Facial features just not working..

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Old 09 September 2010   #1
Facial features just not working..

I have worked with pen and pencil for a long time as a hobby. While this spans about 25 years of my life, there have been periods when I went years without really working at it.

That being said, this is the problem that has dogged me for my entire life as an artist.

I can take a photograph of a person, and draw it by hand, using the photo as a reference (meaning in the non digital world). I can use a light box, and trace a photo. I can take a digital photo, and do pretty much the same thing. The results come out okay, and the drawing generally looks like the person in the image.

I can even look at two images and point out the differences in facial structure.

But for the life of me I cannot create my own pictures of imaginary people without all of the facial features looking the same (given, I can make a difference between male/female).

It's like there's something I'm missing, and have been missing for a long time.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how I might go about getting past this barrier? I feel really cheap, as an artist, having to use someone elses work (like photographs) in order to make facial features that are not the cookie cutter jaw/brow/nose/lips/eyes that I seem so good at churning out when I don't use a reference.

It's not like I'm going to quit drawing, but this is one area that has been a bit of a block for a long time.

Thank you.
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Old 09 September 2010   #2
No shame in using reference. We aren't all computers with 50 Ghz cpu's able to mesh and mold the fine structure of a face in real-time with all customizations possible.

That said, I'd just recommend drawing more from a conceptual point of view. Draw more faces, but don't spend so much time on them and do a bigger variety. For example, pull a photography book from Michael Freeman who travels around the globe taking beautiful portraits of various peoples of the world. Draw them. Don't worry about the correctness. Understand the similarities. Understand the differences. Start small and simple.

I'm no expert on faces myself, but this is the method I found that works best for me. Hopefully it will help you in your goals as well. Good luck!
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Old 10 October 2010   #3
IMHO, also is good to try to think about the internal structure of what you are drawing: face muscles, bones, etc. A lot of observation, but checking a very good anatomy book becomes really handy, is not a matter of go drawing those muscles or bones in a rigid way, is another helper to know what's bellow, what's guiding there. But as said, a lot of observation of every human is great: when knowing the general proportions/muscle(and a bit of how they stretch,etc) /bones, etc, if helped with good observation, that base will be used to be adapted to the many different types and characters... I think is better starting first with the books(and it means an active study: read, study visually, understand, but while you do this, you go drawing and trying things), have a knowledge and brain learning/training of that, of what really "happens" in a human face, and then go for "customization" per character... Knowing the rules is best way to break them, they say...
Many of these books have an area, once supposedly you learnt how to draw (from imagination, once you get the skill for it), for showing you how face expressions are generated, emphasizing more than real how face muscles make all stretch, how skin reacts, etc. Is very useful for what you are lafter.

The reference, I also agree there. Is totally necesary for everything. Yet tho, "training your brains" as you go, drawing and thinking to understand those "3d volumes" and train to be able to generate that, even if less detailed, will make you more independent from references. One need for that to draw a lot, and fight specially those areas where you see your self weak. Is silly to disguise it with better areas in a drawing... as does not hide anything, just makes it worse.
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Old 10 October 2010   #4
Hey,

I think the advice for you case is actually quite simple: Don't be afraid to exagerate.

When you draw "invented" faces you have a tendency to make them close to the perfect archetipe of a face. So, for a while, start your drawing with a truly deformed and unproportioned face, to the point of charicature drawings. You'll probably find out real human faces are oftenly more out of proportion than what you initially thought.

P.S: I'm new to this forum so you don't have any reason to take my advice since you can't see any art from me, but I've many comic book pages in my bag and I almost never use any reference.
 
Old 12 December 2010   #5
gmang that is a great thing to point out. I do caricatures (how wants to.. can see them in my thread) and sometimes i found that what i´m doing is not so much of a caricature but more close to the real proportions of the person i´m trying to caricaturize (not sure that verb exists?).

Cheers.
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Old 02 February 2011   #6
Lightbulb

Pixel and gmang both have great suggestions.

I've had the same issues as you over the years. The main difference is that most of the fictional characters I'm drawing are straight out of a story I'm writing, so I have "information" about the character I'm trying to portray. What really helps me is taking the character's background into account. If the character I'm wanting to draw is a boxer, his nose is bound to have been broken at least once, and he probably has a scar or two somewheres. If he's Italian, he's likely to have a bump on the nose along with a little curve due to knitted bones/cartilage. So, adding those two facts together tells me that I'm going to have to make the bone structure for the nose a bit more curved and swollen than I would "normally".

There's a really good book on facial anatomy which focuses on the nose and brow. Unfortunately I can't remember the author or the title. I'll see if I can dig up the information and post it later.
 
Old 03 March 2011   #7
Drawing from the imagination is something that I've been working on as well. So, I'm no expert, but I thought I'd suggest how I've been getting through it and practicing.

With every thumbnail sketch (before you work on the final drawing), draw the intial layer and mark where the eyes, nose, mouth, ears, etc. will be. Once you have the very base sketch drawn out, start tweaking the features. And if you're drawing the same character over and over, memorize how you tweak the jaw bone, eye slants, how far the nose is from the eyes.

Great advice everyone. Like they said, exaggerate the details of your character. Make major angles to the eyes, large noses, chiseled cheeks, and you can think of the rest. Go wild. Maybe even start with a square shaped head and mold it down. Sometimes starting in a abnormal approach leads to a natural substance. Start with the extremes and then soften them.

I hope you're making progress!
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Old 03 March 2011   #8
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