project six : the head

exercise one: facial features

I’ve spent some time watching online videos on drawing faces and of course seeing how the masters do it. Key things I’ve picked up on:

  • Noses are all about the highlight
  • Mouths are all about the shadow
  • Eyeballs are balls and so have areas of shade!
  • Getting the proportions right is absolutely the hardest bit

Above pages from sketchbook

exercise two: your own head 

First six awful sketches

In life classes there is already so much to get wrong before I even get to the face, so I’ve always even them wide berth. But now I have to face my own head on. I’m putting just about all my sketches up here, to see if I can track improvement. The first few are pretty terrible. I didn’t want to sketch straight on, but with my head at an angle I struggled with placement of features and proportion.



Number seven and it’s the first that I’m reasonably pleased with, done very quickly, no time to really think, but I am getting features to sit in place. Eyes are over-sized but I think that kind of works.



Number 8 – Back to just trying to get the eyes right but this is a very sanitised sketch. No sagging skin, no wrinkles, no age spots.

Number 9 – quite happy with number 9.  The features seem to be in place though eyes a little wide apart maybe. I like the expression – this is quite me – this is my resting bitch face, though still missing the wrinkles, dark circles. I guess that’s the upside of a self-portrait. Apparently Lucian Freud said that the difficulty of a self-portrait is you don’t want to make yourself look too good, and you don’t want to look too bad either (via Lucian Freud Painted Life)



Round Two

I’ve been researching artists who paint portraits and listening to Maggi Hambling in conversation (see Research Point: Portraits) and have decided to approach this differently. Or at least to explore from a different angle.

First up, drawings I made with my eyes shut, just feeling my way around my face.

I rather like these, especially the first. The face divides in to hard places (eye sockets, bridge of nose, cheekbones, jaw bones) and soft places (eye balls, bottom of nose, mouth). At first I thought how wide I had set the jaw bone, but it’s probably not far off.

These two are drawing blind – i.e., looking in the mirror but not at the paper. The second is weirdly accurate in terms of what got placed where.


Quick reminder of proportions with my head tilted slightly forward. Irises too big!








Doing this investigation has definitely changed  things – the next few sketches I did were all quite different – from the last batch, and from each other – with something of a real face emerging.





A little odd but I’ve added it here because I was pleased with the light on the left side of the face – though the face in shadow looks more like face rubbed in charcoal. I was slightly faking the extreme light, but it would be interesting to set up like this.

I worked out of the charcoal for most of this – covered most of the paper in it and drew/erased the face from it.

*I like the left hand collar – heavy lines over charcoal ‘brush strokes’

Looking at it now I might go back in and soften the shadows, see if I can rescue it.



Changing media – so far I’ve just used graphite and charcoal – here pen and adding some charcoal smudges.











Number 13 and my favourite so far. Not sure where I was when I was drawing this, but I think it was somewhere under the skin.

It doesn’t look much like me (though the dishevelment and haggardness is more true than the previous) but I can sense me trying to find me in it and that makes it interesting. The search is there.

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