Four tips for Drawing a Head like a Painter

Updated: 7 days ago

Have you ever looked at a painting and marveled at the elegance of each brushstroke? Have you ever admired the way the paint seems to float and dance along the surface of the canvas? What if you could capture that same energy in a charcoal drawing? Landscape and Portrait artist, Josh Clare can show you how, using vine charcoal and a few simple tools.

Let’s break down his process into four basic steps.

1.) Focus on a two-value statement; light shapes and shadow shapes.

Some of the greatest painters of all time were known not for their ability to create complexity but for their ability to simplify it. John Singer Sargent was known to brag that he could paint a realistic-looking hand with ten brush strokes. The reason painters like Sargent were and are able to communicate something as anatomically complex as a hand with such simple shapes was because they have taught themselves to see the abstract light and dark shapes that create the illusion of a hand or a face. As you draw, don't start by looking for the exact curvature of the eyelid. Look for the shape created by the shadow cast across the eye socket.

2.) When making marks, think about the imaginary horizontal and vertical lines which connect the landmark shapes on the face.

It is the relationships between the shapes in drawing that make it or break it. Not the

flair with which it is drawn or even the overall technique of application. When you are deciding where to place a mark, check to see where the corresponding shape on your reference material lines up horizontally and vertically with landmarks such as the corners of the eyes, the bottom of the nose, or the top of the ear.

3.) Don’t be afraid to let your edges smear and disappear. What is left unsaid is just as important as what is said.

This advice is exactly what it sounds like. Don’t overthink and overwork things. Your secret weapon as an artist is the power of implication. Give the viewer just enough information for their mind to start filling in the blanks. You don’t need to draw every single inch of an outline, every wrinkle in the skin, or every hair on the head.

4.) Work loose and light so you can easily move your shapes and values as you go.

Allow your drawing to evolve as you work. Working with soft charcoal and using light pressure on the paper is key to maintaining this flexibility. Don’t become overly attached to a shape, line, or section of your drawing. If it needs to be moved or changed, move it or change it. It doesn’t matter if you have drawn a perfect nose, if the nose is in the wrong place it will ruin the whole piece. Give yourself the freedom to let go of parts of your drawing to make the overall drawing better.

Josh Clare studied art at Brigham Young University- Idaho and has earned many awards and honors such as artists' choice at the 2012 Laguna Plein Air Invitational, and 2nd place in the Raymar 6th Annual Painting Competition. He has been featured in such magazines as Western Art and Architecture, Southwest Art, and Art of the West as well as many others.

To learn more from Josh Clare, view his course list HERE or join us at the Vision X 22 art conference HERE.


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