraiture, it might be a bit more involved than what you need for quick fashion sketching, so instead of making a “three-dimensional box” as Loomis teaches, you can begin with a flat rectangle. The distance from the shoulder line to the top of the head should be the same as the distance from the shoulder line to the waist. The top 2/3 represents the head; the lower 1/3 will be the neck. The width of the head should be 1/2 the width of the shoulder line, which again, is the same as the distance from shoulder line to waist. Clear as mud, yes? It sounds complicated, but it all makes sense when you start drawing. I’m also including a few links below for getting body proportions correct.
- Once you have your flat rectangle drawn out (as above), you can mark the facial features as follows: Eyeline is at the half-way point. Divide the lower face into half again. This marks the nose line. Divide the rest once more into half, and you’ll have the lower lip line.
This illustration from the book shows how to mark the facial features. I’ve darkened it a bit to make the lines easier to see. This shows the various divisions, plus how to mark the position of the eyes and the center of the mouth.
This is the easy part, of course. Next comes actually drawing in these features. A few tips here:
- You definitely want a very sharp pencil, especially if you’re working on smaller sketches.
- Less is more when it comes to facial features, I think. You really need only a suggestion, not a fully-drawn feature. The eyes, as you’ll see in the reference chart (below) are merely curved lines with a few additional marks.
- A few lines and a bit of shading will go a long way toward making your model more realistic.
Here is the reference page included in Master Fashion Sketching in 9 Days. Again, I’ve darkened it to make it easier to see.
The steps are simple, leading me to believe that yes, I really can do this if I practice. Although those fashionista faces might look difficult to draw, they are essentially easy lines and careful shading.
So now I’ll be spending some practice time on today’s assignment, making not only more croquis but giving them faces too. Yes, I can do this. I really can.
Now, for those links:
The Loomis Method — Stan Prokopenko
Body Proportions for Fashion Illustration
So here are lots of ideas, techniques, and inspirations, whether you’re doing fashion illustration or portrait-drawing. I’m learning a lot, and I hope you find this information helpful, as well.