Proportions of the Human Head
There are pastel artists who claim they never have any idea what colors they are going to use in a portrait sitting. I'm glad that philosophy works for them, but I generally have a standard in my mind for any aspect of art. Just as in walking, when you take that first step --- you are taking that step from where? Answer: You are taking it from wherever you happen to be, your reference spot.
Just as I have a reference spot when walking, I likewise already have a reference vision in my mind when painting, so therefore, it is much easier to compare that vision with reality. When drawing or painting a woman, for instance, I have in my mind a vision of the perfect woman, my ideal Black beauty, as a reference, having perfect body proportions and perfect facial features, and I alter that image as I draw or paint whatever woman, of any race, who happens to be my model. And, that model can be a photograph.
To give you a practical illustration of my thought process as I render my model's portrait, I will generalize my description of the dimensions of the typical human face and ignore the specifics of my ideal Black beauty, in order to assist you in your own thought process of anyone, in case you have the same drawing/thought style that I have. Here goes ...
For the average head, in my mind I say that the perfect face is divided into equal thirds, those thirds being:
- From the hairline to the top of the eyebrows
- From the top of the eyebrows to the bottom of the nose
- From the bottom of the nose to the bottom of the chin
NOTE: There is a subtle bonus for using this measuring technique. That being that it is much easier to locate the placement of the ear; for obviously, the ear is situated in the middle section.
I further say that the bottom of the lower lip is halfway between the bottom of the nose to the bottom of the chin. In placing the month, every art book I have seen states that the centerline dividing the lips is one-third the distance between the bottom of the nose and the bottom of the chin. However, to me, it is easier to indicate the halfway mark of anything (as opposed to a third), which in this case, locates the bottom of the lower lip and not the centerline dividing the lips.
By the time I reach this point, I can pretty much clearly envision my model on the pastel paper. However, as further check-up, I may or may not then say to myself that her eye line is exactly halfway between the top of her head to the bottom of her chin. Believe it or not, for decades I did not know that the eye line divided the head in half, and when I did discover it, I was frustrated with myself for this previous lack of knowledge because I simultaneously learned that it was common knowledge even to non-artists. This frustration was further compounded by the fact that it should have been especially the more obvious to me (than the method I adopted of dividing the face in equal thirds) since it is much easier for me to divide things in half, as I already indicated.
Also, a life-sized portrait can be quickly assessed if I presuppose that the distance from her hairline to the bottom of her chin is the same distance as my outstretched and open hand, from the tip of my middle finger to the tip of my thumb [try it on yourself and be amazed in how accurate that measurement is], and that the width of her head is two-thirds the distance from her hairline to the bottom of her chin --- for example, it is the same distance as from her brow line to the bottom of her chin.
I have these sorts of measurements and dimensions, in my mind, for all the body proportions of my ideal Black female figure, which is one of my two specialties; the other is depicting biblical characters.
And, in case you are wondering what else I include in my reference vision of my ideal woman, a Black beauty, I will only reveal that it includes images of her expansive rounded forehead, her small recessed chin, her big baby doll eyes, her broad/non-pointy nose and her natural full, equally pronounced, pouty lips.
Even though you ought to be able to easily envision what I am discussing here, I feel you would probably like to see visual representations of this verbal tutorial in action right about now. For that you can go to a website I discovered which has a page which illustrates the technique independently created by Mr. Andrew Loomis and Ms. E. Grace Hanks in the early 20th century. And by now you know it is my preferred method since I strongly favor, recommend and advocate it time and time again right here on my website.
While searching the referenced website, below, I could not find any instance where the artist gave credit for the origins of the material, but the Loomis method is clearly evident for those who are familiar with Andrew Loomis' masterful art instruction.
Illustrated Loomis Method Face Drawing Instruction
Here is another one likened to the one above that borrows heavily from The Loomis Method and even though the artist also does not give credit, nevertheless, it is quite evident where the artist obtained the technique.
The Loomis Head Drawing Method Illustrated
Many would-be artists think that drawing a likeness is difficult, that drawing the head is a chore. But, once you get the hang of it, you can draw a head quite rapidly. I average around ten (10) minutes. How long do you think it takes the artist at
? On the other hand, whereas many people feel coloring is simple, I once felt that the painting part was hard (as I discussed in my preface). So, exactly what colors are for rendering flesh tones? And, are there skin tone formulas?
For the answers to those questions and more, just continue on to ...
Chapter 2: So-Called Flesh Colors