Anatomy Process: "Drawing the Head with Ron Lemen" covers light and head anatomy
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    Anatomy Process: "Drawing the Head with Ron Lemen" covers light and head anatomy

    Recap of my Gnomon Workshop Lecture


    The start…

    First, thank you for attending the workshop. I apologize if what I said came across in any way confusing, and that is why I am writing this reprise, to clear the air of any confusing thoughts, etc. And to redeem the drawings if you found them less than satisfactory…heh

    When we start an idea, and since I am drawing portraits here for the ideation of character design or panels in comics or storyboards, I can’t emphasize enough how you cannot start with foundation to help you find something new. New cannot grow from what we already do. If you have learned an art system, all that can be done with it has already been. These systems are foolproof ways of gaining insight into the world of creation, which is not a system. How do we start on our path to discovering the secrets of Nano or Molecular Biomechanics harvested? We start with basic math and science. From these basic concepts we then build and grow ideas from them, and if we are careless enough to know there are rules created to be broken, we might just find that something new. But it all starts with foundation for control, and foundation for change when error occurs, but don’t lead your head with it or you will fall into a time and again trap.

    Foundation first, if you don’t know it, you have to learn it or the real job world will more often than not reject you. That is a bad way to try entering into the workforce as an artist. Unless art is in your blood and the art director sees raw talent that can be motivated, then you need, absolutely need to have foundation as your guide.

    Preaching aside, let’s get into the sketch routine of drawing and lighting consistently, characters from scratch. There was no time for the additional information of expression, but that is also going to be included in the DVD’s.


    The Sketch-fleshing out ideas begins with loose abstract concepts of shape, be they drawn in line, shape or form, the idea here is to search for something unique, something you wouldn’t routinely draw. Scribbles help begin this process, use the other hand, throw a bunch of junk together and look for interesting, developing shapes, or find your own way. There has to be a way to break the mold of what you do all too often. If ideas are too radical, they can always be culled back to something manageable. But get radical!!!

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    All of the scribbles should be given some attempt of completion. Don’t avoid one because it is hard to see something in it. That is when new styles form if you stretch yourself into making these things work. Then, Find the most appealing of the bunch, or the one that shows the most potential for development, and move into the 3 view...

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    Fleshing out the form-This next step is where foundation is a must. If no foundation or understanding is there for the artist to fall back onto, then the concept can and more than likely will loose its strength as a design, or fall apart as the artist struggles to draw around the form poorly placing further features and such of our subject.

    Structure is very important in this stage. Anatomy is important, but not as much as the understanding of planes, and basic geometric knowledge of the shapes the surface anatomy generates (which is still no excuse in the long run for not learning the anatomy too since the planes are a reflection of the anatomy!) We need to understand that a head is structurally planed, as opposed to a ball form or completely soft with no inner surface divisions clearly defined (that is unless you are in a stylized animation). The ball acts as a place holder for the specific geometry to come. A top, a back, two sides, a front and back are the first generalized planes to visit, the ones visible to the eye from this set of planes.
    In the front, the nose cone, tooth cylinder, eye balls and wedges for the eye sockets, and forehead and chin blocks are the added to the mass. This inner structure is ideally what defines the volumetric character features, as opposed to the exterior line called the contour, that helps us read the immediate big shape of something regardless of whether it is totally lit or not. These two principals help us recognize someone at a glance.


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    Let me turn away from this process for a moment, what I just last defined are two attributes to keep in mind when we are looking for a likeness, or someone we recognize, the contour and the plane structure, or overall form. The form is lit with a high contrast light, creating a movement of dark shadows over the form defining it dimensionally, in art this is termed tenebrism. Regardless of the direction of light, the plane structures should still have some sense of recognizable identity of that someone specific.

    Going back to the structure, once a concept of planes has been generated, they can be sanded down, that is softened to accommodate a softer general form structure, but begin rigid with the planes until this concept is intuitive.

    I will typically light my concept ideas to retain 100% of the vision I had since I see it in my mind clearly, in color, moving or spinning as I need it to. Sometimes the idea is hard to conceptualize thoroughly, so I have to scribble a bit more to find it, but eventually I should be able to focus the minds eye-lens to seeing the vision or idea, an important trait to exercise, like a muscle, with exercises to help develop it.

    The 3 view-We take the sketch and move it into the finished 3 view. Transfer the idea to a new cleaner sheet of paper off to one side so that the other 2 views can be drawn next to the first sketch. Once the original has been transferred over, horizontal axis lines are drawn across the page cutting directly atop on underneath each major feature as you need them to transfer the information to the other 2 views.

    When designing your 3 view with lighting, make sure not to kill your shadow side into total black unless it is in the vain of a stylized comic, that is, describe as much as you can in the design process. Don’t leave the details out of the design drawings, they are your guides for all your other drawings related to this or these particular characters.

    This means that you will need to understand reflected light to develop a core shadow of sorts for further form understanding, as the core shadows are also planes, transitory planes that help you get from one major side to the next.

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    Some concepts to help keep proportions realistic-

    Profiles-profiles generally fit into a square from the tip of nose, to top of the skull, to the back of the skull, to the bottom of the chin. These 4 points help us create the abstract notion of a squared proportion.

    The ear fits in the lower left quadrant if the profile is drawn facing the left, lower right if drawn facing the right.

    The top of the eyes and the top of the ears, the bottom of the nose and the bottom of the ears generally line up horizontally. Caricaturing the head bends this rule.

    Dividing the skull into 1/3rds at the hair line, top of the eye brow, bottom of the nose where it attaches, and the bottom of the chin.

    More fine tuning of proportions, from the top of the skull to the tip of the nose or base of the nose is the same or similar in distance to the bottom of the nose and the pit of the neck, or the sternum, and the same distance from the sternum to the zyphoid process. But this is for our figure discussion…

    The eye socket is attached to the check projection line, creating the second profile contour of the face.

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    ¾ view-most important is that the tip of the nose will normally touch the far cheek contour line. This will immediately resolve the issue of centering the nose, to balance the eye sockets and the corners of the mouth to the nose.

    The mouth, or the tooth cylinder is projected forward, causing the center of the mouth to sit where we would not think if we just followed our standard center line. The brow, nose, tooth cylinder and chin all protrude forward into their own centerline that is anchored to the original centerline possibly if it was placed accurately from the start of the drawing.

    The brow generally extends outward from the skull, but in rhythm stays flush with the brow. Caricaturing will exaggerate this concept also.

    1/3rds Rule applies again for facial feature divisions with relatively no perspectival differences between major surfaces, i.e. side to front, side to back. Adding to what has already been said about the thirds concept, these lines are flexible, no one person really has ideal thirds one will generally be larger, compressing the other two into equal or unequal smaller units of measure. But, to keep features aligned, we need those divisions. The ears will still remain in alignment with the nose also regardless of what we do with those thirds.

    Connect the nose to the inside eye socket between the outside edge of the inside wing of the nostril to the inner corner of the inside eye…this helps establish the nose cone proper and separate it from the cheek form.

    Find the ¾ point side of the skull down the temple through the eye socket down the cheek, around the outside edge of the zygomatic arch down around the outside edge of the tooth cylinder, possibly passing through the corner of the mouth depending upon the character type, and down into the outer contour of the ball of the chin…

    Hair line runs parallel with the outside corner of the eye socket when drawing it around down the side of the face to the top of the ear.

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    Front View-Start from the middle out. Make a center line, here is where the centerlines recesses are not visible other than through tonal shading. Starting from the center out means figure out the distance between the eyes first, this helps begin the likeness chain.

    Generally there is one eye distance between the two eyes, and from outer ears edge to related outer ears edge is 5 eyes distance.

    The corners of the nose or outside edges of the wings of the nostrils line up vertically with the tear ducts of the eyes.

    The corners of the mouth line up with the centers of the eyes, or more specifically, the centers of the irises.

    There is space between the outside corners of the eyes and the hairline or inner line of the ear. Laugh line in older people, properly termed the nasolabial furrow attaches to the middle top of the back edge of the wing of the nostril, curves around the orbital of the mouth and away from the mouth a small distance, roughly the distance of the tubercle of the middle of the lip from corner to corner.

    Center of the lips, split line is generally half way between the bottom of the nose and the bottom of chin.

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    All of the above given are general tools for ideal faces and should be considered a fall back within your special proportions where necessary. DON’T rely upon them as absolutes or you will fall into the rule trap, all your characters will suffer from the similarity syndrome. Originality suffers from rules stepping in first.

    A KEY to remember about any face, ideal or fantastically designed, the contours all mirror one another to some extent, or the same shape pattern or form designs will find themselves in almost every form of the face. Profile really shows this trait off as the inner and outer profile contours of the front of the face, the nose shape, the eye socket shape all feel very similar.

    When fleshing in values, make sure to start with general flat tones, filling the entire object with the objects local color to understand its general relationship with the values surrounding it, i.e. hair value to flesh, flesh to shirt, shirt to hair, hair to background or surroundings, background to skin tone, etc.


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    Then block in the appropriate value of shadows of all these object values, that is, if a light object has a dark contrast of about 3-5 values difference, it will be lighter in the shadows as opposed to the shadows of the middle and dark value objects that will still have a 3-5 value difference between the lights and darks, but appropriate to their local values, see chart for clarity of concept. The object is not the same value everywhere in the shadows, the shadow values are local surface value relative (see diagrams below) Diagram 1 shows the result of using one value for all different types of local values. The object appears to have more bounce light throughout as opposed to looking directly lit with strong shadows as example 2 shows.

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    Building The Frames-

    Ok, now that we know who we have, we need to build frames to prove our likeness issues.

    Lets first go through a series of typical lighting conditions-

    Top, Bottom, Front, Back, Side, ¾ view lighting


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    This chart will help us understand in concept how to get around the visual cues in our head as to what to see in lighting. See the similarities in likeness regardless of the complexity of shadow pattern?

    Lets pick 5 frames since I have more time to do this, and exemplify dual lighting, side lighting from an extreme, back lighting from above, low angle front top left lighting shot from the right and dramatic mood lighting, grabbing from our 3 view and from our lighting chart.


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    We will sketch the frames in Black and White to get the forms reading clearly. If you are new to drawing, I would recommend maybe starting with line as opposed to be blocks of value to learn proportions of things you draw. Losing information before you find it can develop bad work habits later on. But eventually you will let go of this line drawing concept in search of other ways to block in an image.
    Once the drawing is found, the artist should be able to proceed right into blocking in the tones to establish whatever lighting he is looking for.

    Let us put an organized working order to what we do here so we have a clear understanding of what to do if you have no working habits yet.

    1. Block in-since we are unclear of several points in our picture, lets rough in the general block in of the image, to clearly understand where, how, who etc. stay loose, we are scribbling again for a bit.
    2. Next we tighten up the image, placing any rules you need into the image to help at this stage, i.e. center line, 1/3rds, etc. block out using the understanding of perspective, the axis of the forehead and chin in relationship to their adjacent planes, locating the pitch and tilt of the head.
    3. Fill in values of the object according to how we found them in our 3 view.
    4. Color over the values with appropriate color/values to add colors to image, adhering to the color theory rules we will be going over shortly.
    5. Mould the values of the forms with their colors or without, until they have the correct, or accurate perspectival read in the image to properly exude the correct lens tilt, as well as chipping out the appropriate plane structure in light and dark, perspectivally strengthening the image through the lens.
    6. Continue fleshing out the forms, rounding them as needed for additional subtlety. During this step we start introducing the details, the specific features etc. sharpening and softening edges to polish the image to a finish.


    Color Theory at a Glance-First in the workshop I forgot to mention that I learned color theory from my mom and Gary Pruner, both exceptional colorists, when I was a kid, then Jim Kaneko, an old ex-Art Center Instructor, then my biggest push in understanding color came from Sebastian Capella. All that you read below is a combination of all these folks and many more including Craig Mullins etc. I would say that my biggest understanding came from the painter Sebastian Capella, who is the premier living portrait artist of Spain, a descendent of Sorolla’s way of painting.

    1. value=color A concept I would like to describe first before proceeding into the rest of the discussion. This is the best way to put it, black and white photos come from color reality and black and white photos are completely about value, therefore, color=value. It is very strange that an artist in training can sit down to a drawing and block out a great black and white depiction of what they see, but set in front of a palette of colors, cannot go back to what they see and copy it genuinely. Part of this inability arises from not knowing this new medium of color, whatever it be, i.e. oil, digital, pastel, etc. The other part of why we can do the black and white thing vs. the color thing is that the number of color choices we have and what we do and don’t know what mixing options we have sitting in front of us, confuses the issue of where to start. Maybe some of what is discussed further can clear this part up.

    Last edited by Sepulverture; November 24th, 2009 at 09:09 AM.
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