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Drawing Lesson 7, Part 1 – How to Draw Portraits

How to Draw Portraits – Amazon Woman Portrait

Video Lesson Description

In this video lesson, you will discover how to draw portraits on example of a female head from the classical Amazon Woman marble.

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How to Draw Portraits

This sculpture is exhibited in the British Museum in London. This marble head, from a statue of an Amazon, comes after an original of 5th century BC. It was excavated in Rome and now is mounted on a modern bust. The head marble measures 25 centimeters. This statue is associated with the Greek sculptor, Polykleitos.

How to Portraits – Classical proportions

For the purpose of this how to draw portraits lesson we will make a profile drawing; from this point of view, you will really be able to see the female’s head proportions.

I begin the drawing by marking the very top point of the head, as well as, marking at the base of the chin. At this stage it is important to examine and depict the tilt of the head.

In this lesson, you will discover how to draw portraits using two ovals method. The head proportions can be depicted with necessary precision by drawing ovals first and then fine-tuning their shapes.


How to Draw Portraits
The first oval is tilted down because the head is leaning forward. The second oval will represent the proportions of the front part of the head. Once again, its shape is not a precise outline of the head’s central line, but will serve a good purpose for building proportions of the Amazon’s head. The bottom half of this oval indicates the positions of the facial part from the eye-line down and will include the outlines of the lower jaw.

This video part on the topic of how to draw portraits will describe in details how these lines are contributing to the female head drawing.

Next steps of the video lesson on how to draw portraits will explain how to draw nose correctly and how to draw eyes.

From this point of view we only see the Amazon’s right eye. This eye is marked as the eyeball, at this step. The center of the eyeball is located on the smaller axis of the front oval. This axis divides the head-height in half. The eyeball’s outline is an invisible line; it will help us to position the eye with necessary precision and later on will be erased.


How to Draw Portraits - Drawing Academy Video Lesson
The Drawing Academy course has other video lessons dedicated to the subject of how to draw portraits and how to draw eyes in particular. Please refer to these videos for eyes’ shapes and proportions.

This “How to draw portraits” video part also presents an important topic of how to draw a mouth.

Study the curves of the upper and lower lips. Remember that according to the classical Roman proportions, the upper lip protrudes above the lower lip at about a 30-degree angle when viewed from the side.

The lower jaw outlines are located inside the front oval.

This woman portrait features quite elaborate hairstyle. There are certain rules a fine artist must know when drawing hairs. The topic of how to draw hairs is explained in depth in this drawing video lesson.

In the video lesson on the subject of how to draw portraits, I have covered in depth the construction and proportions of human ears. Please refer to this video if you need to refresh your knowledge on this topic.

When all the major head features are sketched out, we can continue with the smaller details. At this stage, the drawing is only done in thin outlines. It makes it much easier to correct any mistakes in the proportions. It is a good idea to double-check dimensions and angles on the drawing – comparing them to the model as we make sure we have the necessary precision in our liner constructive sketch. The likeness of the portrait will depend on this precision in sizes, dimensions and angles.

You may also notice that I have left more space on the right hand side compared to the left side. This is not accidental. The Amazon’s head is viewed in profile and is turned to the right. I intentionally positioned the drawing such that there is more space in front of the head. This space is called the “Lead room” or sometimes, “Nose room”.

When you consider how to draw portraits, keep in mind that the academic drawing requires, above all, practice and persistence. The great English fine artist of the 18th century, Joshua Reynolds, was instructing academy students that their success depends almost entirely on their diligence. However, he was saying that this diligence refers to the mind rather than the hands. Constantly asking questions such as: “What is the shape of this part?” “By how much is the nose bigger than the eye?” “What is the distance between the eye-line and the base of the chin?”, and so on, the fine artist will see, understand and be able to depict with precision, any portrait he or she is working on.

In this video lesson on how to draw portraits, I am presenting the classical drawing approach, which is very much suitable for a long-term portrait.

Some art teachers advocate a tonal drawing approach, which means that an artist does a portrait without preparation of constructive linear drawing. Instead, he or she concentrates on tonal shades of the model.

Many students ask me which method is better. Both can be used. However, if you are not a skilled portrait artist yet, the linear drawing will help you better to progress with your art skills.

So, if you want to perfect your drawing skills, do not skip the very important step of making linear drawings while you’re studying how to draw a head.

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