Tag Archives: drawing tutorial

Let’s talk about skulls.

Your skull? My skull? Anybody’s skull? We’ve all got skulls inside our heads.

Head construction by Suzanne Forbes 2016I’m getting ready to teach a class on drawing faces, and the foundation of the face is understanding the skull. Skulls are beautiful and amazing, and much of how our faces appear is produced by their hard shapes, under our skin. So when I draw people, I start with a construction that represents the hard stuff- the lovely round top and the boxy jaw.

I come from a traditional school of illustration where a system for drawing the figure is always based on a construct, a manikin you build inside your own head. The great drawing teachers of the 20th century, such as Andrew Loomis and Burne Hogarth, each had their own system for creating the manikin. And many basic drawing classes start with the idea of representing the head as the simplest possible form, as a circle or oval.

I’d like to share my personal system for drawing the head, which is based on neither a circle nor an oval.

Head construction by Suzanne Forbes 2016I treat the head as a ball or sphere with a little shape attached- a shape like the box strawberries come in, or the basket you ride in below a hot-air balloon. The ball has a line drawn around its latitude and longitude.

The jaw shape or plate claps onto the front of the ball, like the hinged faceplate of a suit of armor. It attaches halfway down from the latitude line. The longitude line continues down the front of the jaw plate as well.Head construction by Suzanne Forbes 2016

Becoming comfortable with visualizing and rotating a simple construct like this can give an artist much greater confidence in drawing the head.

Head construction by Suzanne Forbes 2016My system also creates placement for the ears, attaching to the head at the latitude line and the top of the jaw plate. I know if I’ve drawn the latitude line curving around the ball carefully and I place the top of the ear along it, the placement of the ear will be believable.Head construction by Suzanne Forbes 2016

The jaw plate creates a surface for the mouth, which is set at the middle of the plate. Its curved surface follows the curve of the sphere, which is very helpful when projecting placement of the mouth in upshots and downshots.

Having a base model as a starting point is also helpful in portraiture. I use it to measure the distinctive features of an individual as well, by the amount they might vary from the base.

I believe you should take what you like and leave the rest, so if my base model doesn’t feel natural to you, why not try Loomis or Hogarth?Head construction by Suzanne Forbes 2016

Drawing tutorial: How to draw a perfect eye.

Original eyeball drawing by Suzanne Forbes 2015

Your eyeball is a gelid sphere.

Intellectually, you know this. You can feel it, round as a ball bearing, spinning in the aqueous humour of your eye socket.

Yet most people instinctively draw the eye as two ellipses, meeting at their pointed ends. ()

Eye drawings by Suzanne Forbes 2015This is a perfectly serviceable beginning, but it’s only the beginning of understanding the proportions and dynamics of a human eye. First, consider the pupil. It takes up a relatively small amount of the eyeball sphere, but nearly a third of the visible eye.

We see only a section of the eyeball, one orange segment.

The rest is hidden behind eyelids and the fine skin that stretches over the eye socket, from the browbone and zygomatic arch. If you touch your eye sockets with your fingertips, you can feel all the eyeball underneath that thin skin, and all the floaty liquid that cradles your eyeball in its bone housing.

Your eyelids are like slices of baloney draped around your eyeball.

Like wrapping a baseball in horsehide, the eyelid skin has to follow the curve of the sphere. The skin has thickness of its own, a couple of millimeters.

The eyelashes project from the leading edge of the top surface of the eyelid, not from that couple-millimeter perpendicular plane. You’d be awfully sad if your eyelids didn’t have thickness.Eye drawings by Suzanne Forbes 2015

The pupil has dimension that makes it project forward a bit beyond the eye sphere, and when the thin eyelid passes over that extra dimension it makes a little extra curve to follow it. The highlight on an oily or made-up eyelid will be noticeably located over that curve.

Your browbone and cheekbones project further out than the corners of your eyes, because the sphere of your eye is smaller than the roundness of your skull.

Put your fingertip on the inner corner of your eyebrow, rest your palm on your mouth, and blink. You see how much space there is at the inner corner of your eye, where your tear duct is? If you have an epicanthic fold, that space will have thin skin stretched over it, but you can gently press to feel the curve of your eyeball. The sphere of your eyeball curves back into your skull, leaving a shadowed hollow below your brow. This also means that the whites of your eyes are brightest around the pupil and shadowed at the corners, by the core shadow of the sphere itself.

Your eyeball is shadowed by the thickness of your eyelid as well.

That cast shadow curves around the sphere just like the eyelids, and throws darkness into the top of the iris. The highlight on the pupil will sit right at this meridian of cast shadow. The shadowing of the iris is especially pronounced in people with an epicanthic fold, because the skin over the eyeball is projecting out further over the surface of the eye.

If you really want to understand the shape of your eyeball, try putting on false lashes a few times.

Very few experiences bring home the structure of the eye like the pain-in-the-ass process of applying falsies!

I hope this look at your gelid spheres is helpful; I’ll be happy to answer any questions in the comments.

That’s it for this time. Maybe next time we’ll talk about the most crucial thing you need to know to draw a perfect hand.