In this commentary we assume that you sketch directly from life or from a proper photograph. In other words, we assume that you do not use the so-called grid technique. This technique relies on a grid sketched both on the photograph of your subject as well as your sketching paper.
If this is the case, the first thing you will do is to create a line-drawing. And the very first part of your line-drawing will consist of sketching the so-called arabesque.
In pencil portrait sketching, the arabesque is defined as the entire positive form of your subject's head. In other words the arabesque is the outer contour of the head.
The arabesque includes the proportions, the form, and the symmetry of the head. This means that the arabesque expresses pretty much an overall likeness of your subject and often lots of expressive content.
In trying to realize the arabesque we confront our first test as an artist. That is, the test of "seeing the reality". Indeed, when we observe an object a complex mental process is initiated which in part falls short of the level of accuracy necessary to create an satisfactory portrait.
The mind, for good reasons (one is to preserve our sanity), instantly replace the very complex subject with the a symbol it has stored since childhood. For instance, we all know how a child draws a house. It really is more like a symbol of a house. But this is what the mind tends to bring up and often even adults sketch a house like they did as a child.
Evidently, it is these iconic preconceptions (a left brain phenomenon) that are the enemy of the draftsperson. You must teach yourself to ignore those symbols and really see what the reality of, for example, a house is.
Generally, learning to sketch is about the reprogramming of the mind's eye. To this end, there is a skill-set that has been developed over the centuries since the Renaissance.
Applying this new found skill to the arabesque is particularly important. "Striking" the arabesque is maybe the most important element in the production of a first-rate likeness. Once you have this skill down path all the rest will follow reasonably effortlessly.
The first step in striking a correct arabesque is to force your eyes a bit out-of-focus. This situation is called observing with a "soft eye". With a soft eye proportions and form are more easily seen. It also helps you to avoid the invocation of the iconic preconceptions we talked about.
To teach your eye to improve your powers of observation you must always sketch first and check second. There is very little to gain from pre-measuring. The habit of pre-measuring of the size of your subject's head will hold you back later.
When striking the initial arabesque always use short straight, i.e., architectonic lines. This will impart a sense of the head's structure and the form of the underlying tissues and bones. Note that round or curving lines are iconic preconceptions.
Also pay attention to the symmetry of the head. The term "symmetry" in the context of sketching
and painting does not so much refer to the similarity of two parts but more to the attractiveness that comes from correct proportioning and rhythm.
After striking the arabesque (without doing any sizing) you can check the proportions. Take a measure of the largest
width (i.e., the width of the arabesque across the brow line) and set it off vertically starting at the bottom of the chin. The end point of the width as a rule ends up somewhere close to the middle of the hair.
The idea is to determine exactly where that end point is at. Best is to judge the shorter of the following two distances: (1) the vertical distance from the brow line up to the end point of the measure; (2) the vertical distance from the end point of the measure up to the arabesque. The shortest distance is likely to be the most accurate. Do not forget, the arabesque encompasses the entirety of the head including the hair.
With practice your eyes will develop this critical skill. Then, once the size and form of the arabesque have been established you are prepared to proceed with placing the so-called landmarks.
Author Resource:- Do you want to learn the secrets of pencil portrait draw? Download my brand new complementary pencil portrait draw tutorial here: http://www.remipencilportraits.com/PPDT/pencil-portrait-tutorial.html target="_blank">Remi's Pencil Portrait Drawing Course. Remi Engels is a pencil portrait artist and oil painter and expert draw teacher. See his work at Pencil Portraits by Remi: http://www.remipencilportraits.com Visit Guidelines for Pencil Portrait Sketching - The Arabesque.
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