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Ok – I can hear you groaning now. Here’s the thing – we have to start this little experiment off somewhere, and I find that it never hurts to drop back to the basics. Review what you know and make sure you understand it and understand it well. So that’s what we’re going to do here.

The Basic Infrastructure of the Head

Everything starts with its base. Before you build a towering skyscraper, you have to create the foundation. Those of you who are into martial arts can appreciate how vastly different things are when you have your stance correct. Art is no different – you need a strong foundation for a strong final image.

Basic Face Infrastructure Tutorial - Step 1
Step 1

Step 1. Start with an oval. Split it in half both vertically and horizontally. This gives you a simple map to start building on. Keep the division lines light if you’re working with pencil – you’ll want to remove them completely later on.

Just as a slight side note: I must apologize. I found it more difficult than I had imagined when I went to draw a simple oval. Because I know when the final illustration is meant to be, I found myself tapering the bottom to create a chin like shape. I’m certain that a few of my teachers over the years would be telling me “Draw what you see – not what you think you know.” I have no oval that I’m drawing from, but the concept applies. It bears noting that you should always attempt to do away with your pre conceived notions when trying something new – even if you don’t succeed completely.

Basic Face Infrastructure Tutorial - Step 2 & 3
Steps 2 & 3

Step 2. Half way between the vertical center line and the left and right outer edges of the oval, make a light mark. This will give you the center points of each eye.

Step 3. Half way between the horizontal center line and the bottom of the oval, create another mark. This will give you the location of the base of the nose.

Step 4. Follow the mark denoting the base of the nose to the outer left and right edges of the oval. This will give you the base of each of the ears. (The horizontal center line gives you the top edge of the ears.)

Basic Face Infrastructure Tutorial - Steps 4 & 5
Steps 4 & 5

Step 5. A line half way down the vertical center line between the base of the nose and the bottom of the oval gives you the center of the mouth.

We now have the very basic elements of our simplified face. Whenever I reach this stage I always find myself thinking that the face looks a bit like that of an android. Like something from iRobot.

A Word About the ‘Defaults’

It amuses me whenever I read a tutorial or book covering the basics of proportions. We’re an amazing species with worlds of difference from one person to the next. We do, however, mostly have some standard features that fall within general dimensions. What’s more, if we start from a place of ‘there is no standard’, it makes it much more difficult to get the nuances of people’s unique features correct.

How do I draw someone’s eyes farther apart than normal if there’s no ‘normal’?

I point this all out because I don’t want to offend when I refer to things as being ‘normal’ or ‘standard’. If you find that your own ears hang lower than what I define as ‘normal’, please know that I don’t mean to say that you’re some kind of freak of nature. You just are different from the baseline I’m creating to give us a starting point.

In truth, I think that it’s those things about us that make us unique that others find the most intriguing. And for the record? Intriguing is good.

Basic Face Infrastructure Tutorial - Final
Final Infrastructure

This post is a part of the work I’m doing as my entry in both NaNoWriMo and NaNoDrawMo 2011. I would love to get your thoughts on this post or any of the others in the series. Feel free to comment following this post or email me.

Edited to Add: See Part 2 here and Part 3 here.