- Lesson details
We are pleased to share with you a 10-week long class brought to you by Art Mentors! In this class, legendary illustrator Mark Westermoe teaches figure drawing using the Reilly Method. Students will learn how to lay-in the figure, how to simplify and design the anatomy, and how to use light, shadow, and edge control to create 3-dimensional form in their drawings. In this fourth lesson, Mark will discuss the proportions of the male and female figure, as well as analyze the Reilly abstraction of the head. He will also demonstrate laying in features of the head using different planes and controlling value through laying in various tones.
- Smooth Newsprint Paper
- General’s Charcoal Pencil
- Conté Charcoal Pencil
- Kneaded Eraser
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In this class, legendary illustrator Mark Westermoe teaches figure drawing
using the Reilly Method.
In this 4th lesson, Mark will discuss the proportions of the male and female figure
as well as analyze the Reilly abstraction of the head.
He will also demonstrate laying in features of the head using different planes
and controlling value through laying in various tones.
of a followup to last week’s diagrams.
Here we have a nice, very clear set of proportions for the male standing figure, and after I
go over this a little bit we’ll review the female standing figure.
This figure conforms to Frank Reilly’s figure abstraction, which I showed you.
Notice the standing figure always has a slight curve to it.
Convex in front, concave in back.
Notice that the male figure is three heads across the deltoid muscles, and that’s wider
considerably than it is across the trochanters at the hip.
You’re going to find all the proportions are identical and noncontradictory to the
ones that I reviewed last week.
So, I’m not going to spend much time other than to say it’s good to print out or view
from a monitor—doesn’t matter—this diagram so you can do some drawings of it freehand.
You can even trace it at first because all I’m wanting you to do is to learn it and
internalize it and use it afterward.
He also has the figure expressed in the same proportions but breaking down the muscle groups
and then the joints, any of the bony prominences.
We talked about planes just a little while ago, and that’s how I do express the figure
Here, if the light is coming from the light you might expect that these planes are going
to fall into form shadows along this route here and here.
It depends here.
Then you have other planes that are getting the light directly here or the abdomen or
the front of the thigh or the front of the cranium.
Those will be your lightest planes.
Others on the side of the figure don’t fall into shadow, but are half-tones.
Then you’d put in your darkest darks wherever there is the least reflected light.
You almost have a schematic for the whole thing you can use.
Instead of an 8-head figure he’s got a 7-1/2-head figure, and the widest point across the female
is not from deltoid to deltoid, but it is from trochanter to trochanter, but they’re close.
He’s broken it down.
Like the first diagram I showed you, which is not broken into planes but just line drawing.
You can pull up your proportions right off of this.
Notice how he shows you in heels or just with the heel of the foot on the ground.
If you look at Andrew Loomis’ drawings, the ones he uses in his great books, “Figure
Drawing for All its Worth” and “Creative Illustration,” you’ll notice that half
or more of his nudes are wearing high heels or heels of some kind.
You really have to consider that when drawing the female figure because we’re really drawing
the nude not just for the nude, but we’re drawing clothed figures, too.
Women most often are wearing at least some kind of a heel, and that does affect the way
the stance is produced.
In the case of women you have to draw both women in heels and women barefoot.
I really think it’s kind of strange today, unless they’re trying to get across some
kind of a burlesque or some particular theme, most instructors never have the figure posing
nude with heels.
It’s almost always barefoot.
I try to do both.
You should study both.
Okay, on that note, I’m going to move into something I’m going to use today fairly
That’s Frank Reilly’s abstraction of the head.
Most artists, as far as I can see, going back to the late Renaissance, have developed some
kind of an abstraction of the head.
It’s not necessarily the same one, but it’s similar.
Abstraction doesn’t mean drawing like Picasso with the eyes on both sides of the head, etc.
It has another meaning, and that is simplification.
We’re trying to find a rhythmic simplification of the anatomy of the head.
These forms—I’m going to go through them fairly quickly.
Anybody who has my course on Advanced Head Drawing, it’s a 30-hour course, I go really
deep in detail into this abstraction.
Here I’m just going to make you familiar with it.
We see the head is three units in height and two units across the widest part, 3 x 2.
If we divide that perfectly in half, each side is symmetrical, of course to the other.
But now we’re going to create some relationship lines that you should memorize.
If we take a line like this parallel to the center axis and the width of one eye then
we can also see lining up with the tear duct we have the wing of the nose, the side plane
of the lip.
Then across the head we have five eyes.
The eyes themselves are separated by the width of another eye.
And then drawing out to the very silhouette of the head we have a fourth and a fifth eye.
At that point, you want to establish the side plane.
Where does the cranium turn from front to side?
That’s at the temple where the temporal bone is found.
The cranium is the largest volume of the three volumes of the head.
If you saw the profile you’d see it takes up fully two-thirds of the volume of the head.
The other two volumes are the face and the jaw.
The face comes down.
Let’s put it this way—the cranium overlaps the face here at the brow.
Then the face overlaps here at the underplane of the tooth cylinder; it overlaps the jaw.
And the cranium has a broad front plane and a broad side plane.
The jaw has a narrow front plane and chin and a very broad side plane.
The face here overlaps at the bottom of the zygomatic process or the cheek, usually called,
overlaps the jaw at this point here.
It’s three volumes; the cranium, the face, and the jaw.
If you get those volumes in the proper relationships and placements,
then you can just pop in the features.
But most students focus on the features and overlook the true description of the head
that those volumes will give us.
Now, if we take the line from the top of the brown bone—actually, forgive me.
Here, from where the browbone overlaps the eye to the base of the chin, halfway between
the two will give us the septum where the nose attaches to the face.
Then from the septum to the chin halfway will give us the bottom of the lower lip.
The nose has a side plane on each side.
It has the nasal bone here.
It has cartilages that form the bridge in the middle, and the last third is made up
of septal cartilage here, and alar cartilage, which alay means wings in Latin.
And so, these are the wings of the nose.
The ears line up with the brow where it overlaps the socket, and they line up also with the
septum joining the face.
So they’re the length, the height of one nose.
If we take a line here from the iris south, we find the corner of the mouth.
That becomes an easy measurement for us.
These measurements are not daunting or difficult.
Remember, they’re all quarters or halves or thirds.
They’re not like 7/16 or 19/32.
They’re very simple.
It doesn’t require math skill.
This is our front view head, and when we see the side view head.
In the front view the head is three units by two units.
In the profile, the head is just as deep as it is high.
Now we have a 3 x 3 ratio, a square.
The neck comes up diagonally to support the weight of the skull so it’s not just a vertical
post, and we can see the side plane here of the jaw and the side plane of the cranium.
I can see it here, three-quarter view head.
Remember, the axis still remains straight.
It doesn’t curve.
It curves only above the brow bone to the apex of the cranium.
You can see that here.
But, from here south is a straight axis.
Some forms project forward of that axis.
Others recede behind it.
Here is a straight axis on which they’re formed.
Here we’d still have three units in height in the three-quarter, but we’d have somewhere
between two and three units in width depending on the degree of the three-quarter pose.
This is a companion to the abstraction of the head that Frank Reilly designed.
It’s just merely called the planes of the head.
If you really want to help yourself a lot, you can get—John Asaro designed a really
great head abstraction and sculpted it.
You’ve got a 3D head expressed in planes.
I would recommend that.
It’s a great item.
Asaro was a student of Frank Reilly’s, and he was in Frank Reilly’s last class before
Before Reilly died, that is.
I should say finished, in this case, drawings and paintings.
While we’re on the subject of John Asaro, a great painter, we can take a look at the
quality of the finished work.
He’s marvelous, obviously.
You can see that even his darkest half-tones here in the abdomen, the serratus muscle here
between the pectoral muscles, they are still lighter than his shadows.
We can see here the importance of the form shadow.
It’s here where it meets the light that we really see the form described.
In fact, you can fill the shadow with just that reflected light or fill light.
As long as you have this, the core, it will work.
This is usually referred to as rim lighting.
You have your main source of light, and then you have it falling into shadow, form shadow,
but you have a second source of light coming from the other side.
It actually describes the form from one and then two sides.
It’s very, very graphic and explicit in conveying form.
I also brought in, I brought in these drawings.
I don’t speak Chinese so I can’t translate page by page.
Ironically, these are Russian drawings from the Repin Institute in St. Petersburg, which
he formed around the turning of the 20th century.
Even though the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and the Academy schools in England have more
or less, they don’t resemble what they were before the 20th century.
Here, however, the Russians established this academy, and that worked fairly well because
there were Russian abstract artists, of course, Kandinsky and so on.
Still, there was a strong tradition of representational drawing and painting.
That also seemed to suit the socialist regime that came in.
Most of their posters and propaganda involved figures that the public could relate to.
Not nude, but, of course, they studied the nude for the reason that we do, too, the artists
at the academy.
It still exists.
It’s expensive and difficult to live there if you don’t speak Russian, among other
things, but there you have it.
Notice the strength of the form shadow, and even the darkest half-tones are lighter than
the lightest shadow.
We’re going to go over hands.
We’re going to go over heads today and how to take those, how to lay them in and take
them to a finish.
It’s important to study some anatomy, but you don’t have to draw it as though the
figure were a flayed, skinless figure.
You draw the anatomy at the points where it becomes most evident.
The emphasis is here at the joints or here where the shadow takes over from the light.
Here are some finished figure studies.
We don’t draw every muscle that we know.
We draw the ones at the point where the light asserts them.
Here is a good example of something I discussed earlier in our class, in our course about
rendering shadow as opposed to rendering half-tones.
In this case, the artist has drawn the form along the shadow for his darks, but has drawn
the half-tones which were within the light across the form.
I think you can see that here.
That’s the technique that you’ll definitely be trying.
Same thing here.
You know, I’m really not sure how to order this book.
You won’t find it at any bookstore.
Again, it’s Chinese.
Again, I didn’t order.
I paid for it to be ordered.
If it were Russian, I actually can speak and read a little bit,
but it’s Chinese about Russian.
Doing studies from this drawings, excellent homework.
I think you look up Rapin Academy or Institute—I’m not sure anymore—
then you’ll be able to find this book.
For one thing, it being in Chinese will help narrow it down.
It cost me about $70, but it’s a really, truly excellent book.
It’s kind of a counterpart to the book I showed you from the Art Student’s League
in a similar period of time.
Notice the anatomy is best shown at the joint.
The bone itself is not so visible here or here, but at the joint you make your point.
This one is very painterly.
It doesn’t have the strokes very visible.
This one is very academic, typical of early 19th century drawing, although I could be
wrong because I can’t read Chinese.
This has to have a strong, simple shadow to support this much modeling of the figure.
If there is as much detail in the shadow as there is in the light, everything would fall apart.
That’s not how the light describes form, and that’s not how we see.
This one appears to have used a lot of eraser to create form.
I would definitely recommend trying to do some studies at home in charcoal.
Don’t bother with digital at this time.
Now, when the figure is this light, the shadows are so light you can’t really draw much
in the light because it will confuse the viewer into thinking that those shapes are in shadow,
which of course they could not be.
Look up Rapin in St. Petersburg.
This is the cover of this edition, which is the only one I’ve ever seen.
Again, it’s a great pose.
One of the advantages of working from photographs is that to get certain kinds of action poses
for a long pose it’s pretty necessary.
You do have to draw from life, too.
But, to do finished academic drawings, you’ll probably end up taking a photo of the live
model such as this, except that in this case the pose is so active that he’s not likely
to be able to hold it for a three-hour session or more.
That’s why the photograph is so useful.
This is a light exposure.
Here is a dark exposure.
The shadows are black here.
Whereas some of the light exposure we can see into the shadows.
Then this is a standard exposure.
In this case, we can see half-tones within the light very clearly.
We can see some, but not much.
detail in the shadow.
This is probably the one we’ll be shooting for in terms of the drawing.
You do need to have a light and a dark.
In the dark exposure you see nothing in the shadow but the division between light and
shadow is quiet pronounced, and you see more half-tone.
And in the light exposure to the degree that you may or may not want to draw some detail
as suggested in the shadow.
But, this is so light it burns out anything within your light pattern, practically.
I always use, when I’m doing an illustration or a portrait, I try to get one each, a standard,
a light, and a dark exposure.
We can see that clearly.
We’re going to focus on the head.
Here is the standard exposure of that same pose, the model’s head.
We see half-tones, and we some form in the shadow.
The distinction between light and shadow is quite clear.
In the next case, we have a light exposure here.
Usually you’re going to be drawing detail in the light and suggesting it in the shadow.
Here we’d be describing form in the shadow and only suggesting it in the light.
This would be a high-key version if you were to do an illustration or a painting from this.
Here is our dark exposure.
You see nothing in the shadow, but you see much more clearly some of the half-tone forms
within the light.
Most of my work on this particular head will be done in the standard exposure.
Lastly, and this is what I would do if I were doing a painting or an illustration.
I always blow up the hands as you would want to do with the head.
He we have a standard exposure of both hands.
It’s clear what’s in shadow.
The half-tones carry the form such as here in the veins and here.
The overlaps within the palm of the knuckle pads and the thenar eminence and the hypothenar
One, two, three.
And those are your—three goes all the way to here.
Hypothenar eminence is at the base of the thumb, and then here—this is the thenar
eminence, excuse me.
The thypothenar eminence is at the outside of the palm leaving in the middle a valley,
almost like a baseball glove.
A couple of more notes while I’m on this.
The fingers have an arc to them.
You don’t want to lose that for a sake of an individual finger.
The thumb, if we were to close it in your palm, it would touch the base of the little
finger like that.
At the back, we see the detail of the tendons and some of the veins as well between those
tendons and across them.
Here is a dark exposure we’re about to show you.
Let’s see, do I have that?
Of the hands.
You can see more detail in the light than you can in a standard exposure like that.
You see no detail at all in the shadow.
Finally, we have a light exposure, which I think is actually very good for the lay-in
of the shapes, the wrist and arm and the hand and the digits.
Just a quick review on the hand.
You have your wrist bones here, two rows of them, eight in number.
Then from them you have the bones that extend to the base of each digit.
Those are called the metacarpals.
The wrist is known as the carpal or the carpus, and anything pertaining to it is called carpal.
Then meta just means beyond.
These are the bones beyond the wrist.
They attach to phalanges.
Each finger has three separate phalanges, except for the thumb which only has two.
The thumb is held off usually at about 30 degrees from the body of the mass of the hand,
although it can be extended farther.
These phalanges are known by names.
This is the proximal phalanx of the 3rd digit.
One, two, three.
This is the medial phalanx, meaning in-between.
You have your proximal, you have your medial, and you have your distal, meaning the last,
the farthest phalanx.
That’s true for all four of these fingers.
The fingers also tend to bow toward each other.
They are not all facing the same plane.
They turn inward toward the center finger, the middle finger.
These are a couple things to look for.
Alright, I’ve always, and I’ve been teaching for over 30 years, I’ve always notice that
those who can draw the head well will learn how to draw the figure well, too.
But, if you concentrate on anatomy and figure and everything that pertains to the figure
proper, and you don’t do justice to your head drawing, then you’ve got a lot of catching
up to do.
You could have used all that figure work as an opportunity to draw the head as well.
That’s what I’m urging you to do.
Let me see why I have my light print.
Actually, I think I’ll draw from the light print first.
You have to remember you see the eye so clearly within the socket, and that’s much more
than we would do unless this were maybe outside on a sunny day with a lot of reflected light
in the shadow.
We’re very lucky here in Los Angeles.
We have as good a group of figure models as you’d find anywhere else on Earth.
Note the shape of the Conté pencil.
It’s evenly tapered to a fine point.
It’ll take a razor blade and a sandpaper pad to do that.
You can just use a pencil sharpener.
This head is titled forward so the axis needs to be accurate, needs to parallel the axis
on the photograph.
Notice how lightly I’m expressing my construction lines.
Halfway from the brow to the base of the chin in a standard head we find the septum of the nose.
Here we find the turning to the side of the cranium at the temple.
Now I’m going to start to describe the form, beginning with the distance
between the eye sockets.
The angle of the eyebrow.
I’m not using just line to do this.
I’m using the side of the pencil or the tip to create tone or line, so it’s kind
of like trying to get the edge at the same time as I get the shape.
I want to give a certain angularity to the cartilages that form the septum.
Here is the bridge of the nose coming down to the septal cartilage at the base of the nose.
Shadow changes direction at that point.
The septal cartilage here overlaps next to it the alar cartilage, the wing of the nose.
I keep the overlapping edge quite firm, even hard.
There is a shadow cast over the barrel of the mouth or tooth cylinder.
Very carefully designing the shapes of the cartilage at the base of the nose.
I use a plumb line to find the corner of the mouth relative to the tip of the nose.
There it is.
And the other side of the mouth, before I place that, I’ll work into the eye socket
a little bit.
This is the angle of the nose, and if I follow that from where it went north, it should give
me standard placement of the eye sockets.
Here I’m going to very lightly sketch in the base of the eye
socket on each side.
Again, I’m drawing in planes.
Now, the mouth should be parallel to these horizontal axis.
So should the base of the nose, the eyebrow, the bottom of the chin, and so on.
Okay we’ve worked our way down the vertical axis of the head.
Now we’re going to go and develop the forms along the
horizontal axis of the head.
Well, we talked about a dark, a standard, and a light print of the subject.
Obviously, when you lighten it you’re lightening both the lights and the shadows.
When you darken it, you’re darkening both of the shadows and the lights.
That relationship between your dark and light remains the same , pretty much.
However, we now have the ability with digital means
to darken all the values that are less than a given percentage without darkening the lights.
We can also, we can lighten the darks without…lightening the lights.
If you want to see that, if you’d like to do that in your subject, you can actually
see what it’ll look like by playing with the light and the dark independent of each other.
That’s something we didn’t have an option for when I was studying or working most of
Well, we did, actually.
We used to do that in some of the images that we printed in our quarterly catalog, come
to think of it.
But, it is very easy to do now, I believe at least, from what I have worked on and seen.
So, if you want to do that for your reference, that’s also available to you and would be
a good idea in certain instances.
I want to make sure of this angle.
One of the things that I can use that’ll help me is the distance from the tip of his
nose to the silhouette of his muzzle.
The muzzle is the form that circles the whole front of the head.
It’s on the abstraction.
It’s not a single muscle.
It’s made up of a number of muscles.
The other one is here.
That’s the tooth cylinder or barrel of the mouth.
The final one—not the final one, but another horizontally is the chin mound, and then there
is a front axis, frontal prominence they call it here at the front plane of the cranium.
If I can judge the distance from here to the silhouette, and then I’m on to something.
Try to judge the distance here from the wing of the nose to the shadow of turning the cheek
back away from the light.
It’s funny, I’ve had several students who at some point or even at the end of the
class, they’ll thank me for sharing my tricks with them, but it’s not about tricks.
It’s about simple principles.
Sometimes I’ll show you a technique of sharpening or holding a pencil to better display those
techniques but it’s definitely not a bag of tricks.
Here is the orbicularis oculi muscle under the brow, overlapping the ball of the eye.
of the shadow pattern over the eye socket in particular.
This nasal bone, rather, this wing of the nose is surrounded by darks so I do not
want it to jump out like a spotlight so I knock it back a little bit with a half-tone.
Just going to put a half-tone over the entire side of his head that’s facing away from the light source.
This half-tone cannot be as dark as any of the shadows.
Now, because of the angle and the proximity of the light source, this cranial mass gets more light than either of
the other two masses, which are the face and the jaw.
Still have to be sure that the shadow areas are clearly darker than the darkest half-tones.
This, of course, is what we call the egg effect. The planes that are closest and/or
most directly situated to the light source in their angle, they’re going to half a fall-off in value.
In our case, the lightest light will be in the cranium or on the cranium.
Let’s construct the eye within the socket.
The nose is a little more ruddy and has a somewhat darker complexion
than the rest of the areas surrounding it.
It has a crest light that runs along the edge of the bridge,
but I’m going to ignore that for the moment and just work on what we call the body tones.
Don’t draw the iris with too hard a set of edges. It should just be suggested.
Remember, when you’re drawing the iris, at this point, you’re not drawing the iris.
You’re drawing that which overlaps the iris, and that would be his lower lid.
I’m going to ignore that for a moment and just work on what we call the body tones.
Always look for the highest point on the head.
You can do, at this stage and later, a bit of drawing with the eraser too.
Remember, I put a half-tone over the lower half of the head,
and so we can actually bite into that with the eraser.
Now, you’ll notice I really haven’t changed the value of the shadows. I’ve kept them pretty constant.
Maybe a little bit in the eye socket I’ve darkened.
Now, I’ll spend a little time here. You can do this at break if you have a live model.
But, you can do it now since we don’t.
Even on our standard print, we don’t see any modeling or change of value
within the side plane of the cranium and the hair on it.
Later on in this study, we will definitely go black in the hair.
But I want to get a look, a read on the whole light and dark pattern first,
so that’s why I’m going about it this way.
There are some sprays of hair that come down to his scalp.
They’re not very light if you measure them, but they’re a lot lighter than the shadow. .
In this area I’m keeping the shadow just a little bit lighter so I can draw around
them and create them once I have the whole pattern done
Make sure the contours of your form shadow remain very legible.
It’s easy if you’re not careful to obliterate the integrity and legibility of those shapes.
That would be self-defeating.
This cast shadow shape over his upper torso creates a nice opportunity to close off the drawing.
With a very nice vignette.
Now, don’t get too overtly concerned with the likeness.
We have a fairly good likeness, but that’s not the main point. It’s to do a good head study.
You’re not drawing this for the model or his family. You’re drawing it as a study for your own learning.
If you get too caught up in doing just a perfect likeness, it’s very probable that
you’ll also begin to forget some of the main points that you’re trying to make.
By the way, that’s one of the reasons, if you have a good photograph with good simple form lighting,
you probably don’t want it to be a photo of a friend or relative or a celebrity because it’s almost impossible
not to get overly consumed with having a perfect likeness. Not the point.
If you draw well and you make your measurements properly, you probably
will get a very good likeness, but don’t obsess with that.
Great, our next step would be, if we were to go on and finish this—and I will work on that next week—
our next step would be to place our darkest darks and come back in with charcoal pencil,
which is more subtle and not so grainy.
In the meantime, this week go ahead and try to do a study from a head.
You can get them from the Art Mentors library or maybe you can even find them in a magazine or what have you.
I really want you to become excellent at head drawing. Everything else will follow if you do.
Thanks for attending the class, and do as much homework as your schedule allows you.
Free to try
1. Lesson Overview40sNow playing...
Watch the whole lesson with a subscription
2. Reilly Head Abstraction & Male and Female Figure Proportions14m 5s
3. Analyzing Master Works and Figure Studies10m 29s
4. Laying in the features of the head along different planes36m 28s
5. Laying in tones on the head51m 7s