A few tips for the portrait drawing newbie. How to draw—book recommendations, advice, lessons.
Drawing for Newbies

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ProfileOne of the most important parts of learning to draw what you see is to break things down into Negative Space.

"Negative Space" is the area around the actual object you want to draw. When you look really hard at the thing you want to draw, you will start to see these negative shapes as abstract forms. Instead of seeing a nose, or a mouth, you'll see the abstract shapes that are around the nose and mouth. But since these abstract shapes share a border with the nose and mouth, when you draw the abstract (negative) shape, you'll be drawing the outline of the nose and mouth as well.

When you draw the negative spaces in a picture, you often end up with a more accurate drawing. Strange, but true!

The reason you draw inaccurately in the first place is because your brain "sees" the object you want to draw in symbolic terms, and it tries to override what your eyes actually see. When you draw the "negative space" (an abstract shape) your brain has nothing to hold onto—it can't tell try to fool you with its simple "symbolic" way of seeing things.

In this picture to the left, the girl is drawn in black and white. The "negative space" is the teal green background.


 

Here are two (rather messy) illustrations of the "negative space" of the girl's profile. (Forgive me, I made these illustrations quickly in Photoshop!)

One picture is right-side-up, one upside down. (Drawing an image upside down is also an effective way to "trick" your brain into seeing things more accurately.) If you try to draw these abstract shapes, you will find that you'll end up with a more accurate drawing than if you merely try to draw the girl's profile as you see it in the black and white line drawing. Try drawing the abstract shapes of a picture! You'll be amazed at what you produce!

When you understand that you can "override" your brain and really see what you are drawing, you'll use this "negative space" method for anything you want to draw.

If you are drawing from a photograph, try turning it upside down and looking for abstract shapes and forms. This is a common method to help artists draw more accurately. I use it all the time.


Angles in Face(Click on image to see larger version)

Another thing to look for when you are drawing are the "angles." Look for the "angles" in any object you are drawing. Break down the shape into simpler, more angular lines. This will help you understand the true shape of the object you are drawing.

Once you see and lightly sketch in the "angles" in the object (like in the illustration on the left), you can then "smooth" them out and refine them (illustration on the right).

Look for the angles in everything—they are there!

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