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Learning to Draw Heads: Practice and Study with Skulls and Loomis Method

Smiley Skull and Smiley Guy study, HB pencil, 4x6"
Smiley Skull and Smiley Guy study, HB pencil, 4x6"

In preparation for my Alla Prima Portrait Painting workshop with Rose Frantzen next month, I wanted to work on my drawing skills so I can keep up in class. Although I draw all the time, I discovered I really had no understanding of head and facial construction.

Skulls and Faces, HB pencil, 11x9"
Skulls and Faces in the Same Positions, HB pencil, 11x9"

I usually draw what I see, compare shapes, angles and plumb lines to try to get some accuracy, but I don’t worry about it too much. That wasn’t cutting it when it came to drawing heads.

So I turned to the great book by Andrew Loomis, recently back in print, Drawing the Head and Hands. His books are also available as PDFs here on the web. There is an excellent explanation with clear examples of the Loomis approach here on Stan Propopenko’s blog so I won’t go into it here. All of my drawings in this post started with the Loomis ball divided in thirds with the jaw then added on.

Skulls and Muscles from Loomis book, 11x9"
Skulls and Muscles from Loomis book, 11x9"

I worked through the Loomis book and when I came to his skull and muscle drawings in the book I tried copying them (above). I also tried some other books’ methods of constructing heads (using an egg shape, a block, double ovals, etc.) but none worked as well as the Loomis approach.

I wanted to do more than copying sketches so I started drawing skulls and people I found on a Google image search, drawing the people in about the same position as the skulls (the two pics at top of post and the one below).