Archive for March 8th, 2011

We like drawing the face looking straight at us.  It’s easy that way because all the features are aligned symmetrically so that as we draw, we can orient ourselves without getting lost.  But a full frontal view is limited in its expressive possibilities.  We all know from our everyday interactions with people that people tilt their heads as they speak and look at things and that a little tilt conveys attitude and emotional meaning.  Those of us who are privileged enough to participate in life drawing know something else:  the model stands on an elevation and as we draw her/him we look up at the face, seeing the jaw from underneath.  When the model reclines or twists, we also see the face and neck from this foreshortened angle. That angle is quite beautiful, if I may use that old-fashioned word, but also quite challenging, because it presents us with both subtlety and at the same time a definite anatomical geometry.  To avoid the issue, students tend to just ignore what’s in front of their eyes and instead draw a full frontal , standard-issue face.  That makes for a sad drawing.

It was time to face the underside of the face, where the neck meets the jaw.  My presentation  started with a face on a lampshade.  As we tilt the lampshade back, we see the underside of the nose, which becomes triangular, and the underside of the lampshade, which becomes an ellipse.  The stem of the lampshade is now roughly in the middle of the ellipse.  We rotate the face to the left and move the stem to the right, and, voila, the analogy to head-with-neck becomes obvious.  An aha! -moment for all students.  The demo was clear, but it turned out to be a little harder to put into practice. But by now we know, don’t we, that practice is the thing!  The muscle that wraps around the neck-tube, extending from the back of the ear to the sternum in front, is called the sternocleidomastoid. A fun word to stay, but a bear to draw.  So—surprise, ha—the neck is not exactly the simple stem of a lampshade, but seeing the analogy does help you visualize what’s going on.


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