I’ve recently started a series of studio lectures in order to provide students with a deeper knowledge of the anatomy and structure of specific facial features. Understanding the underlying structure as it pertains to skeletal or muscular anatomy can be a huge advantage when drawing and/or painting the features of a live model. As we begin to understand these forms we can apply them to a portrait intuitively along with proportional measuring techniques which will result in creating a more convincing likeness of our subject.
In painting the features, I’m always drawn to the eyes first – maybe because this is the feature we look at when we are trying to gauge someone’s emotions. If we don’t get the eyes right, we miss out on capturing that soulful spark which breathes life into our paintings. One trick to portraying a particular expression, is to focus on the area around the eye rather than the eye itself. The “expression” is formed by the tightening, stretching or creasing of the skin. This is a direct result of where the muscles insert and how they contract.
Although gauging proportions and anatomical forms will give your drawing clarity and structure, it isn’t always enough. The life-like portrayal of human expression requires an understanding of the local value and color as well as a variety of edges. Without these qualities, a painting will appear stiff and life-less.
If this is something you wish to learn more about, I would recommend watching the video below which was taken from a recent lecture. This is meant to serve as a starting point to branch off from. I would suggest applying the information in a way which best suits your painting style. One thing however which I can’t stress enough, is the importance of practice. As you draw more eyes, noses, mouths, etc., you will begin to improve your powers of observation.
In the video I discuss what I’m thinking about while I’m working which relates to everything I’ve written about above. I’ve also provided a still photo of the demo. Because the file size of this video is so large, I will upload the second part in my next post. Enjoy!
Eye painting (part 1)