Both Sides Now

Article by Darren Rousar.

Portrait-of-Mademoiselle-Marie-Fantin-LatourFantin-Latour, Portrait of Mademoiselle Marie Fantin-Latour (detail).

Our perception of nature is relative. That line is only at an angle when compared to another. This shape is larger than that shape. Etc. And if you want your drawing of the shape you see to in fact look like the shape you see, then you need to begin seeing, remembering, and drawing both sides now.

Take a look at the two pair of lines below. They represent the angles of a person’s eyes (which are called canthal tilts) and their eyebrows as seen from a frontal view. The angles and sizes of those angles change as the model’s pose changes. Failing to see and correctly draw them when drawing a portrait means that you’ve failed to capture the model’s likeness.

It also means that your viewer will perceive eyes which do not relate to each other.

A common approach most students follow is to draw one eye. Then, with little or no reference to the first, they draw the other. This is problematic for many reasons.

To get both eyes to correctly relate to each other, you’ll need to see, remember, and draw both sides now.

Take a look at the series of images below. They represent a head, beginning on the left in a frontal view and progressing to profile on the right. Notice how the angles of the eyes change as the head turns. Also notice how the distant eye gets progressively smaller.


To see it more clearly, I’ve dimmed the image below and added black lines over the canthal tilts.


Piecemeal Memory

The problem of drawing eyes independently of each other is called piecemeal seeing. But it goes beyond that. When you see piecemeal, you remember piecemeal. It is therefore almost impossible to draw both eyes in such a way that they appear to be working together.

Those piecemeal problems are most apparent in portraiture because the model’s head is not a static plaster cast. Rather, it is always in motion. So, when you draw the second eye, it is likely in a slightly different place than it was when you drew the first.

Both Sides Now

Part of the solution is to draw both eyes at the same time. After making a mark for one eye, make the corresponding mark for the other, and so on.

Another help is to center your focus between both eyes on the model. Though your focus is in the middle, your attention is peripheral and with practice you’ll perceive the impression of seeing both eyes at the same time. After a few seconds, you would then direct your gaze over to your drawing and try to draw what you remember of that impression.

You’ll then engage in that back and forth process a few times in order to get both eyes accurately drawn together.

A Trained Memory

Clearly, concentrating on two things at once is impossible, especially when drawing. But your visual memory is a wonderful thing; all the more when it’s trained to see and recall the visual impression.

And that’s just one aspect of memory drawing that you’ll train in the full Memory Drawing course.

If you’d like to begin training yours today, sign up for the free mini-course: 3 Days of Memory Drawing. Fill out the form below and you’re in!

As you’ve read above, learning to draw both sides now involves something called seeing the whole. Students who learn cast drawing in Sight-Size naturally develop this skill. You can learn more about that in the companion article, Chasing the Distant Eye, which is over on the Sight-Size site.

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