My name is Jonene Ficklin, and I'm a full-time wife, mom, writer, and professional artist. I've been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil. I use colored pencils, oil paints, and watercolors. I love what I do!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lesson 8 - Drawing a face - Proportions

I'd like to teach you the basic proportions of the face. We all fit NEAR a certain pattern. Because we are all slightly original, our features will vary just a little from the pattern, but only a little -- unless you have a Jay Leno chin or Julia Roberts smile. So if you know the pattern, you can get very close. Then, to get a likeness, you simply adjust where the face varies. It's not that hard, I promise. So let's get started. 

Today, we learn how to draw an adult face that is looking straight forward.

Disclaimer: young children will be different in the distance from eyes to nose, and most especially in young babies. But this pattern is great for older children, teens and all adults.

Okay, ready? A face is mathematical, and don't worry, it's very simple math.
First, start with an egg shape (pointy side down), like this.

                        Now, divide the egg in half horizontally. This is where the eyes sit.

 Now, divide the bottom in half again. This is the horizontal nose line. Just a by-note, but your ears fit from your eyeline (top of the ear) to the noseline (bottom of the ear). This face is original, in that she has large ears, and they are higher than the eyeline (and she's still beautiful), but most ears are right on the mark.

The mouth is a little different. It isn't halfway below the nose, but more like the upper third of the lower space.

Now we're ready to put in the vertical nose line. This shows the face is straight forward.

Very good! Now let's put in the features. Did you know you can fit exactly one eye in-between your two eyes? (Think cyclops.)

 And when you are facing forward, you can fit five eyes across your face? This is how you know if you've drawn the eyes too large or small. Make sure that you can fit 5 equal spaces across the eye line. If you can, you're ready to move on to the nose.

Now, this is fun, because the nose is exactly one eye wide. Really. Okay, there's one exception, but we won't go there until we learn noses.  So, from the inside corners of your eyes, drop your lines down to the vertical nose line.

Now you're ready for the mouth. Take a line from the center of the eyes (on the eye line) and drop it all the way down to the mouth line. If you are smiling, the corners of your mouth touch this line. Look in a mirror and try it out. When you're not smiling, the mouth won't quite reach this line.

Okay, now you know the basic proportions of the face. Try them out on a variety of faces. It's crazy how it works on everyone, men and women, old on down to relatively young (see disclaimer at the top).
And since you know the proportions for a face that is straight on (I'll show you how to draw a turned face later), you're ready to learn easy ways to draw eyes, noses and mouths, even hair isn't hard once you know the pattern. We'll take the mystery out of turning a face any angle, too. All those lessons are coming up. So:

Next week: How to draw a killer eye

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Mystery of Mummies

I have Mummies on my mind. It happens now and then. They’re gross, morbid, and thoroughly fascinating. Why?

Well, I just read a great article in September’s National Geographic. The surprise is that the mummies in question are being made (as in – still being made) in Papua New Guinea (PNG). As in a rainy, humid, non-mummy-supporting jungle by the indigenous Anga tribe.

Yeah, that’s one to check out.

Here, a modern day mummy expert travels to Koke, PNG, to help a grieving son save his deteriorating mummified father. (Kind of reads like the bookback of a thriller, doesn't it? You keep waiting for the big finish.) In the photo, the papa mummy leans forward in a chair, as if trying to whisper secrets from the otherworld. If you get the chance, check it out. It's on page 140.

Despite the creepy thought of preserving the dead, and in some cultures, putting them on display like the Anga do, I think the thing that turns my head the most is the story. New or old, every mummy promises a very good one.

Here was a real person either loved, revered, worshiped or otherwise deemed eternally valuable enough to preserve in the flesh. Sometimes that person is surrounded by wealth, ancient foods, furniture, and art depicting their life. It’s a peek back in time. There’s just enough information to form a framework of their life, but enough holes that the mind has a fantastic time filling in the blanks.

Take King Tut for instance. Countless investigations have brought countless conclusions. Yes, we want the truth, but maybe not the whole truth. It’s the mystery that makes it timeless.

And it never hurts being able to see the proof of their life, even thousands of years after the fact.

So here I am, eagerly, morbidly awaiting the next juicy mummy story. I know. It’s perfectly normal, right?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lesson 7 Form with Shading - Vase

Now that you have the form of a vase (from Lesson 6), it's time to shade it.

The first step is to look at the photograph of the vase. Where does the vase sparkle? Where are the highlights? There are many. We will take artistic license and only choose some. (I avoided the blue highlights this time, but you are welcome to use them if you'd like.) Lightly block in the highlights you want on your vase. Make them slightly larger than they should be.  Now stretch out the shadow to the left.
Find the darkest area where your true black (or 10) will be at the base of the vase. Put it in and make sure it is an absolute black.
Rough in the shadow next. It will be darker close against the vase.
Next, except for the blocked out highlights, shade the rest of vase a light tone, like a 2 or 3.
Put in the darkest shades along the sides, top and bottom of the vase. These will be 7's, 8's and 9's.
Now, working inward from the sides, shade the midtones inside the vase. These will be your 5's, 6's and 7's.
Continue to shade inward into the bowl of the vase. These are your 3's and 4's.
Next, shade the upper edge of the vase. Again, avoid the highlighted areas.
With all your shades roughed in, it's time to smooth them with your blending stick. Remember that as you blend, it will steal darkness from your darker areas, and if it's not clean, it will make your lighter areas darker. Clean the blending stick often.

We'll start in the shadow, and on the left side of the vase itself. The highlights should not be all white. I am choosing only certain of the highlights to be a true white. (Too many bright white highlights take away from the flow of the drawing.) With a clean blending stick, I'll lightly go over the highlights that I want to tone down to a 2 or 3, adding any details I see in the photo.
Now, finish off smoothing the right side and top of the vase. Tone down and add detail into the hightlights with your blending stick. Take your pencil and add dark details back where the blending stick took them out. You can use your kneaded eraser to brighten any highlights or add others.

Now you have a beautiful, proportionate drawing of a vase!

Okay, now you have the basics out of the way. Time to pull out the big guns.

Next week: How to draw a face! (There's an easy formula that anyone can do. I promise!!)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Coconut Milk, an Heirloom Cake and a Fiesty Cajun Grandma

My husband loves me. He really, really loves me. He loves me enough to do something crazy, like make a coconut cake.

You need to understand, this isn’t just your average coconut cake. This is an heirloom, take all day, sweat-hammers-and-curses cake. Yeah, you read right. Hammers. I’ll explain in a minute.

You see, he often makes me a cake on my birthday. When he asked what kind I’d like, I said a coconut cake – imagining a box cake mix with white frosting and coconut sprinkled over it. But what he thought of was his grandma’s coconut cake, which was four layers of luscious homemade cake separated by homemade coconut filling, encased in homemade seven minute frosting, and only then, sprinkled with fresh hand-grated coconut. And he wanted to make it. For me.

My eyebrows shot up. Now my husband is a wonderful cook. He makes killer breakfast burritos. He doesn’t often make homemade killer cakes. But I guess there was no better time than the present.

So we called his mom and got the recipe. Step one, get a real coconut and make coconut milk. (You can use the canned stuff, but it's not as good, and hey, there’s no adventure in that.)

Here’s where the hammer came in. Twice.

You take a coconut, punch a hole in one of the eyes, drain out the coconut water, then cook the coconut (shell and all) for a half hour. So we did. (Yes, I helped. I didn't want to miss a minute of this.)

Then we took it out, pounded it to smithereens (our two younger boys did – and you should have seen the shells flying. We had to do an intervention.)

The next step entailed separating the coconut meat from the shell, peeling off the skin, shredding the coconut, putting it in the blender, covering it with hot water and blending it ‘till it was a smoking smoothie.

Are you huffing yet?

Well, toughen up. We weren’t done. We squeezed the coconut stuff through cheesecloth, and voila: now we had REAL coconut milk. (Incidentally, only powder was left in the cheesecloth and it was tasteless – all the flavor washed out into the milk, which tasted good.)

Now, hot coconut milk in hand, my hubby was ready to make the filling. Grandma’s instructions were to cook 4 cups of coconut milk with 2 ½ cups of sugar and a bit of vanilla (how much is a bit?) until it’s thick. Supposedly, this takes a long time. But how long? How thick? How much vanilla?

You gotta love seasoned cooks and their pinches of this’s and dashes of thats. But to really appreciate this recipe, you need to picture Grandma. She’s a real barefoot French Cajun from Louisiana. Her gumbo and etouffee are as legendary as her coconut cake. She wasn’t afraid of hunting ‘gators in the bayou or, when she’d take the wrong exit on the freeway, she’d pull a U-turn halfway down the exit ramp, drive up the wrong way and reenter the freeway. She was tiny, fiesty and sweet, and kissed everyone on the lips, God rest her soul.

She would have loved it that my hubby was making her cake. Well, to make a long story shorter, my hubby did a great job making the filling. And it was REALLY thick when he was done. We hurried to spread it between the four layers of cake.

We’d barely finished and put the pan down, when we realized the spoon was standing upright in the leftover filling. I could barely pull it free. When I examined the pan, I realized we'd just made coconut candy. And that was holding the cake together.

Well, the cake was frosted, dusted with coconut and topped with fresh raspberries. It was very pretty, but presented a bit of a challenge to cut. The layers were a little crunchy. I was kinda worried.

And then we tried it.

Oh, momma. It was soOOOooo good! When Grandma made it, her fillings were thick and gooey and sunk into the cake. That was very good, but this was even better. The textures were an exotic mix of soft cake, delicate frosting, crun-chewy fresh coconut, and smooth candy layers. Then came the tang of the raspberries. It was unbelievably awesome!

I could totally picture Grandma laughing from the heavenly bayous, double barrelled shotgun over her shoulder, as she floats down to steal a crumb.

All the family raved. I raved - and wasn't lying a bit.

I think I married well. Don’t you?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lesson 6 Form - Using the Box Technique

There are many techniques to help you draw things accurately. Today, I’d like to show you one. The ‘box technique’ is very simple.

Have you ever drawn something that leans or is disproportionate? This is an easy way to avoid it.

Do you want a simple way to get something accurate? Well, this is as simple as connecting the dots, then making small revisions. I love the box technique, because it breaks the drawing process down into simple steps.

First, pick an item to draw. Here are three items: bananas, a feather duster, and a vase.

Imagine that you need to mail them. What shape of box would you need? Tall and thin, square, short and wide? Draw a box shape that will fit your subject. (See last week’s lesson on how to measure using a pencil.)

WARNING: draw your box and all your lines very lightly, so they can easily be erased.

It’s best to start out with something simple, that doesn’t have a bunch of shapes and textures.

So today we’re going to draw the vase. Your box will be tall and thin, like the vase.

Now cut the box in half both ways, so you have a big plus sign in the center of the box.

Take a look at your subject, the vase, from top to bottom. Where is halfway? Now look side to side. Where is half way?

Are there any other features in the vase that would be easy to divide into portions? Look at the top where it narrows into the middle. It is ¼ the way down. Look at the bottom. The widest part is ¼ the way up.

Divide your rectangle just like the image above. I'm taking the natural math of my subject and using it to help me.

Now look to see where the vase is narrowest. Is there any other part of the vase that is narrow like that? The bottom is. They are almost the same width. Mark their spots on your rectangle in the quartered sections.
Now look at the bottom half of your vase. Look at the fattest part. It hits the sides on the bottom quarter line.

Drawing a perfect curve is hard, so we're not going to. Not yet. We're going to draw straight lines - connect the dots. Using your ruler, connect the bottom dots to the edge of the  rectangle at the bottom quarter line where the vase is fattest, then connect that line up to the dots on the halfway line.

The next widest part of your vase is the very top. The neck of the vase is almost straight. We're going to pretend it is. So take the top quarter and draw the neck straight up. Then from the top quarter line, connect that line out to the top edge of your rectangle, like in this drawing:
There. Now you have the basic proportions of the vase. Yes, we will round it out soon. But first, let's round out the top and bottom.

Let's start at the very bottom of the vase. Starting at the middle line, curve a line out until it runs into your side-bottom line. Do the same to the other side. You CAN get this free-hand, but it will probably take a bit of work. If you have a hard time, use some tools. You can use a protractor or compass, ore even use the edge of a clean, dry cup. Put it down on the paper and use the edge to get your curve.

Now go up to the top and do the same thing. Notice that I didn't swing the curve right into the top line of the rectangle. In the photo, the widest part of the mouth is a little below the top.

Tip: You'll want this curve to match your bottom curve. You don't want it to be a fatter or leaner curve.

Now finish the top half of the mouth of your vase. Again, you'll want the curve to have the same arc, only in reverse. This may take a bit of work, but you can do it. Use the cup if you have to, just flip your paper upside down.

Next, notice how the base of the vase has a double line? Just draw a parallel curve just above your bottom line, the do the reverse curve on top to finish out the bottom circle, just like in the drawing below. With that done, NOW it's time to round out the sides of your vase. Let's start with the widest part at the bottom. I went from the middle down to the bottom quarter line on both sides. Again, you'll want to make sure that the curve matches on both sides.

Don't be afraid to erase and try again if it doesn't work the first or the tenth times. Erasing is good! (We are always searching for erasers at our house because the are always used up. I buy them by the crate.)

Now follow through with your curve going to the bottom.

If you erase the 'helper' lines in the bottom half, your vase will start to look like a real vase. Exciting, isn't it?

Okay, now look at the photo. The mouth of the vase has a lip. On the under side of your curve, it runs parallel, but on the top swing of the curve, it ties in. Because it is glass, you can just barely see the lip through on the other side. For now, just draw the bottom parallel curve and tie in the sides around the top, like the drawing below.
Now, you are ready to begin smoothing out the angles in the upper half of your vase. Wherever you run into an angle in these parts, such as at the top quarter and middle line, smooth the line out so that it flows from the rounded part of the vase into the neck and up to the top.
Now do the other side.

You can erase your 'helper' lines.
And you can take out the rectangular box surrounding it. Feel free to go back and add any details you'd like, such as the center circle on the bottom, and hints of the lip on the back edge of the upper curve.

Now you have a beautiful vase that is accurate, centered, and flowing!

This box technique can be used on just about anything. Practice with another simple object or two. Break your subject down into the simple math of where the middle is both horizontally and vertically. Then look for any other features that break down into simple math. Use dots to mark the spots. Use straight lines at first, then add curves and dips. It's a blast!

Next week: Shading your vase.

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