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Head Drawing for Beginners

Have you wanted to learn how to draw or paint the head but you didn't know where to start? Join 3Kicks Art Studio founder Charles Hu, legendary illustrator and Associates in Art Founder Mark Westermoe, master draftsperson Glenn Vilppu, and renowned painter Steve Huston as they teach you the simplified structures of the head & neck that every artist needs to know. This beginner-friendly course will walk you step-by-step through planning a portrait, the planes of the head, construction, skull anatomy, and spatial relationships of the portrait so that you can draw and paint more solid and convincing heads!

19 Lessons 52h 11m 24s of videos

Level 1

Learn how to use solids (boxes, cylinders, spheres) to form the basic structure of the head. This lesson is a fundamental step in learning how to create a solid foundation to place the features of the face on. He will also show you how to construct the basic head in different perspectives. Following Steve's lecture, he will illustrate how the Old Masters constructed the human head. You will then be given a timed assignment from Steve to utilize what you have learned and practice your skills. Finally, Steve will share with you how he goes about the assignment through his own techniques.

Level 2

Charles takes on the difficult task of drawing expressions. He emphasizes the importance of internalizing the expression that your model is showing, given that he or she will naturally relax their face throughout even a short pose. He teaches you to feel the stretch and pinch of various parts of the face and head to find rhythms and opportunities to exaggerate or modify your drawing.

Level 3

Mark introduces Frank Reilly's abstraction: a rhythmical representation of the shapes and forms of the head. Internalizing this model will give you an excellent starting point for any portrait or head drawing. Mark first explains a little bit of the history behind this abstraction, then moves on to show you how it can be applied to any given drawing or photo. Following that, he uses the abstraction and some tracing paper to demonstrate some portraits from the NMA and Drawthis! model reference libraries.
Mark begins with some general rules and tips for monochrome drawings-- designing the shapes, the values we assign to them, and the edges between them. He then moves on to draw three shadow patterns on three heads based on the Reilly Abstraction. He incorporates three different lighting scenarios on these heads: form lighting, ambient lighting, and rim lighting.
Mark demonstrates an approach called underpainting or imprimatura, wherein the first layer of paint on the canvas serves as a base tone for the rest of the forms painted on top. In this lesson, Mark shows you how to apply your understanding of the planes of the head and the laws of light to make even the simplest of paintings "ring true." In this case, he paints a portrait of the notoriously bullish financier J.P. Morgan.
Mark diverges from the curvilinear rhythmic approach and shows you how to conceptualize the head by using planes and connecting lines. Many art teachers harp on the need to focus on construction, without pointing directly to what they mean by construction. In this lesson, Mark takes direct aim at this concept so that you have an adequately solidified mental model of the head before moving onto more difficult angles in the final lesson.
Now that you've internalized the fundamental techniques and concepts related to Frank Reilley's rhythmic abstraction of the head, Mark encourages you to tackle more nuanced angles, poses, and expressions of the portrait in the final lesson in his series. He demonstrates various approaches using toned paper and colored pencils, as well as a technique for creating rich blended tones using a combination of wax pencil and mineral spirits on a printed vellum copy.

Level 4

In this extensive lesson, master draftsman Glenn Vilppu shares with you his approach to head drawing. Glenn will begin with an in-depth lecture on head structure and features of the face. Next, he will share his thoughts on master works and analyze various artists’ approaches to head drawing. Glenn will then doing several demonstrations drawing […]

Common Questions

Who is this course for?

This course is for anyone who wants to learn to draw the human head. Whether you are a total beginner or an experienced draftsperson, painter, or sculptor it pays to have solid fundamentals of head drawing and construction.

Why is there more than one instructor for this course?

This course is comprised of four series of video lessons that were recorded and released on the NMA site separately. We decided to combine them into one master beginner head drawing course because they cover different aspects of head drawing but have a common core of construction, shape and value design and build on one another in terms of complexity. Portions of this course are included in the Frank Reilly Drawing Method and Constructive Head Drawing Courses.

Which course should I take after this one?

We recommend doing Advanced Head Drawing course next, which builds upon the foundations laid in this course.

Next, you can branch out into head painting, head sculpting, or even movie poster design.

Why isn't the Sight-Size Approach included in this course?

Sight-size is a drawing system that doesn't necessarily combine well with the constructive approaches provided in this course. If you are interested in sight-size we recommend you take that course separately and follow through it sequentially.

How do I handle the differences in the drawing approaches provided?

Although the instructors in this course have similar fundamentals there are differences in drawing emphasis, concepts, and technique. We recommend that you go through each course and do every assignment in the methodology of the instructor teaching and once you complete the course continue to experiment with these ideas. You will find that certain ideas and techniques will work well with your artistic personality and these are the lessons that you will internalize as you develop as an artist.

How does this course tie into the Russian Academic Drawing Course?

The Russian Academic Drawing Course dovetails nicely with this course. You can proceed to that course after this, or if you continue on to Advanced Head Drawing there are portions of the Russian Drawing Course included within it.