Art: ethnic face drawing
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Thread: ethnic face drawing

  1. #1
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    ethnic face drawing

    Have anyone tried to draw human faces from another culture or race? To me ethnic diversity in human features is a challenge and a fascination and this January I started with thumbnails sketches and moving towards( I hope will be) the study of ethnic features.Here are my moderst beginnings.

    The first three sketches are based on information offered by imagination and face memory from life,yet not a live model. The drawing with a small photo on top is just copying a face. After that I tried to copy my own drawing of chinese eyes(#4 sketch). The last drawing I made from memory of my previous day when I copyed from photo.
    I started in January, all February I drew from imagination and now In March I felt the urge of copying from photos. In February I also visited Chinatown in San Francisco, an element that can contribute to memory drawing.
    The question is can one tell a difference between working freely from one's memory, imagination and working closely looking at a model?Comments are encouraged.

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    Last edited by elenaM; March 17th, 2008 at 05:32 PM.
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    hindu brides

    Here are sketches of hindu brides mostly from imagination. The one with a picture on top is the only one in which I tryed copying the eyes and bindi.In the order that I post them they start January and end so far in March.

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    Last edited by elenaM; March 17th, 2008 at 06:52 PM.
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    You won't make convincing sketches from imagination until you have that stored mental library of faces etc to fake it from.

    Test it for yourself, do two half hour sketches, one from imagination, one from ref.

    Which one was better?

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    Flake which one was better is my question to you. How does it seem to you as an outsider.Maybe I cannot judge objectively my sketches, that's the reason to enter a forum and asking others for an opinion. Thank you anyway.

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    Im not trying to be mean or anything, but the problem you have is not with drawing ethnic faces its with your drawing skills in general. You should spend alot of time drawing still lifes and other easier objects to learn about shadows and light falling on form and value. Then move to figures and faces. When you understand these things and you begin drawing faces it will no longer be about "how do i draw ethnic features", but about how the shape of the nose structure of that individual is and how the light falls on it.

    then you can start building a library of faces you have drawn like flake said.

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    Kevin, thank you for sending me back to school.It's true you won't find volume, light, shadow in my sketches because at this point I am not concerned with academic drawing but with capturing the ethnicity, the typology of a face, race.I guess one cannot come up with a drawing in which tones and volume are present, shading, light, everything that formal training requires but the nose is Persian, the eyes Japanese and the mouth African in a rendering of an native from Bali, let's say.
    For you a fresia from my garden. I also offer you a dried rose from my collection of dried roses. It took me 20 minutes to draw it compared to 4 minutes allowed for an ethnic face.What i am interested right now is to be more spontaneous and accurate as possible in rendering nationalities. Let's remember that Picasso deplored the fact that academies can corrupt talent and the French painter who introduced the concept of ART BRUT(you tell me the name as long as you are a fine arts student) wanted to forget his training and go back to primitive, naive, raw approaches.

    By the way I visited your site read your bio and looked for your art, but there was very little stuff there.

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    Last edited by elenaM; March 19th, 2008 at 12:28 PM.
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    Picasso was also kind of a jackass. The fact that he is glorified by modernist art critics (which is only because he catered to the stupidity of people like Gertrude Stein and thus became popular) does not mean that his advice is the best to take. If you really look at Picasso's work, it is devoid of any real feeling, it is sterile because it ignores the beauty of the natural world. Academies do not corrupt talent, they provide the necessary tools for its ultimate expression.

    That being said, I think there's simply an ideological conflict here. Most of the people on this board are likely to give you the same comments offered by Flake and sweetoblivion314, because many of us are working toward the goal of accurate representation of the figure (either as a means to some other goal or as an end in itself). One might infer from your posts that your goals are different.

    Your newer work shows improvement, but no one has ever progressed beyond simplified, schematic drawing (like what a native from Bali would give you) without proper training (either at a school or on their own). I wish you luck in your drawings, just remember that traditional training has produced artists as diverse as Mucha, Fechin, Bouguereau, Leyendecker and Degas.

    -Ramon

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    I have to agree with Ramon that you are most likely to get responses of a certain type from most of the people here. You are in for some forum-related stress if you expect otherwise.

    That being said, there is a certain charm to the first page of sketches which I quite enjoy. How can you keep that spontaneity in the larger images- particularly in the ones from photos?

    I will refrain from further comment since it's largely technical and likely of no interest to you.

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    Para Ramoncito and Tim, una rosa de mi jardin de la mano reumatica de una senora de mas de 50 anos, profesora de castellano. In case that Ramon doesn't understand Spanish, I said, a rose from my garden for you from the arthritic hand of a 50 year old lady, teacher of Spanish.

    Be patient with me boys, I just restarted holding a pen after 25 years of holy break from drawing, my childhood passion. I never said training is not important(Picasso did), I said is not my focus academic approach at this stage when i try to discover ethnic features. I started probably the reversed way from detail to basics. I am more concerned with identifying correctly the shape of African lips in a sketch than the light falling on them.
    By the way, my favorite museum in Paris is not Louvre but Picasso museum where you can also admire his sketchbooks and crafts, his beginning as a good pupil of great masters, and his joy of using certain media in his work.The lack of feeling in his art as Tim points out has probably the same dimension as the vacuum, the absurd situations in the theatre of Samuel Becket.
    The time of rembrandt or velasquez(my favorite painters of all times) are gone boys.More than 10 years ago in Milan I saw an exhibition of a young Sicialian artist drawing, painting and sculpture that still got stuck in my head. Everything was charcoal dark, leaving you with a sense of carbonization, calcination, as if everything would have been consumed by fire.Art is a form of comunicating ideas, concepts it's a language rather than pure technique. What it told me that total blackness was the death of our values, through the complete cancelation of colors, hues, light and shadows, the consumption of these values, we burned them down completely and irrevocably.
    Now back to my learning of shading again.

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    more discovery of ethnic subtleties

    In february we went to San Francisco for the Chinese new year and visited also the Asian art Museum. They were displaying these posters with a traditional Japanese painting Geisha that got stuck in my memory. I came home and sketched my own japanese geishas to work with.I will also remind you that traditional japanese painting and chinese for that matter doesn't have much use for shading, light, volumes, shadows as western art and even if I used no model in my sketches I will put a picture from the web as reference for my readers.
    Also my african american girls and work in progress.No photo or live model.

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    Quote Originally Posted by elenaM View Post
    I will also remind you that traditional japanese painting and chinese for that matter doesn't have much use for shading, light, volumes, shadows as western art
    Quite true, but it does have a use for spectacular composition and beautiful line work, neither of which you are currently doing.

    If you want to use asian printmakers/painters as a yardstick hold your work next to,say, Hokusai and honestly try and see how you compare.

    Incidentally, you seem to have a narrow view of "western" art, you might enjoy Mucha, Klimt, Beardsley et all.

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    I don't know what Picasso or the "Schematic Academy" have to say, but I find that both extreme standpoints are the same in a sense. I'm pretty guilty of having some extreme opinions lately. When I got the time to think about it I find that it's just too silly and embarrassing.

    Like those "in the box" analogy, when you are "in the box" you follow all the established rules and lost your creative experimentation. "Think out of the box" on the other hand is regarded as being better than the former, so people try to do it as much as possible even if it's not necessary to archive what they want. Trying to break all the rules possible is just the same as following all of it; the rules still strictly govern what you do.

    I don't know if you are familiar with this story but I'll tell it anyway, about a prince who used to live for the pleasure in life without knowing about the existence of pain and hardship in life at all. When he knew and fear the life's suffering he wanted to seek a way to overcome the inevitable. He then tortured himself by starving himself and many other ways in hope of getting that epiphany to understand and overcome all the agony in life. One day he over heard a musician teaching his student.
    The musician said "If the strings on the instrument are set too tight, then the instrument will not play harmoniously. If the strings are set too loose, the instrument will not produce music. Only the middle way, not too tight and not too loose, will produce harmonious music."
    That statement changed the prince's way and straightens him up, and later he became know as Buddha with the middle way being one of his main teachings.

    Sorry if I ramble on too much and bore someone with these preachy stuff, but I think it might help with what you are pursuing and you seems to be more interested in something philosophical rather than technical.

    Best
    Thien

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    Elena, I do speak Spanish, although I do not see how that is relevant to a discussion about drawing. Of course the times of Rembrandt and Velazquez are gone, but the pictorial language they helped develop lives on, because it is universal, the human form remains unchanged and the emotions both men captured transcend time. Honesty is not constrained to a specific point in time.

    As I said, your views are different from mine, and it is not my intention to change your beliefs to fall in line with mine. I find your pursuits interesting, although given the unique qualities of each individual, it is impossible for you to find the exact shape of "african lips", "asian eyes", etc. The best this study can hope for is an approximation of such features, in other words, a caricature of sorts.

    Art is not all craftsmanship, but if you really look at the art you mention (from Japan and China), you will notice the extreme attention these masters paid to the technical aspects of drawing.

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    Flake, about Klimt I can say that he has his style, technically speaking but doesn'y communicate great deal of important stuff. Mucha is a very good illustrator but if I ask him or anybody What is the connection between the Byzantine and his Byzantine heads I don't think that the answer will be found in his paintings.For the Byzantines one should consult iconography and art from the Byzantine empire, portraits of Byzantine emperors and their wives.
    There is a school of art that eradicated from the Roman empire into Ghandara, the region of today, Pakistan, Afghanistan that fusioned with indian art and later created the splendid Ghandara style art.Roman, Byzantine and Buddhist art are the extremitis of this fantastic esthetic territory.What mucha does in the Byzantine heads is adorning a Moravian head.
    Thien, thank you for your understanding of my dream and reminding me of prince Sindharta.And for the guessing of my philosophical background.Yes, I have a more developed way of communicating with words than fine art media. You can visit my blog values and societies where I have an essay on the triad of platonic values, Beauty, Good, True.
    http://values-and-societies.blogspot.com/
    Speaking of technique (which I don't have since it never interested me even if I have a theoretical art education), I met many years ago in Granada a lady who was a nurse and in the eve of her retirement she took up an art course. We met her in Albaicin drawing the beautiful neighbourd which by the way is Unesco patrimony. She was doing the linear prespective, a mathematical technique created by Bruneleschi and developed by Leon Batista Alberti.What i want to tell you is that this lady was perfect in this technique.We visted her at her studio and admired her art but to my stupefaction she told us that she never entered a museum in her whole life, never read a book of art, the life of an artist, etc, in a word no exposure whatsoever to what we call culture of academic art as opossed to outside art. yet since she took a course with a teacher she had a formal training. I see here the problem that Thien also named: extremes remain outside the question when one deals with art which is a social form of expression.

    Last edited by elenaM; March 20th, 2008 at 12:16 AM.
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    Ramon, we agree on this. Velazquez and Rembrandt transcend time and space, yet the painters of today look elsewhere to a different expression of this universal human truth.I would't dare to consider myself even a student of art, I play with pencils at this stage maybe you got it right is caricature more than anything.
    Yet, I wil show here a sketch called Paloma, my favorite in my recent minimalist phase which is a faux Asian because the eyes are not rendered accurately to be Asian. The iris of Asian eyes is oval not round from the angle is caught here.
    Yes, the oriental art is canon art, India and China are mamoth cultures that existed without interruption in their national space for millenia. The westernization of Asia will probably introduce new freedoms for artists too.The summerian culture existed as long as the summerian art remained unchanged for two millenia. Repeating the model was the strength at the ideological, visual level of the sumerian culture.

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    Last edited by elenaM; March 20th, 2008 at 10:38 AM.
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    I am sorry for assuming you where looking to study art academically in the sense of understanding form and light. Now seeing what you have posted i know this is not the case. However, please understand i only assumed this because this website is focussed on professional illustrators and aspiring illustrators and others in the entertainment art field which needs an understanding of realism and form to succeed in.

    As far as improving your work and understanding ethnic features i personally would measure the length and width of the features in comparison to the size of the head of the individual. Then compare the measurements of each ethnicity to other ethnicities. Also make sure your features are placed correctly on the face. I noticed that sometimes the features drift to one side (the eyes may be in the center but the mouth may be slightly to the left or right). Maybe if you imagined or even drew a center line between the eyes you could make sure your placement was correct. I do like how you vary your use of line for the nose from none to small ones. Many Asian and African/African American people don't have much of a nose bridge and its good that you noticed this.

    keep practicing and you will deffinitely get better. I hope this helps

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    Kevin, thank you again for your input. It's true that everything I posted here as ethnic sketch didn't take me more than 5 minutes to draw. Mostly from two or three nervous lines I I was interested to see the reaction of others to this fever that I have since january. I accumulated more than 150 sketches ten pages alone in small heads. So at this point it wasn't a question of practicing or paying attention to details, volumes, light, etc.
    More like an experiment with my aging eyes and hands.Of course i will work more closely into the depth of a portrait and also studying photos of ethnic faces since this is by now my fascination.
    Here I show some work done yesterday on a previous african american girl whic I sketched from imagination. I particularly like this sketch even if is quite far from african features i am looking to render. What bothers me is my inability to see the nose "in the true light" i.e to render it artistically correct.I got some suggestion from my husband who is an architect and has notions of shading.I guess I need some good books on perspective, and shading.
    So far so good, but my new work really frustrated me as i have many things to learn and i am impatient by nature.

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    Have you ever thought about doing sculpture studies of ethnic features? It might be an interesting exercise for you.

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    a younger ME

    At your unanimous suggestion that I should get beyond simplified, schematic drawing I took a photograph of myself in 1988 and tried to do some honest work of copying what I see and not use my imagination at all.At this point my work is in progress but as major flaws I noticed too late that my ears are not accurately rendered and the neck is too long. Also above the nose should be wider between the eyebrows. As about shading I stil have to learn a lot, but most than anything to train my patience for serious study.

    The first draft took me 25 minutes, the second sketch 1 1/2 hours as I am moving very timidly not because the eye is not trained but the hand is very slow and hesitant. I haven't drawn from the same period the photo was taken,i.e. late '80s.
    If there are other flaws in sketching my self portrait please let me know as I cannot be very objective with my work.Il chiaroscuro is what causes me more disappointment in my learning process as at this stage I am incapable of rendering it properly.

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    Last edited by elenaM; April 1st, 2008 at 02:57 AM.
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    learning the basics

    This wants to be a cross hatching job after the wood mask we bought in San Francisco recently.I am still shy and clumsy when is to learn techniques.One eye seems smaller but I saw the light in that area so I left it untouched.
    I know I still have a long way to go!Eventually I worked with it a little bit more but I didn't scan it again.Instead I tried to blend using a Qtip but the poor job I did with the hatching left no room for improvement of the final result.

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    Last edited by elenaM; March 30th, 2008 at 01:58 AM.
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    more learning

    THis is an exercise from a drawing online. And my work in progress of An African woman from Liberia.

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    Last edited by elenaM; April 1st, 2008 at 02:45 AM.
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    old stuff

    This is a girl also from imagination that I did when I was 12 (1967).I wonder how it compares with my imagination at 53 after 40 years of observing people.
    The answer is that probably my mind became saturated with people and culture and lost its candour.

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    drawing after 40 years

    still shy with my values.

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    I appreciate your decision to explore this subject matter this way. It interests me too. San Francisco Bay Area is a great place to get your ethnic sketch on.

    I spent last Sunday at the Asian Art Museum sketching from the exhibition of ukiyo-e paintings. They're hard to copy, but you immediately get an appreciation for how an artist can effectively reduce the complexities of things like faces and fabric into flowing lines and overlapping shapes. The more I sketched, the more evidence I found that the artists must have started from observing real life, but then stylizing and interpreting what they'd seen and making every mark their own through careful planning and adhering to certain constraints and traditions.

    I think your approach to seeing and drawing the essence of these faces is fine. A lot of us will naturally cringe at these. It's like you're bypassing what we'd consider the fundamentals and going straight to experimentation. Nonetheless, I think you'll become attuned to different things by giving yourself limitations (no more than five lines for an eye, three for a mouth, one for a jawline, etc.). Keep going and see where it takes you. Try a giving yourself a goal like 100 heads per week done this way.

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    Thank you Eugene. Your feedback is really appreaciated. I'm now in a learning process and after the joy of contours I started looking into value drawing, I mean learning it by doing, I will soon post a sketchpad. I visited your site and page on CA and you seem a seasoned artist.How come you found it difficult to sketch faces from the Asian art museum, I don't understand. But on the other hand copying a copy is always difficult. I would refrain from copying masters or any artist's work.
    Thanks a lot for your suggestions on minimal line approach.I will give it a try.

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    Muslim woman

    This is a quick sketch of a Muslim woman from imagination. I want to develop it into a more artistic project titled "allowed to see" and try with different media.

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    sketch of white babygirl

    THis sketch took me two hours and this is my first drawing of a baby. Partly from a photo partly from imagination.Is not ready I guess. But I put it anyway. Sorry for my scanner's crumbs of colored pencils.

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    the window

    An allegory of women in Islam;graphite and crayon on Strathmore drawing paper.

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    Chinese boy

    Graphite on Strathmore drawing paper.

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    Bali girl

    Graphite and markers on Strathmore drawing paper.I also colored the eyebrows black(marker) but didn't scan again.

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    Last edited by elenaM; April 9th, 2008 at 06:12 PM.
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