Drawing Faces: Some Book Recommendations

February 14, 2009

Monday, February 16, 7 to 9 p.m. is the next meeting of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts Visual Journal Collective's Portrait Party. (Please see my earlier post here if you would like to attend so you know what to bring. We'd love it if you came and joined in the sketching fun.) We will be sketching portraits in pairs and then making a photocopier book of the event. (I'm working on the pages for the front and back matter right now!)

Practice is always a great thing, and I've been trying to draw people as much as possible the last few days, but I've also been pulling some books off the shelves to bring in and show people (in case they want to make a real study of the process after the party). I found the following books address drawing faces at some point in their pages, if not the whole book. Check them out. (They are in no particular order.)

Drawing People: How to Portray the Clothed Figure, by Barbara Bradley
I just picked up this book mail order because it sounded interesting. There is a lot of great information here. The focus is on full figures and how fabric moves on that figure, etc. But it is also about how the whole body moves. There is a chapter on the head and hands in which she writes about the features, their relationship to each other, creating volume and perspective with them. I haven't been able to read much of this book because of time limitation but I know I'll enjoy going through it more thoroughly because of all the useful info.

The Natural Way to Paint, by Charles Reid
This watercolor painter has a drawing introduction in the beginning of his book which walks you through the way he does his contour drawing style. It's well-done. It can help you relate to the face as an object to draw, even if you don't work in his style.

Painting People in Watercolor: A Design Approach, by Alex Powers
Powers has a loose style out of which he creates emerging forms. It's based on knowing how to draw accurately, not hide bad draftsmanship. Because of this he begins with a very good section on drawing the head; locating the features at all angles.

The Artist's Complete Guide to Figure Drawing: A Contemporary Perspective on the Classical Tradition, by Anthony Ryder
Ryder doesn't focus on facial features though his examples are often faces. His comments on contour, light, shade, modeling, etc. all support accurate renderings of face and body.

Keys to Drawing, by Bert Dodson
Considered a classic how-to-draw book it is filled with various exercises to improve your observational abilities and hand-eye-brain connection. He presents ways to measure what you are drawing in an easily understandable way.

Secrets to Drawing Realistic Faces, by Carrie Stuart Parks
This author really breaks down the whole process of drawing the face by providing photo and drawn portrait examples on which relationships are spelled out with callouts drawing attention to the pertinent points. She also has information on tools (her work is in pencil). I find her work a bit too photographic in end result, but I think her presentation is excellent and will help many people interested in drawing the face.

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards
Of course I have to include my favorite how-to-draw book. After walking the reader through information on brain research and how we perceive things Edwards presents a series of exercises designed to get you drawing what you see. It's a great book.

Additional Inspiration and Resources
If you are interested in photo references to work from please see my post Working on Facial Expressions, where I list several books of that type.

And if you want to jump start your enthusiasm for portrait drawing with some cool inspiration from fellow sketchers go to Rama Hughes' wonderful blog: The Portrait Party. Currently there is a celebration of self-portraits. Go back into the archives and see the portraits various pairs of artists made of each other. His site inspired us to have an in-person party of our own; it will inspire you too.

Sketch a friend today!

  1. Reply

    i definitely got to check these out

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