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Pencil Portrait Drawing—The Profile View

By Artfang, guest blogger

A strange thing about drawing the profile view is that novices find it much easier than the other poses. Yet, the advanced draftsperson can find the profile quite challenging. For the advanced artist the challenge lies in the struggle to affect a 3-dimensional sculptured look.

Looking at the arabesque in the profile view note how the skull is broken down into straight lines. Using these architectonic lines suggests a firmness of form.

In the start, you should keep the forms plain. Also at this time, do not draw all the profiled features. There are 2 reasons for this:

1. It is very likely that even the most talented artist will be off, and

2. Once a line is established the logical center of your brain will consider that association as correct one. Therefore, it will look accurate to you but everyone else will see the error.

There is a superior way. You begin with drawing the construct using architectonically straight lines. The key concerns are fixing the general proportions and form properly. At a more advanced level you should also consider rhythm and flow.

Instead of straight away including the nose into the construct you should employ the facial angle, i.e., the line from the forehead to the chin that breaks at the bottom of the nose. The signpost reference for the bottom of the nose is the tiny ledge-like protrusion.

A plumb-bob is an good tool for correctly placing the bottom of the nose. A plumb-bob is a length of thread (preferably black carpet thread) that has a weight attached to it. The plumb-bob is used to check vertical alignments (when working with life models) and their relationships to that vertical line. The vertical line is called the plumb-line.

Aligning the plumb-line to the chin allows you more correctly to see the relationship of brow to chin. The brow is set back from the chin. Note that the entire area of chin and mouth is called the “muzzle”.

Having verified that the initial construct and facial angle are accurate you can now proceed with situating the facial proportions, key anatomical signposts, and the hair-line. So, at this time do not even think about drawing the complete nose. Rendering the nose at this point is a sure remedy for disaster. The angle of the nose and the creation of the tip require a high degree of precision.

Instead, begin to sketch the general light/dark pattern.
The lights are painted out using a putty eraser. The effect we are looking for is that of a ghost image. That means, above all, not to add details. Also, work from the general to the specific.

Once the general light/dark pattern is developed then the profiled features can be done. utilizing a very sharp pencil you can draw upwards from the chin to the forehead carefully observing the form. As you sketch mumble the anatomical terms of each feature that you construct. You would be amazed at how that illuminates the sketching process. Having an idea of the facial anatomy will set your portrait drawing miles ahead of those who do not.

The tip of the nose, particularly, demands anatomical reconstruction to get it correct.

A common error beginners make with the profile view is placing the eye too far forward. The eye sockets are recessed quite considerably into the head. If you drop a plumb-line from the inner corner of the eye you will observe that the eye aligns itself with the node of the mouth.

Further rendering and cross-hatching values are done with 2H and 4H pencils. Decideing how far you want to take your sketch is an aesthetic choice you have to make yourself. If you want, you can leave the portrait somewhat unfinished.

In conclusion, drawing the side view involves the same general principles that apply to any view. In this case, the arabesque is particularly critical. The critical thing to recall is not to place the actual complete features of the head too early in the process.

Do you want to learn the secrets of pencil portrait sketching? Download my brand new free pencil portrait drawing course here: portrait drawing course.

Remi Engels is a pencil portrait artist and oil painter and practiced sketching teacher. See his work at pencil portraits by Remi.

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