For the past few weeks as I’ve been describing the position of facial features I’ve been working in very simple line drawings. Line drawings can be a great quick way to capture an image. But of course, there’s so much more. What I love about each face is it’s unique shape.
To capture individuality, let’s talk about form. Remember light defines form. Exactly how the face is lighted will go a long way to help us understand the exact shape of eyes, cheeks, chins and foreheads. Look at good portrait photography and you’ll immediately see that photographers understand this. Lighting not only describes the subject, it explains and clarifies the features. Look how just a little shading adds life and personality to the drawing below:
I was recently watching an old episode of “The West Wing” filled with many excellent examples of portrait lighting. It adds to the drama when the camera comes close and the lighting sculpts the features to accentuate the mood. The next time you watch TV or go to a movie, notice how the faces are lighted.
Of course if we’re drawing at the local coffee shop, it’s not possible to adjust the lighting. Posing a model, however, may offer a chance to direct the light source. Light that is above and to the side of the face is usually both flattering and definitive. Here are two classic examples from art history – one of Rembrandt’s self portraits and Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring.” The direction of the light source is very apparent, making the portraits come alive.
As with all drawing, portrait drawing gets easier the more we do it. Whether you draw from the TV, magazine photographs, or even sleeping family members, practice, practice, practice!