Five Minute Sketching: People
Sketching a person in direct profile can be the best way to show the real shape of somebody’s face and head. For a quick sketcher it can seem a little easier than a more angled side view and less intimidating than a direct portrait. However, you might end up with a drawing that appears a little flat,
so knowing a few basics will make all the difference.
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Tips to get you started
Focus on the nose Remember, the nose sticks out the furthest in a profile. Noses come in all shapes and sizes; some are stubby, some point up slightly. Don’t be afraid to draw a long nose if your subject has one! Use the nose as a starting point for figuring out the rest of the facial shape. Recall that the nose curves around at the bottom to meet the top lip.
Profile examples, 2015.
These examples show two different basic profile shapes. Note how the jawline moves up towards the base of the ear.
Just one eye When drawing the eyes, remember that in a profile you’ll only see one of them. Try to observe how far back the eye is set. Generally you’ll want to draw the eye as a basic triangle, with a curved edge facing outwards. The eyebrow will usually come down to almost the edge of the profile, and male faces often have heavier set eyebrows than female ones.
Line up the ears The ears on a profile are usually just left or right of centre towards the back of the head, and if the subject is looking forwards then the ears usually line up with the nose. If drawing the cheekbone, which is between the ear and the nose, try to be as subtle as possible; too heavy a line will make it appear too sharp or prominent.
Alanna Randall, 2011.
Fellow sketchers are the best subjects, and they also understand when you don’t capture them quite perfectly! Alanna was at the second Urban Sketching Symposium in Lisbon, Portugal, and I drew her while she watched a lecture with great interest. Profiles often make people look much more serious than usual!
The shape of the skull The back of the head is not flat either, but usually curves outwards. Try to think of the bulbous shape of the skull, even if the head’s outline is obscured by long hair. Don’t stop at the neck – try to get some of the subject’s clothing and shoulders in as well, if you can. You can get a greater sense of their posture this way than from the head alone.
A well-proportioned profile If you’re ever in need of a quick example of a well-proportioned profile drawing, check your pockets for coins. If you are from a country with monarchs or presidents on your coins, take a look at how their profile was rendered and follow the same guidelines. Of course, you may end up making your subject look a bit like a queen or king!
Kalina Wilson, Swashbuckler’s Ball, 2013.
This loose ink sketch of a pirate by Kalina Wilson shows more of the figure’s profile, including his body, and is drawn at a slightly lower angle for another aspect of the profile. The facial features are still prominent, but the tilt of the head is evident, and makes for a more interesting sketch.