Trying to "Sculpt with the pencil" (Help with self portraits)
 
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  1. #1
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    Trying to "Sculpt with the pencil" (Help with self portraits)

    This is more about critique for my methods rather than any specific drawing. It's been said numerous times, don't just make marks on the paper but rather sculpt with the pencil and I'm trying to figure out how much that comparison (to sculpting) applies to drawing. I've been doing self portraits in the mirror and trying some different approaches. I'm not sure exactly what my question is about this so I'll just start posting some stuff and maybe it'll come to me.

    I've tried doing line drawings of my face and it's difficult to tell if the features are set up properly because frankly a line drawing isn't going to look like my real face, it'll always look a bit more on the cartoon side. Well maybe until I get really good at drawing. So that's my trouble with this approach is it's hard to tell if it's accurate so when I end up shading the form it comes out looking wrong.
    Trying to "Sculpt with the pencil" (Help with self portraits)
    Trying to "Sculpt with the pencil" (Help with self portraits)
    Trying to "Sculpt with the pencil" (Help with self portraits)
    Trying to "Sculpt with the pencil" (Help with self portraits)




    So the other approach I've tried is NOT line drawing the whole head before rendering, but rather just pick a spot in the face and render my way out until the whole head is done.
    Trying to "Sculpt with the pencil" (Help with self portraits)
    Trying to "Sculpt with the pencil" (Help with self portraits)
    The results are that the features are pretty wonky because I didn't plan the whole head out first (which I was doing originally with the line drawings.)

    My next and current WIP was with the thought of "sculpting with the pencil" taken a little more literally. It's similar to the above two drawings except I took more care with the rendering and I tried to think more of "pushing and pulling" clay (or in this case form) by adding/subtracting shadows and light. The result is currently that the eye is pretty nicely rendered, but wherever I go with it next ends up looking wrong because I'm having trouble judging the placement of any other features (since I haven't drawn the whole head from the start.)
    Trying to "Sculpt with the pencil" (Help with self portraits)

    It's like it's easier to compare to my face than the line drawings were but it's harder to keep drawing 'cause it's all guess work as far as placing the features and stuff.

    I feel I should also note I've tried "constructing" the head in basic 3D shapes first like the Loomis approach, and for imaginary drawings of people it seems to work okay but when I try to use it for my own head (striving for accuracy) it seems to be lacking (or else I just suck at it.) and I can't seem to turn the "sphere + jaw-line" into a form that matches my own head. Not to mention it's very difficult to start drawing a face over top of a transparent 2 dimensional "sphere" shape because there isn't actually a "surface" to sculpt the face into as there would be with clay. On paper the sphere's surface is just an illusion.

    SO! That was a lot to read. Sorry. I guess my questions are, have any of my approaches been good/bad? Is there anything else you recommend I try? Is the answer simply: "Drawing faces is freaking hard and you should just keep playing with it until you start to figure it out", and/or "Any method is fine so long as it gets you the end results you seek"?

    Thank you in advance for your time if you actually read all this and respond. In the meantime I will continue trying to finish the last image with the eye. If you want, here's a photo of what I'm kind of seeing in the mirror. I've lit myself up with one lamp off to the side. Edit: Plus monitor light from the other side.
    Trying to "Sculpt with the pencil" (Help with self portraits)

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    Last edited by manlybrian; June 7th, 2011 at 07:06 AM.
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    And then God said, "Let us make man in our likeness and our image. Let us make him ridiculously hard to draw so that poor artists everywhere will have to spend 10,000+ hours failing repeatedly before they can begin to capture the form and likeness onto a two-dimensional surface." And there was man. And it was good. And artists everywhere lost their minds.
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  4. #2
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    Small update. I've got the other eye placed. Not sure if the nose is right or not. This approach seems to be showing a little more promise so far but it's painstakingly slow and probably unreliable. I don't know if it would actually benefit me when drawing other things, only when copying life or photos.

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    And then God said, "Let us make man in our likeness and our image. Let us make him ridiculously hard to draw so that poor artists everywhere will have to spend 10,000+ hours failing repeatedly before they can begin to capture the form and likeness onto a two-dimensional surface." And there was man. And it was good. And artists everywhere lost their minds.
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    Approach where you start with a well-rendered eye=bad
    approach where you start rendering before drawing the whole thing=bad

    I wouldn't even look at rendering at all right now. It's really the icing on the cake, after you have a solid, well-constructed face.

    The problem with these approaches..well, you've already run into them. You get reaaally nice individual features, but after that they're gonna be skewed and all over the place.

    Faces really need to be constructed properly to work. It shouldn't be guess-work or place-as-you-go. Heck, even if you can't get a good likeness down, [which is hard!] it should still look solid.

    Your first and third ones aren't bad at all, but the shading doesn't tell me much in the way of structure or light direction, so I would advise to skip it entirely. 'Sculpt with a pencil' is a good mentality if you understand what it means. A sculptor starts with a big block of clay and breaks it down, chiseling away at the biggest planes that recede, chopping off bits that don't matter, until he has something he can refine and work with and make lifelike, AFTER the solid base is there. It doesn't mean rendering an eye and guessing as you go, that's the opposite

    What really helped me was Vilppu's three lectures on drawing a head. Loomis is good, but Vilppu gives you an in-depth, anatomical understanding of the entire skull almost to the point of being repetitive, which is fantastic. After you watch those, you will be able to see why Loomis or your favourite artist constructs the way he does, and how to apply it to your own face and your own drawings.

    EDIT AFTER SEEING OTHER PIC:
    That being said, I can see you have a good eye for spotting things, but learning structure will really help make your faces more consistent, and the whole process much less painful.

    Last edited by etui; June 7th, 2011 at 08:32 AM. Reason: op added another pic
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    Yep, you called it. The jawline / nose is too far to the left. I feared it was getting that way as I went down but it's hard to tell when you're feeling your way blindly. (The face might be too long as well.)

    Thank you for your answer, that really helps. Out of curiosity, if I'm not worrying about light and shade, what should I focus on when doing self portraits? Do I just use lines? And if so what do I do about features, just try and place them accurately and worry about likeness later or something? I'll try to find the Vilppu lectures and watch them. Unless you happen to have a link for me or something?

    Trying to "Sculpt with the pencil" (Help with self portraits)

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    And then God said, "Let us make man in our likeness and our image. Let us make him ridiculously hard to draw so that poor artists everywhere will have to spend 10,000+ hours failing repeatedly before they can begin to capture the form and likeness onto a two-dimensional surface." And there was man. And it was good. And artists everywhere lost their minds.
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    Check out this gallery: http://www.flickr.com/photos/barnsto...7609515968123/

    There's a bunch of random stuff in there that won't be useful to you, but a bunch of them are self-portraits by students of the school I went to.

    It's true that it's really hard to get a likeness with just lines. I think you'll see in those S-Ps that they're using value, but it's always subordinate to the construction lines. You can use value more symbolically, to show plane changes, rather than rendering. We were taught to start SPs with the vertical axis of the face, then place on that the horizontal (in perspective) axis running through the eyes. Then measure to find the width of the eye and use that to figure out everything else. If you hold up your pencil vertically or horizontally, you can easily see where things are in relation to everything else. For example: the left edge of your mouth lines up vertically with the left edge of your eye, is that really where it should be? There's no need to feel your way blindly. If you place all the features accurately and make them the right shapes, you will get a likeness.

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    your doing a good job, they look quickly done, very good likeness.

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    It seems that what you need is a better skill at spotting the structure in what you see and translating it into the drawing. I understand what you've written this way: you can construct the head, more or less, without reference; and you can copy, more or less, a head that you see, but you cannot connect the two processes. It seems to me that you simply built two methods which don't "talk" to each other: one for building, another for copying.

    If that's the case, what would help you is looking at the face (even your own face) structurally. Don't just follow what you see with the pencil; actively find anchor points, follow the centerline, measure the angles and levels with your eye, etc., think of how it all relates to the underlying bones and muscles... There isn't a sharp "disconnect" between being aware of the overall structure and seeing it in a face; it's something you can learn quickly enough if you focus on it consciously.

    Always draw structurally even if it feels easier to just copy the visual field. After all, structure, measurement, planes and overall awareness of form in space are what "sculpting with pencil" is about,

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    Try a couple in the mirror. It's harder, but it will be more fruitful.

    When you work from a picture, you tend to copy the mere pattern of light and dark shapes. When you work from life, you see "oh, my cheekbone sticks out here and there's a dent in the inner corner of my eye" -- structural things.

    I was once on the receiving end of a critique so savagely nasty, I marched straight out of class to the office and changed my major (sketchbook).
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    Great advice so far. I believe you are working from a mirror, right? I would maybe recommend doing some in charcoal so you get broader passages and focus on planes and form vs. cast shadow as Maugham does in his book. It will still require all the same observation and measuring but it will be faster, you won't get caught up in detail and it will help you see your head as a whole. I would lose the cap as well - just adding unnecessary complexity.

    But yes, good job and "Drawing faces is freaking hard and you should just keep playing with it until you start to figure it out". It will come to you, don't worry.

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    Oh, I missed that. I saw the photo and assumed they were drawn from photo.

    Too busy lookin' at the pitchers.

    I was once on the receiving end of a critique so savagely nasty, I marched straight out of class to the office and changed my major (sketchbook).
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    I agree with Jeff grab a stick of charcoal and draw yourself with the whole long side and then go and scratch in the details ...what this does is helps you see the basic shapes that make the face and how a simple glint to the eye can take a drawing from sketch to finish......when I painted in oils I tried to lay it all out with a 3-4 inch brush.....in other words once your layout is nailed the details just come natural or as I like to say go big or go home.. which to me means define the shape with bold strokes and define from there

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  21. #12
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    @Arenhaus That is exactly true, thanks you for that. I'll try and merge the two.

    @Jeff Good plan, I'll take up some charcoal. And good news, I actually found my Maugham book yesterday! I'd lost it quite a while back. So I'll be going through it again 'cause I forgot most of the stuff I'd read in it before.

    @Williams Sounds good. I'll practice the basic shapes with charcoal.

    I think I'm back on the right track for now, although I'll still accept any advice if anybody's got more.
    Edit: I always wear this hat, heh. I'll do some more with it off.

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    And then God said, "Let us make man in our likeness and our image. Let us make him ridiculously hard to draw so that poor artists everywhere will have to spend 10,000+ hours failing repeatedly before they can begin to capture the form and likeness onto a two-dimensional surface." And there was man. And it was good. And artists everywhere lost their minds.
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