Drawing Tips

How To Divide Lines: The Holy Grail for Great Drawing

Proportion and Dividing Lines

Dividing a Line Equally without a Ruler

Anyone who has picked up a pencil and wanted to make an accurate drawing knows the most important thing is proportions. That mean you need to divide things up. Sometimes into several pieces. Now you can eye ball it but if you want to get to a better level of accuracy then you want to use a few simple techniques that will take your drawing to the next level. 

Dividing a Line Segment into 5 Equal Parts

Now I can use this method to divide it into any number of parts but for this exercise it will divide it into five.

1.First draw the line you need to divide using a straight edge.

2. Draw a line of “any angle”(it doesn’t matter the angle)  from point “A”. As pictured     below

3. Using a compass or a divider or even a ruler or even two random marks of any length. Mark off five equal spaces along your line.

4. Connect you last marked space to point “B.”(This is very important)  Then using parallel lines connect the marked points to the line “AB”.

5. Now you have a line that is divided equally into 5 parts.

Now the great part is you can do this by hand the same process and you will divide things much more accurately and quickly than you ever thought possible. Give it a try.

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How to Draw the Head – The Basics

The Fundamentals of a Head
Starting with the Classic method of Developing a
Portrait from the Egg shape.

Step 1 – We start with an oval or egg shape.

Generally the oval is about a 1/3 taller than it is wide. If you are having trouble with drawing ovals grab an egg from the refrigerator and quickly making some ovals. 20 to 40 will go a long way in helping you get more comfortable drawing the shape

Step 2 – Once we have drawn our oval we will cut the oval in half with a horizontal line.

This is the “eye line”. From the “eye line” to the bottom of the oval we will divide this space in half to mark where the “nose line” is located. From the “nose line” to the bottom of the oval we will divide this space in half once again to establish the “mouth line”. One very import note the mouth line is where the bottom lip will touch or close to it. View the illustration below to make this more clear.

Step 3 Head width

The width of the head is measured in “eye spaces”. The head width is generally 5 eye spaces wide along the “eye line” which should be the widest part of our oval. Let’s divide that into five eye spaces as seen below. Now using a center line will make things easier. For those who follow my newsletter I had an art tip on dividing a line of any length into five equal sections which you can use, but for the most part when I was a student we where taught to just eye ball it. Then using a ruler and or your thumb and pointed end of the pencil to measure and check each section to make sure the spaces were equal.

Step 4 – 3 Eye Spaces

If you remember one things please remember this. Eye spaces 2, 3, and 4 are always the same width. This is the two eyes and the space between your eyes sometimes referred to as the “third eye”. Eye spaces 1, 5 can vary depending on the person’s face how round or how thin they are and so forth.

Step 5 – The Eye Line Measurements are Key.

The five spaces help us locate all other measurement of the face.
Nose– drop straight lines from the side of eye space “3” to give you the width of the nose.
Corners of the Mouth. Drop line from approximately the middle of eye spaces “2” and “4” for the width of the mouth. Look at the illustration below. Remember the “Bottom of the Lip” touches the “Mouth Line”
Other Features
Ears – The Ears are in the space between the “nose line” and the “eye line”
Hair – Your hair grows off and from you skull so the illustration show the original oval or egg shape as a checked line and the hair line out and off the skull.
Neck – Use a cylinder for the neck. Now the neck can be dropped straight down from the ears if the person is a line backer or something. If it’s in too far from the jar it looks like a cartoon neck so somewhere between those extremes are where the neck will be.

Step 6 – Putting it all together.

This shows a very simple generic and simplified portrait using the proportions I talked about. Look where the simple nose falls or where the lips, ears and so forth are located. Next month will go through the steps of creating a portrait using these proportions we have discussed today.

How to Draw the Portrait

Drawing a Portrait From The Classic “Egg” Shape

pencil portrait by artist Kevin McCain

Step 1
Starting with the Oval

Draw in an oval. Be careful to measure the proportion of how tall the head is to how wide using a pencil held in your hand and  extended at arms length use the tip of the pencil and your thumb to take proportional measurements. I forgot to do this and instead jumped right into the drawing and I had to go back and do some major revisions to my drawing that could have been avoided if I had taken more care.

egg-shapesm

Step 2
Measure off the Eye, Nose and Mouth Lines

Establish a center line, 1/2 of the Oval for the eye line, 1/4 nose line and 1/8 mouth line. From there look for the small variances in the person’s features. Measure the features, everyone’s eyes, nose and mouth will vary being slightly longer or shorter than the standard proportions (example the nose is usually half way between the eyes and chin. Some people will have a nose slightly longer or shorter.)
Try to get as close as possible to that person’s unique proportions. Use your pencil and thumb to gauge accurate proportional measurements. After measuring the head I moved the chin line a little lower. I also reestablished the width of the head after observing the width of her head was about the same as the length from the bottom of her chin to her eyebrow. I then marked the eyebrow line. I then measured and marked where the forehead ended. The distance from brow to forehead was the same as from the chin to nose.

drawing the portrait. Dividing the egg shape.

Check the following relationships and measure them (remember these are proportional measurements. Using pencil and thumb.)
1. Eyes to the Chin
2. Eyes to the Top of the Head
3. Nose to eyes
4. Nose to chin
5. Head width across the eye line to chin to brow
6. Compare brow to hairline against nose to chin.
Mark off all the relationships you note while comparing these areas.

modified-construction-lines-sm

Step 3
Drawing in the Features Using Basic Shapes

I begin to draw in the basic eyes, nose, mouth and eyebrows ( I will do detailed art tips on drawing the individual features later.) These basic shapes allow me to observe the basic relationships between the features and allows me to see what I may have missed and what needs to change.

portrait-middle-stages-sm

Step 4 Modify and Refine

After all the remeasuring I saw a couple of needed changes. I noticed I made the head too long, her head needed to be a bit wider. The eyes were slightly too close together especially after widening the head so I moved the eyes(this is why I kept the features simple so changes would be much easier to make.) I redrew the nose, changed the mouth slightly, and redefined the shape of the hair as it defines the forehead. Below shows me in the process of making the changes I have listed.

near-final-drawing-sm

Step 5

Recheck and Refine
After getting everything redrawn I noticed I still had the face too long so I modified the width by about a 1/16th of an inch. I widened the space between the eyes by about 1/32nd of an inch. I redrew the lips widening them about 1/16th of an inch and finally widened the nose just under 1/8th of an inch. These little changes really helped. Look at the final sketch below.

finished-portrait-sm

Special Notes
Taking it to the next level.

If I was to make this into a finished drawing there are still some modifications that need to be done. First I would redraw the eyes a little they are not symmetrical enough, same with the nose it too needs to be more symmetrical, and the lips again need to be more symmetrical. The features as they are were actually the way I drew them, but there are times you want to play those variances down and this is certainly one of those times. These modifications would strengthen the drawing’s consistency.

How to draw an Eye

eye step 6 smallest

How to Draw a Simple Eye
Eyes are one of the most important things when drawing people. Many people struggle when drawing eyes. These easy steps will help you draw eyes more accurately. Lets start with the basic angle in the top lid.

Step 1 – The Top lid is comprised of 3 main angles. The innermost angle from the tear duct is usually the most extreme angle. Each person’s eye and therefore the angles are different. Practice looking for the 3 angles while drawing several different eyes.eye step 1 smallestStep 2 – The Tear duct is a trapezoid or modified triangle shape. Everyone’s tear duct shapes are different. So analyze the shape of the person’s tear duct. It’s an important feature of the eye.

eye step 2 smallest
Step 3– The top lid is comprised of two main angles. The first angle at the lid wraps around the eye ball is the most the second is softer at it connects to the tear duct.

eye step 3 smallest
Step 4 – Round your angles and make them soft arcs. Then there are just a few more things to remember. The lids have a thickness. This gives volume and depth to you eye. The how much of the thickness of the eye you see can indicate the angle you are viewing the eye at, this eye below is being seen from straight on. If I was looking down on someone I wouldn’t see the thickness of the top lid. If I was looking up at a person I would see more of the top lid thickness and less of or even none of the bottom lid.step 4 smallest
Step 5– The eye’s top and bottom lid have a thickness that shows the skin wrapping the eye ball. Again this gives shape and form to the eye. Look of the fold. The top lid fold is always darker than the lower one. If you are not careful the person will look like they haven’t slept in weeks.

eye step 5 smallest
Step 6 – Putting it all together. Next try putting in the values and you will have a very convincing eye. I will cover a more advanced explanation of drawing the eye in coming articles. The steps above are the most basic ideas to consider when drawing the eye.

eye step 6 smallestI will add posts on shading an eye, basic eye anatomy and drawing a more advanced eye.

How to Draw a Nose

How to Draw the Nose


The Nose

One of the most important features of the face. The nose seems like a simple lump on the face it is often overlooked. The nose is made of many subtle plane changes and structures. Let’s explore the drawing of this wonderful feature of the face.

Step 1 -Breaking Down the Nose into Simple Shapes

We will use simple shapes to represent the anatomy of the nose. The nose in the simplest terms is made up of the Glabella, Bridge, Ball of the Nose, and Wing of the Nose. Below shows the basic anatomy of the nose.

The Usual Suspects

The Usual Suspects of Shapes
We will use the trapezoid, rectangle, circle, a “c” shape and a comma shape. We will use these to construct the nose.

Step 2 – Establishing the Major Parts of the Nose

We will start with a center line. Then we will stack the trapezoid, rectangle, circle and another trapezoid. These represent the Glabella, Bridge of the Nose, Ball of the Nose, and Septum.

Step 3 – The Ball of the Nose is a Rounded Cone

As you observe the nose from the front, you will perceive the ball of the nose as a circle. If you look more closely you will  see another circle as well. That is because the ball of the nose is a rounded cone. That is why from the front it looks like a circle within a circle.

Step 4 – Putting in the Nostrils and Wings of the Nose

The nostrils are sometimes drawn as a circles, but this will give your nose a porky pig look. The nostrils are actually closer to “comma” shapes than circles. We will add two commas to either side of the septum and add our “c” shapes to finish drawing the nose.

How to draw the Mouth

Drawing the Features of the Face: The Mouth
The Mouth


One of the most important features to be able to capture on the face. They seem so simple and yet they can be challenging to draw. Here are some steps that will help you draw mouths successfully.

Keeping the Mouth Symmetrical

We want the mouth we draw to be symmetrical so we will start with a cross hair. This way is will be easier to keep both sides even.

The Basic Shapes of the Lips

The top and bottom lips are very different in their basic shapes. The top lip is like a long stretched “M” while the bottom lip is like a long stretched “U” shape.

The Lips are Wrapping Around the Teeth

The muzzle or tooth cylinder is round like a cylinder. You always need look for the roundness of the tooth cylinder. The line between the lips will show the roundness of the mouth. Draw this line and then wrap the lips around this line to create the curvature of the mouth.

Step 4
Top Lip is Flat the bottom lip is round

This is very important to remember especially as we put value on our drawing the top lip is flat and angles inward. The bottom lip is round and projects outwards. Looking at the mouth in profile demonstrates these characteristics very well. This is why the top lip is normally a darker value than the bottom lip. The top lip angles away from the light and the bottom lip projects into the light.

Step 5
Starting to Draw the Mouth.

Always start with the center-line of the mouth. This will define how much of the curvature you will see in the mouth.

Step 6
Drawing the Top Lip.
We talked about the basic shape of this lip is a stretched “M”. The cleft of everyone’s “M” is more or less pronounced. So observe the person’s mouth you are drawing to establish how pronounced their cleft is, also the “M” will be more rounded. Like shown above.

Step 7
Drawing the Bottom Lip.

The bottom is probably the easier of the two lips with it being a stretched “U” shape. However look at the person’s lips you are drawing. Everyone has a different shaped bottom lip. Some are thin and others full and others somewhere in between. So always observe the person you are drawing. With art it’s not impolite to stare and observe.

Step 8 – Putting it All Together

I went back to the center-line and observed it was created by three soft “U” shapes. I put that in and Voila! You have a mouth.

Thumbnails, The Key to Better Painting and Drawing

Art Tip
Using Thumbnails for Planning Compositions
 
 
Thumbnails are small quick sketches. These sketches aren’t to record details, forms or depth they are for planning out the elements of your compositions and designs.
Design and composition are terms that people use a lot and they have a lot in common. Design is used to express the overall ideas of you image. Will your image be symmetrical or Asymmetrical. These basics ideas of balancing you objects. To balance something on an see saw or older day scale you need at least two objects. It’s the same with an image you need more than one shape or group of shapes to achieve some type of balance. This is the basic idea of design
Just like before building a house or writing a book you need a planning stage. For artist this planning stage takes the form of thumbnail sketches.
These need to be done quickly so we can move onto execution of our painting or drawing. We you are outside painting or drawing landscapes this can be especially important, because the light changes so quickly.
Thumbnails are very primitive. They contain only the most fundamental information about our subject. They could even be a basic as squares, ovals, triangles just enough so we know what these shapes represent.
When deciding on a design they are four decisions to make. Should my drawing or painting be
1. Analogous – Where the vertical and horizontal movements or lines are used.
2. Complementary – Where Diagonals are emphasized
3. Symmetrical – Where the main shapes are of similar size on either side of the picture plane.
4. Asymmetrical – Where the main shapes are of very different sizes. Such as Large shapes on one side smaller on the other.
By making these decisions on how to design your art you will have stronger and more interesting artworks. Below I have included the four examples of Design.
Analogous Design

Complementary Design

Symmetrical Design

Asymmetrical Design

These drawings are very simple but more importantly they tell me how I am going to approach the drawing or painting. Next time before you start on your drawing or painting start by using thumbnails to plan things out do 4 or 5 and pick out your favorite. Then do it you will enjoy your results even more by creating a plan.

 
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Five Ways to Improve Your Drawings

Another 5 Tips to Strengthen Your Drawings
By popular demand I am including another 5 ways to improve your drawing.

1. Loosen Up- Drawing shouldn’t be stiff,  it should be “controlled” when starting out the differences can seem like double talk but it’s not. Try holding your pencil further towards the back and using your whole arm, elbow or wrist. You will be looser with your marks you have to be, also try keeping your hand off the paper. These two things will help you to “loosen Up”. Also don’t be afraid to try several times to get the line right. It can seem strange but you’ll have a better chance of finding the right line. It’s a little like winning a raffle the more tickets you have the better your chance of winning.

2. Look for Basic Shapes- I am sure everyone who has taken my drawing is rolling their eyes at this one. I know I mention it time and time again. Because it’s that important, every time I am having a problem with my drawing I always start by reassessing the basic shapes and observing the objects to see if the basic shape relationships are accurate. We are very adept at seeing shapes and everything can be simplified into basic shapes, squares, rectangles, triangles, cones, cylinders and spheres. It is effective approach and it will help you every time you simplify things into basic shapes.

3. Have Definite Areas of Light, Medium and Dark Values- Value is such a powerful tool but sometimes it is hard to create and control. Whenever you have a drawing that seems to lack any visual impact ask yourself if the drawing has a full range of values. Every drawing should have definite areas of dark values, middle values and light values. If not it will look flat. Every individual object should also have definite areas or planes of dark medium and light. By increasing the range of values your drawings will be much more powerful.

4. Ignore the Details- Too many times we are fooled or distracted by details. As a beginner it’s hard not to focus on details entirely. It’s tempting to jump in and try to render every last detail with absolute fervor. Unfortunately if you try to work this way you will end getting lost in the details and end up with a poor drawing. The reason is you missed the “big picture”. This doesn’t mean to not include details it means in the beginning look to the “Big Picture”. You do that by sticking to the basics which always starts with the shadowing of an object.  For example: If I was drawing a tennis ball I would start with a sphere that was properly shaded with all the “form shadows” in place. Once I had done that I would begin to add the details. The details have to conform to the “form shadows” of the object. After you have you basic shading you can begin to hint at details instead of trying to draw every single fuzzy on the tennis ball. Working this way will give an amazingly convincing drawing.
Ignoring the details at the start of a drawing is one of the most important concepts in drawing! Take landscape drawing as an example. Even the most detailed of landscape drawings have left out tons of details. There just isn’t enough time in 6 months to add every detail to a landscape drawing. Instead artists focus on shapes and “form shadows” to describe their landscape. The same thing applies to whatever you draw. Look below at the drawing. It is very clear and has implied details but it is more about the shading than the minute details.

5: Learn to Deal with Ellipses- Ellipses, which is a circle foreshortened in perspective, are some of the hardest things for a beginner and even an experienced artist. Here are a couple of things to remember. When drawing ovals.
1. No matter how tight or pinched the oval is the ends should be rounded not pointed.
2.  Use a rule or straight edge to make sure the oval is lined up corner to corner.
3. Use a line through the center of the oval to help yourself as you draw an oval.
Use these three tips to practice, practice and practice some more.

5 Most Common Drawing Mistakes

5 Most Common Drawing Mistakes
When you are starting out with anything there is a learning curve. There are common mistakes that all beginners make that can slow down your progress with drawing. Don’t worry everyone makes these mistakes the important thing is to break these tendencies so your drawings will improve.

1. Too Much Pressure on Your Pencil
When you are using your pencils be careful not to use too much pressure. If you push too hard you will destroy the texture of the paper. This will be very noticeable in your drawing. It also makes it more difficult to control your drawing if you want to modify the area where the texture has been destroyed.
To preserve the texture of the paper use light pressure. No more pressure than you would use with a stylus on the surface of a smart phone. If you use less pressure and take more time building up your values you will have more control over your drawing in general.

2. Not Using Rich Darks
It takes time with graphite to establish rich darks (not a challenge with charcoal). Learning to see and increase the value range in your drawing will help your drawings have more visual impact and more depth. Sometimes fear of going too dark can keep us from establishing rich values. However if you use a light touch and know how to use your erasers this will not be a problem.

drawing light too light

3. Outlining Everything in Your Drawing
Nothing will kill the depth in a drawing quicker than outlining everything. If you use hard lines to outline everything, you will destroy the illusion depth. There are times when you use lines to create value for reasons of style such as cross hatching, but as a beginner we usually rely on outlines instead of value to separate and define objects. Look instead for “edges”. Edges are created by the value of a particular shape in context to another shape. Example of the outside of the bag where it touches the darker shadow shape of the wall creates the edge of the bag in the drawing.

paper bag drawingsm

4. Using the Wrong Paper
If you are having problems with your drawing it could be the paper. If you are using cheap printer paper you are going to have a harder time getting a decent drawing. How thick the paper is makes a difference. Thickness of paper is measured by pounds or lbs. Usually for drawing paper you want something that is 70 lbs or higher. Paper texture is also a factor for beginning students find paper that had a medium texture. If it is art drawing paper it will list on the drawing pad or roll or paper of what texture it has. Avoid smooth or plate surfaces because they have no texture the marks of your pencil show the slightest variation making smooth values difficult. Also with smooth papers you can’t get deep values. Medium texture or other medium textures like bristol will work the best

.papers

5. Using Scribbled Lines instead of Value and Shapes
Many times when we find something difficult to draw with lots of details it can overwhelm us. A good example is drawing Trees. The first time I tried to draw trees my brain turned off and I instead began using scribbling instead of good drawing decisions about shapes and values, it was easy to just scribble in a little something to represent the leaves. This is a mistake everyone makes when drawing detailed objects. Whenever you find yourself just scribbling in stuff look back at you object blur your vision and try to find a definite shape and a definite value. Then put that down on your paper. You will find your drawings will improve by leaps and bounds when you do this.