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Special Features

November 30, 2018

I am crazy lucky that I just happen to be married to my favorite person to draw. And although one might assume that any artist’s favorite person to draw would be their spouse — because they love them so much or whatever — that’s not really true.

(Although I do love him so much or whatever.)

Richard would be my favorite even if I was married to someone else. He just has a really fun face. And he’s actually a life drawing model, so there are lots of artists and teachers around town that agree with me.

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There are some types of faces that I find tough to draw. This has nothing to do with their level of attractiveness. I know tons of people that are super good-looking, but whose likeness I just can’t seem to recreate on the page.

The people I find the most challenging to draw are kids. I think this has something to do with the lack of special features: the things on your face OTHER than eyes, nose, and mouth. This could be things that are actually part of the face such as wrinkles, moles, facial hair and scars. Or it could be add ons, like glasses, braces, nose/lip/eyebrow ring, a cigarette, or a monocle.

(Sadly, I don’t get nearly enough opportunities to draw people with a monocle.)

Richard has a lot of special features. He usually has facial hair. He often wears glasses. He has 3 tiny moles that form a triangle on the upper left side of his face. He has another mole on his right cheek. He has a very distinct nose, and these mischievous eyebrows that sometimes make him look like an evil magician.

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All that extra stuff helps break up the face, which makes it easier to translate a 3 dimensional human onto a 2 dimensional plane. I can get the size, shape, and angle of something more accurate by looking at it in relation to something else.

For example, whenever I do someone from a 3/4 angle I almost always draw their face too narrow the first time around, and I end up having to erase and adjust. I never seem to put enough distance between their nose and their ear. That’s because there usually isn’t much there. Cheeks are kinda like the desert of the face. Just a big open space with not much happening, which makes it hard to determine where things land.

In the drawing below I was able to use Richard’s glasses to figure out the distance between his eyes, nose and ear. And even though my style is way more caricature than realistic, the same rules still apply. Your baseline is still reality, you just choose which things to exaggerate and which things to simplify or exclude.

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In addition to the special features on his face, Richard is also a big fan of accessories. He loves watches, rings, wristbands, buttons, all kinds of hats, and fun T-shirts. He also likes to change up his look regularly. He’ll shave his head in different ways, reshape his goatee, paint his nails, or put on a tie and jacket for literally no reason.

All of this stuff makes a person more fun and interesting to draw. When I am out in the world trying to discreetly draw strangers, details like these will inform the story that I make up about the person in my head.

I did all of these drawings with pen and colored pencil. One of the challenges with using colored pencils is that because of the nature of the medium, a lot of paper shows through, even with with layering, so the drawing comes out looking kinda dull and muted.

The way to fix this is by blending. There are several methods you can use to blend. My favorite way lately is to use a Prismacolor colorless blender MARKER. This is basically the same as using rubbing alcohol solvent, but it’s contained in a handy dandy marker.

Afterwards I use a white gel pen to add some highlights. (Not too much!)

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One cool thing about being married to a life drawing model is that he is used to being stared at AND he’s great at sitting still. So whenever we go out to dinner he lets me sketch him while we’re waiting for our food. It’s way better than staring at our stupid phones.

2 comments

  1. This is a fabulous essay, Carrie, and helpful to other spontaneous sketchers.



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