Your face, your friend's face, a stranger's face are all wonderfully exciting subjects to sketch. It's also a great feeling when you can capture the likeness or shape of someone's face. It's a great confidence builder! The wonderful thing about the face is that there are certain knowns, or truths about where the features are situated in relation to one another. Whew. Here are few good ones to note:

  • Your eyes are in the middle of your head. Yep. They are. 
  • Your ears start around where your eyes are and end at the bottom of your nose. 
  • The edges of our mouth can be found by dropping a vertical line down from your pupils. 
  • The side edges of your nose can be found by dropping a vertical line from the insides of your eyes. 
  • In normal lighting your lower lip is usually always lighter than your upper lip. 

These are just a few when looking at your face straight on. Artists have interpreted the face/head in a variety of ways. Below are just a few examples by the following artists: Modigliani, Picasso, Alvaro Tapia, and Bernie Fuchs.

The Workout

With this workout you'll need to look at some faces. You can ask your friends or family to sit for you. If you are concerned with getting their likeness then seek out some photographs in magazines or books. This book is a great resource for finding that exact expression, Facial Expressions, A Visual Reference for Artists.

In your sketchbook try drawing faces using one of the strategies below. Try them all! Combine strategies!

A Blind contour monoprint from an 8th grade student.

A Blind contour monoprint from an 8th grade student.

  • Contour Line Drawing - A contour line defines the edge of a form as well as dramatic changes in plane.  Practice varying your line width as well as its lightness and darkness. Look closely at your subject. 
  • Blind Contour Line Drawing - A blind contour line forces you, the drawer, to look at your subject 100% of the time. You may NOT look at your paper. Wonderfully exciting lines come from blind contour drawing. It's one of my favorite activities for middle and high school students. There's great laughter in the room and even the most talented artists are pushed out of their comfort zone. Blind contour drawing really forces you to see. You can poke your pencil through a paper plate to hide your drawing if you feel as if you will cheat!
  • Blind Blind Contour Line Drawing - You guessed it. Not only can't you look at your paper, but you also can't look at your subject. WHAT!? You will need to study your subject. Look carefully and observe. Then, with all the knowledge you collected close your eyes and trust the image you have in your head! These are ridiculously fun!
  • Gesture Drawing - Gesture drawings are quick, one to two minute sketches, meant to capture the essence of the subject. Details are removed and only the main focal points are included. This is a great way to capture the proportion of your subject, since you cannot dwell on details. Keep your pencil moving all the time and allow it to drag around the page. Don't stay in one place too long. Work big and time yourself. Charcoal on newsprint is a great combination for gesture drawing. Can you capture the essence of the face in 30 seconds?
  • Blocking In - Our face is made of many shapes: circles, triangles, ovals, etc. Find those shapes and lightly sketch them in. THEN, compare those shapes with one another. This will help you find your proportions quickly! Once you feel as if you have your proportions correct, you can fill in details. 

Feel free to combine any of the above strategies. While it's great practice to find proper proportions when drawing, you can also play with them to exaggerate areas of interest. Take any of your drawings and stylize (simplify or formalize) features. Add color as desired!

Share your results on Instagram using #drawfitfaces

Materials:

  • A face to draw
  • Drawing Pencils
  • Charcoal 
  • Sketchbook and other large drawing paper (newsprint paper is perfect for gesture drawing)
  • Colored Pencils