- Lesson details
Here is the final week’s recording from Art Mentors’ 10-week class in which the masterful Glenn Vilppu teaches head construction. Working from a live model, Glenn demonstrates techniques for blocking in the head, tips for incorporating expressions into your drawings, and gives details about his personal sketchbook. He also goes over some of his sketches in watercolor and later finishes with a digital rendering on the iPad. We hope you enjoyed this class, there’s much more content from Glenn coming soon!
- Toned Canson Paper
- Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolor Pencil – Burnt Sienna
- CarbOthello Pencil – White
- Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencil – Sanguine
- Digital Tablet
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In this class, master draftsman Glenn Vilppu teaches Constructive Head Drawing.
Week 10—head drawing.
This is the final week of the class.
I want to focus on a lot of basic elements of how you can simply block heads in real
practical terms now.
The very, very simplified constructed head along with more discussions about expression.
Okay, let’s do it.
wrapping up and pulling everything together.
Also, I want to focus on a lot of really basic elements of how you can simply block heads in.
Real practical terms now, we’re talking about comic books, illustration.
A very, very simplified constructed head, along with more discussion about an expression.
Okay, let’s do it.
Okay, I wanted to take a short break here, and I’m going to take and—I’ll tell you guys all my secrets.
Then I’m going to draw from her and see if I can really explain
how all this stuff comes together.
Okay, these were done yesterday.
The kids were playing on Eleanor’s computer.
I was playing around and working with—I just started using some white, you know, just
trying to see how that would work.
Actually, this one here I put down a tone with watercolor first, but I want to explain
how I go about doing a sketch really fast when nobody is going to sit still.
This is really—it’s very misleading.
That’s exactly how I do these.
That’s why said I am going to give you guys all my secrets.
Now, the head down here was done, I just put a wash down first.
I just wanted to experiment.
If I hadn’t been working with the white on stuff before very much.
I took and put a tone down on paper, and then I came back in and was drawing still with
When you’re working with something like that, it keeps getting lighter and it goes down.
Then I came back in so I go over it many times.
When you’re working it he way that I have it, it’s a gouache but it’s not fresh.
It’s just been sitting in here drying.
Then you’ve got to soak it as you’re working a bit.
My granddaughter, Camille, was doing something, drinking something, and her brother was sticking
her tongue out at her.
You’ve got an idea.
This stuff doesn’t happen really...these two were done out of my head.
This was actually a waitress at a sushi place.
These were—I don’t know—people standing around.
I think this is, I’m not sure where that was.
Dentist office or something.
That’s actually a really good likeness of this little girl.
They were just visiting.
I’m trying to capture expressions and attitudes.
More than anything it’s the gesture.
To give you an idea, the thing that gives it so much of the realism is the subtleties
of these tones.
Okay, so you need to—at the same time—you need to be taking, the realism.
But the technical part, what I did is I started out with the pencil, and then just went back
in with the watercolors.
I start adding water outside of the area where the pencil is, and then go into the pencil,
and it wets it and so it bleeds.
It creates a soft tone.
These were basically the ideas.
This one, this is somebody on the phone in the doctor’s office.
This is Alfred.
He stood there for probably four seconds.
At the optometrist, the doctor was checking her eyes out.
That’s him looking at his computer.
Nobody is sitting still.
These were some thumbnails.
Again, somebody in an office somewhere.
Okay, the kids just horsing around.
Okay, let me explain how I go about doing this.
It’s really all the same.
This thing right here, by the way, I just—this thing is another variation on how I do things.
This just fits in there like that, and these have Velcro on it.
It’s just a piece of plastic with regular tape.
Now, let me explain how I go about doing this.
Okay, now, what I do, and all of these things here that I’ve been doing, except maybe
the exceptions of this figure here.
It’s a combination.
One thing I’m always talking about is the gesture.
I’m doing a full figure.
Something like this, it’s the attitude.
Once I get past that, and sometimes even before, I will start out—take and look a little
bit more that way.
Now I can explain what I’m doing here.
First of all, I’ve already got a pretty good conception of the whole shape.
I will start out taking and—when I’m doing this, now, this is fairly fast.
Here I’m starting out with the eyebrow.
I come through, I’ve got the eyebrow here.
I’m looking very carefully at the shape here.
I’m coming down here.
All of this now is two-dimensional.
I say it’s all two-dimensional.
It’s all two-dimensional based on a really solid sense of what the form is I’m drawing.
In other words, as I’m doing this, it’s this, now I come through and I’m looking
really carefully at the distance between here and where the eye is and her eye is actually
touching right here.
So, looking at this shape that this is taking right here.
I’m drawing this shape right here.
I’m very conscious of how far it is from that to that.
This is all 2D now.
At the same time, I’m thinking that the lines I’m putting down, I’m looking 2D,
it’s a 3D volume involved in here.
As I go come through, now as I come down to this point here, then I’m drawing the cheek.
Now, when I draw this cheek shape, I look at all these here.
I’m really looking at the…the subtlety of the shape itself rather than a quick
[swishing sound] like that.
I’m looking at this and I say, okay, let me see what I see in it.
It’s a fairly short curve that takes and goes into a straight.
It comes down, and then the chin is coming out.
So now as I’m doing this, then as I’m drawing the nose, I’m looking at how far
the end of the nose is from the eye to the corner right here.
I can jump in, and at the same time I’m thinking this to that to that to the chin.
All of the proportions, I’m already thinking about that.
I’m looking at this shape very, very quickly.
Then I’m looking at how 2D wise, where is the end of the nose.
Then I can come through.
Then I’m looking, where is the mouth, and what shape is going through?
There is a fine small line here.
There is a really tiny distance here.
It’s actually overlapping.
Now, I see where is the lip going over here?
How big is this to that?
It’s constant comparison.
Now I look at the back.
I can see the chin is coming in front and down.
The character of the shape is sort of squarish.
It comes through here, and then it’s going back.
I’m going through I can see that here is the back view.
Looking at where that point on the hair is.
Look at the distance very carefully now.
This is the kind of shape here, except when I’m doing this now, if I’m sitting in
a restaurant or someplace, I look at, I pick out the shape.
It’s the difference between one of these kids and the other is the subtlety of the
curve of that cheek.
As I’m going through these things, then I’m coming in.
Okay, now, from here, now if I’m doing more.
I’ve got this down pretty much already.
We know where she’s at.
It’s not going anywhere.
We’ve got this.
I’m at a restaurant or something, then I’ll come in and I’ll start adding really quick.
Chances are they’re going to move, wherever they are.
I’m just taking and maybe I’ll take and block in that gesture coming through.
They can move.
They can go away.
They can anything you want.
But I’m remembering the action.
Then I’ll build on that.
Okay, so I’ll come through.
Now I’ve gotten here.
Shape of the hair, looking at what we’ve got going here.
That’s where, when you start to realize that you and do this stuff pretty fast.
I’ve got the general thing already one.
From that, I can take and start to paint it.
I can take and add values and shapes.
That’s where the story goes.
Velasquez had 15 minutes to capture, draw the Pope.
You can do that—15 minutes is a long time.
If you’re looking, what it is that you’re looking for is the uniqueness of that character.
You get that by looking very carefully at the particular shapes of things.
That comes through taking and understanding what the construction is.
As I come through with that, then I can take and—come through.
Every time I go back over, I’m modifying, trying to see that contour a little better.
See how pinched this is up here.
See how narrow.
See, that’s already a likeness, just by taking and being really fussy about all of these.
It’s the kind of, we look at it and say what is the shape of that?
What kind of a curve is that.
Then you’re building on the form.
It’s almost 90 percent of when I criticize your work it’s purely on the accuracy of
When you’re bringing up, when you’re talking about the knowledge of the forms themselves,
that helps you to see the forms that are there.
The more you understand the form itself, the more you’re going to see.
Picking up that really subtle little cleft in the chin.
We can feel the line here as it’s coming down.
The fact that as you’re going under the chin you can feel this going back.
The corner of the chin is here.
I can feel this going up under, and the way the softness comes through.
Like now I’m putting water down.
Then I’ll come back in.
That’s too harsh.
What I’m trying to do is not lose this right here.
Raise the…that’s what we were talking about during the break is that David Levine,
that’s what he’s able, he takes and is able to capture and individual.
He just has enough skill that he pushes it a bit and really captures the likeness.
So we start coming through.
A lot of times you can’t do it at that moment, but if you come back in then you start to
take and build—I start looking at the eyebrows, the fullness, tight right in here.
There is a slight pulling out.
When I’m doing things like this, I’m capturing, I’m trying to capture, I’m always looking
at that contour.
And the subtlety, but the expression, the attitude, the gesture like this.
You have to just capture it really fast.
Like this, this is what we were doing in an earlier class.
I was focusing on the rhythm, the flow.
Here, these expressions.
We’re going to take and let you relax for a second.
If we’ll take and do some expressions and do some fast stuff, but when I’m doing it,
I’m really careful.
She can’t hold an expression or anything for a minute and a half, but then you’ll
hold the pose for five minutes.
We’ll go from there.
I’ll do it exactly the way I’m talking about here.
I look very carefully at the distances between things.
It purely is a two-dimensional thing.
That’s probably 90% of what I’m criticizing.
It’s the subtlety of those shapes of things.
Even when I’m working fast and taking and like these things, that was actually a pretty
accurate drawing of what this guy looked like.
I was sitting at a table in a restaurant in Sarasota, and there were people who were waiting
to get a seat.
This guy here, too, same thing.
Now these, these were somebody actually in class.
This was somebody at the restaurant.
This is a model.
Again, it’s a good likeness, but she was a relative of Eleanor’s that we were visiting.
They hadn’t seen each other in 30 years.
They were making dinner, but it’s capturing that uniqueness of the pose that people were doing.
That’s a really good likeness of her, but she was not posing.
I was trying to capture just that subtlety of the nose and the way it goes.
Part of the thing is with this water soluble pencil that.
You can take and you can make subtle tones.
You can come in.
I’m always taking and fudging the contour, looking at the contour.
Construction you have to know.
The construction is part of the process.
As you saw this, I was pretty much on the money with the proportions even thought I
was drawing that contour.
The eyes are halfway.
Bottom of the nose, bottom of the lower lip.
It comes up to here.
I was doing this all, starting out with just the wash blocking in the shape.
Now this is where I talk about the—okay, you’ve got people like Mark that is teaching
the Reilley Method.
What I’m doing is not all that different.
It’s really the same thing except I lay more of an emphasis on the structure rather
than just copying the tones.
In fact, I don’t really copy the tones.
In a sense I’m recognizing the shapes that are getting made by the forms.
It’s the same, but see like this, like this.
Again, these are all—again, that’s pretty accurate drawing of the model.
This was also drawn very much with construction.
It’s a combination of solid structure of planes, but also, at the same time, these
are one-minute gesture drawings.
The earlier class, the main thing I was criticizing was accuracy, but the accuracy of the action
itself and how the forms show the action and give the expression.
It’s sort of, you know, what comes first, the chicken or the egg, but you’ve got to
do it all.
These are all—that’s the way to go about it doing it.
Even in here, when I was doing these, I was actually thinking about the figures leaning
one way and the baby going the other way.
I was thinking composition at the same time.
You’re doing all of these multiple things at the same time as you’re drawing.
Here, this is fairly strong construction.
This was too.
Drawing first with the pencil and then coming back in with the wash.
I try—like these were done, start with one figure and start adding.
One of the things, if you focus on just one way of thinking, you end up with a stereotype.
That’s what I’m always complaining about.
You can see with the way I draw, it’s all kinds of stuff, but I really, that’s all
just the flourish on the outside, it’s always, by looking very carefully…it’s not a style.
These are each, all these drawings are done the same but different.
This is all done straight with the brush, but I was doing the same thing.
Start with one figure and add to it, and then add to another figure and add to it.
You can see now it’s easily more of a gesture thing.
Keep messing around with barrels.
We have very, very clear, definite, simple shapes as I’m doing it.
Then I add into it and I start building.
I’m on expressions.
We make these—we’ll see it how goes with five-minute ones.
I typically start with he eyebrows.
From that, I’m looking carefully at the distances between things.
Look at the shape. You have to look carefully at the shape of things.
At this point, I have done nothing but the features. No head.
Then I go back in, and as I’m blocking in a bit more.
I’ll even use the shape of the shadow to help me define.
Now, one thing, when you have eyes that are looking up, usually you need to take and read a little bit more
of the light underneath the eye or the white of the eye.
Show more of the white underneath; otherwise, the eyes don’t really look like they’re looking up.
Again, this is a typical Renaissance. If you look at drawings or paintings, even,
but you have to start looking at the shape, cheekbone, the pull of the mouth, where the corners of the jaw are.
Sometimes you find that, I know in looking at some of the books that show you drawing expressions and stuff,
it sort of seems like they can’t see the forest because of all the trees. They try to draw too much.
It gets too technical. They lose the expression by focusing too much on the anatomy.
Some say you don’t need to know the anatomy. You’ve got to know it, but you can’t let it get in the way.
In this case I started with the top of the head, but drawing the shape, not haphazard.
Also, when you’re doing it, you can’t agonize over one little line or something.
You have to take and—to use the expression, it’s like downhill skiing.
You can’t back up. You’ve just got to put it down and hope for the best.
I find that a lot of time doing expressions they work much better with a pen.
It forces me to be a bit more direct.
Now, in this case, I look at the, what I did, it’s not coming true strong enough.
Now I’m going back in with the brush. I find that when I work with the brush going back in,
I can take and do a bit more emphasizing on the actual, a lot of the lines.
To me, the brush has a more, the lines become more refined.
Now, that contour of the cheek does a lot to take and show the expression. It makes the chin come out more.
The cheek, the smiling pushes the cheek out.
Just almost that contour of the cheek by itself gives you a lot.
The slightness of the opening of the mouth.
I find that as you draw the same character many times you see the actual shapes better.
I’ve been talking about drawing my grandchildren.
I’m getting to the point now where I’m really studying their shapes.
When I stay really studying, I’m really looking very carefully, trying to distinguish
what makes one child’s shape different from another.
Children are actually quite difficult in that at an early age, the subtleties between them, and yet, they’re unique.
It’s the subtlety that you have to take and study and work with.
Even though I’m starting with the hair, as I’m looking at it, I’m breaking it down into the character of the shapes.
Even by just blocking in I’m going from point to point.
I’ve demonstrated, I think, earlier in the semester, the self-portrait idea, which is, again, the same basic idea.
You are totally, constantly taking and looking where everything is in relationship to everything else.