Who here hates drawing real people? Me. Me, me, me, me, ME.
But I’m finally committing to the task, and if you share my sentiments of frustration and rage at the human shape, you should keep reading. Even if you don’t, keep reading. Because I like you, whoever you are.
I buckled down and decided to work on drawing people a few months ago. I grew up never really liking the human shape as a subject for my work. I liked to express human ideas and concepts without actually depicting people. For some reason, I hated real people. However, as I’ve grown, my tastes have changed. I have new things that I want to express, and for some of those things, being able to draw a realistic human being is necessary.
Learning has not been easy. It has been awful. I would show you my first attempt at an expressive face, but your eyes would probably burst into flames. I really don’t feel like being responsible for that.
I have learned a lot, though. I’ve learned that, with faces (which is my main focus right now), it’s not about the lines. It’s about the light. See, we are all tempted to draw an outline of lips, noses, and eyes, but in reality, those things don’t have a clearly defined beginning and end. We just process them that way because our brains like to group visual stimuli. When you draw a face, where the shadows fall define features, not the lines. It’s the same reason why lips tend to look really weird if you just outline them. They are a part of your face, not some separate piece.
When you’re working on a face, focus on where the shadows fall based on the structure of that face. Yes, shape is important, but whenever I’ve worked on the shape first and then worked on shading a face, it has turned out like hell. Since I decided to work on both simultaneously, my faces have started to look more and more human.
Also, if this is your first time, be prepared to fail. Be prepared to fail hard.
Due to the Uncanny Valley effect, when you’re learning to draw humans, you will be extremely unsettled by the errors you make. According to Uncanny Valley, we are very put off by things that look almost human. Things that have just enough wrong with them for us to know they aren’t human scare the shit out of us.
But don’t give up. It will take a lot of time to learn how to draw people that don’t look like messed-up Japanese robots, but you’ll get it. Just keep trying. A great way to get started is to sketch from a reference photo. I know it can feel like cheating for some, but if you’re not using tracing paper, you’re not cheating. Just use the reference photo to help you get used to human proportions and shapes of the face and body. It will help you not just with learning how to draw people, but with replicating artwork. That’s an extremely useful skill if you ever sketch something great and decide to transfer it to a different medium.
While I am finally getting better, I still have so, so much to learn. What methods do you use for drawing realistic people? What unique challenges do you face with this type of art? How do you avoid the Uncanny Valley? Feel free to share; I need all the help I can get!
Until Next Time,