The Figure and the head. Part 4. Project 6 The head. Exercise 1 Facial features. Exercise 2 Your own head.

‘Look at people (including yourself) in the flesh, in magazines, TV and other places and study individual features……….’ page 105.

Here are my sketches of facial features. Eyes. I have drawn some with line and some in tone using a soft pencil. The middle drawing is of my eyes, reflected in a mirror. The other eyes were from magazines, books and TV.

Here are some sketches of noses. Different views including a side face view.


Here are a selection of ears, I drew my family’s ears and some from books. Sketched in pencil. I like the large loop earring in my daughter’s ear.

Here is a mono print in black ink of a collection of facial features. I like the way the ink has created fuzzy edges to the drawings.

Mono print in ink

Here is a quick sketch of my facial features, using line and tone.


Using my sketches as reference I drew some quick sketches of heads I saw on TV, internet and newspapers. I did quite a few drawings just to practise different view points, expressions, lines and tones.

Heads in pencil
Heads in pencil.


Facial features are very abstract, eyes look like lemons, ears like a foetus and noses like angled shapes. Drawing the features face on is quite hard, as the nose becomes a difficult shape, it loses it’s sense of line and shading is now important to get the form. Eyes have other parts such as eye lids, eye lashes and creases to deal with. Plus the eyes give expression and feeling, so capturing this in line was easier for me, than trying to use shading and tone. Ears were fun to draw, they are so individual and have lots of shadowy areas to draw. Drawing an earring added character to the flesh and would help in giving identity to a full portrait.

Exercise 2 Your own head

First drawing.

Here are some sketches of my own head, I looked into a mirror to help me get a likeness.



I’m not sure what I think of drawing myself, I know many artists like to create their own portraits. Anyway I sketched mine using a soft pencil and worked quickly to get down a basic head shape, I think drawing the hair was the easiest place to start, then roughing out the eyes was the hardest, I did have to rub them out a few times until I got a good shape. The nose I left open with only a few lines to describe it. The lips look like mine. Overall it looks like me, but I felt uncomfortable drawing myself and that include looking in a mirror to do this exercise. Drawing a self portrait is tiring, emotional and worrying.


Second drawing in watercolour paints and Marlene Dumas

I decided to create my second self portrait in watercolour paint. I research the artist Marlene Dumas, as I was impressed with her very loose watery portraits. Dumas paints ‘second hand image’, she works, not from life, but from mass produced images in the press or magazines, famous people and her own family, and her self. Her thinking is that the ‘second hand image’ creates ‘first hand emotions’.

I was interested in the idea of working from a ‘second hand image’ as I painted the images below by copying my pencil drawings above. I have struggled with this exercise, because it’s self portrait and I hate looking at myself in a mirror. So I felt emotionally happier to paint from my drawings, I did take a few photos of myself to use as reference and I even found using those very depressing.  In terms of painting I used a ‘wet into wet’ method, which is unpredictable as a technique, and I could just paint freely without the pressure of making a likeness of myself.  Painting a front view was easier than a side view, however I had problems with spacing my eyes. I much prefer my pencil drawings, as they show the ‘quirky’ side to my personality through the pencil marks and lines. The watercolour painting, even though it was enjoyable, lacks that energy, but has captured myself in thought.

I showed both drawing and painting to my husband, and he felt I didn’t look like that and I should have made my skin smoother and less wrinkled. Well my response was, I have wrinkles as I am sixty two ! I know he sees me as  some young person he fell in love with years ago (and still does), but I have changed, and drawing myself puts everything into perspective. It’s made me think of questions, rather than answers. Such as, what is a portrait?  What emotions does it evoke ? Does it have to be a full face image? Are the materials you use are important? Why paint a portrait, when digital photography  is so good ?

Self portrait in watercolour paints

Additional drawings in Conte pencil




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