Whew! That’s about all I can say for this quick “crash course” on drawing that I’m going through. It’s been keeping me busy, and it’s pushed me in a lot of different directions. One recent drawing subject was the human figure — for which I drew a young woman sitting in a chair — and today’s assignment moved on to facial features. Never an easy subject for me to draw, that’s for sure.
Yeah, I groaned a bit when I turned the page and realized I would be — once again — drawing eyes, ears, noses, and mouths. Let me say, too, that this book by Barrington Barber is a bit frustrating. Although this is a book intended for aspiring artists, there’s really very little actual drawing instruction included. There is vague, general advice — which is helpful for artists who already know what they’re doing — but no real “how-to”. Fortunately, at this point in my art journey, I’ve been through a lot of “how-to” in the past, so I have some idea about how to approach the different subjects included.
Consider eyes, for example. The instruction given is this:
“Notice how the inner shape of the corner of the eye is different to that of the outer corner and how the eyes are set slightly around the curve of the head. Draw the eyebrows as well so that the space between the eyes can be judged more easily.” — From Learn to Draw: 10-Week Course for Aspiring Artists
For drawing the nose, Barrington explains:
“It’s easiest to describe the shape from the front when there is a strong light coming from one side to cast a shadow.”
True enough, and yes, he goes on to mention four distinct types of noses:
- Snub nose
- Straight nose
- Strong, curved nose
- Broken nose
He mentions too that beginning artists have a tendency to make noses too long or too short.
He gives similar instructions regarding drawing the mouth and drawing ears, sort of pointing out what a good artist should do, all the while neglecting to explain how to do it.
Yet even with the lack of actual drawing instruction I’m getting from this book, I’m enjoying it. I’m fortunate that I do have some basic knowledge, so I’m finding it a good challenge to look at one of Barber’s illustrations and figure out for myself how to approach it. It gives me a chance to search back through all that I’ve learned as I attempt to copy the illustrations. And most of all, it is pushing me to draw a lot of things I normally don’t.
Another reason why I’m enjoying this experience is because it’s forcing me to look very honestly at my drawing and to understand — to the best of my ability — exactly where I am. It’s much like holding a mirror up in front of myself and facing all my flaws. At the same time, though, it’s an opportunity to give myself a bit of recognition and even a little praise.
I’m rushing through this 10-week program, drawing quickly, moving on. In other words, I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got in a limited amount of time. If I were to work slowly and patiently on any of the assignments in the book, I might be able to turn our fairly good drawings. Right now, though, I think it’s more helpful for me to make these quick sketches — I can hardly even call them drawings — and realize that even in a few minutes, I can come up with something that at least resembles what it’s meant to be.
This morning I quickly sketched these facial features, putting them together in to suggest a face. Lots of imperfections there, yet overall, it’s a face. Of course I can see the mistakes, but for purposes of this exercise, do they really matter? Mentally, I’m also looking back at facial features I drew in the past. Do I see improvement? Oh, yes.
You can see some of my first attempts at drawing facial features and get a few “Fun Facts about Faces” here. I’ve shared other posts and other drawings of faces I’ve made over the years, some better than others, but all part of my on-going learning process. Needless to say, there are also many faces lurking in my old sketchbooks — ones that were too awful to share here or anywhere. I can still see them in my memory, so I can attest that my quick drawings — like the sketch here — are markedly better than my old drawings.
Before closing my sketchbook for the morning, I browsed the internet in search of interesting faces to draw. And, yes, I drew one.
Please, take it for what it is — a quick sketch for practicing facial features. Yes, the eyes are a bit crooked, and one is slightly larger than the other, but you know what? Both of these eyes are better than ones I’ve labored over drawing in the past. I could say the same for the nose, the mouth, and the one ear that’s showing. The most important thing here, for me, is that I can step back, look at this page in my sketchbook and say without hesitation, “I drew a face, and for a quick sketch, it’s not bad, really.”
Imperfect though it is, this sketch gives me a lot of confidence. I can see that I’m beginning to understand a bit about shading. I saw what a difference it made when I added more contrast with a darker, softer pencil. I can tell that my drawings of eyes are becoming slightly more realistic. It all tells me that with continued practice, I can — and will — improve.
So, indeed, my facial feature drawings aren’t great. I recognize that I still have a long way to go. But if my art is bad, it’s not for lack of trying, and this is the real point of this post. Learning to draw can be fun but also daunting. Learning to draw better is especially challenging. It would be much easier for me to shrug and say, “Well, I’ve learned the basics,” and be content to stay at that level. Instead, I’m pushing on. I’m going to keep pushing, keep practicing, keep learning.
Maybe I’ll never get to where I want to be with my drawing skills, but if I fail, I guarantee this — it will not be for lack of trying.