How should I go about doing timed face/expression sketches?

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This topic contains 10 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by ruthiew 1 month ago.

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    I've been doing the timed figure study activities for a while, and I was curious about the face/expression one. However, I have no clue how to actually start on these. I know with gesture drawing there's the line of action, torso and hips, joints, etc. but with the faces I've just been starting with a circle and then realizing I don't have enough time to break it down and rushing to place the features, which usually end up looking wonky and disproportionate and don't come together well. I've tried longer time intervals but have the same issue. My usual method for drawing heads/faces is starting with a Loomis model and then the planes of the face, but I don't have time for this with quick sketches. Is there anything I should be doing or a method like there is for gesture drawing? Do I just wing it?

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    I personally haven't found a solution either, pretty much out of the same reasons. I just use "all of the same length" mode with 3600 seconds as timer.

    I mean, there are sometimes street artists in touristy places, who sell quick portraits, but even they take 5 mins.


    You know, Herbert, Shinycats, I think that warming up your face and expression drawings could and would and can and will be a greater idea. I feel that I really need to see your drawings of faces and facial expressions can and will become more obvious if you can and will show me your drawings of those faces and features. The logical arguement is because by seeing a collection of your faces and facial moods, they can and will become more clearer examples of caricatures and exaggerated cartoons if you really must do, like the caricatures by Al Hirschfeld and Frank Hoppmann of Eulenspiegel in Germany and Instagram. The really reason why is because, like sketching the animation poses, you don't really need to care too much about the forms and details, but you need to pay closest attention to the forces, action,and rhythms of your facial bones and muscles of your models. Also, you need to be the most concerned with rendering the faces and heads with the least amount of lines possible.

    Let's hope they've been completely, definitely, and absolutely useful and helpful.


    Here is a page of 60 second expression drawings I did:


    Yes Polyvios, but generally the problem in drawing faces is to NOT get them to look like caricatures. Which requires a whole lot of detail, with quite carefully measured proportions. Famous cartoonists and caricaturists often use specific shortcuts, which can indeed be drawn quite quickly. But drawing Elmer Fudd, Eric Cartman or Charlie Brown in under 30 seconds will neither teach me a lot about portrait drawing, nor even about developing my own caricature shortcuts. Even Manga faces are already a bit too complex to gain very much from one minute drawings, although they might be at the border if you really train on repeating them quickly.

    I tried quicksketching portraits myself and found no value, but I also found no one online, who promotes quicksketching as a good entry into portrait drawing. The usual beginner tips for portraits to more than 50% start with Loomis, and you can't do Loomis under a minute. And those, that do not center on Loomis tend to be more complex, not more simplified.


    Oh, yes, Aunt Herbert, I see your point but yes I do see your point, but I'm sorry about the inspecific advice. What I said about this quick approach to drawing the most realistic portraits with as fewest lines as possible, therefore my feeling is that the most detailed ones could be done as longest as 3600 seconds to 1 hour 50 minutes. The logic, to spend the most time on the forms and details, while I truly mean to explain that by warming up your faces and expressions, you don't really want to get the most hyperdetailed faces and expressions with the least amount of time, which can and will and shall be an exercise in and of itself, but don't worry, you don't have to be a perfectionist about it.

    Let's hope my most constructive critique could and should be the most informative to make up for the last one.


    What is the gesture of a face? Between gesture and mime, mime is generally associated with faces. And mime isn't defined by big motions, but by subtle details.

    If someone is "gesticulating wildly" with their cheeks, nostrils, and eyebrows, it's time to call the ambulance, as they might be suffering from a seizure.

    Also, the big shapes and proportions of all faces are generally the same. You can practice them, but you don't need specific reference for them, as there is no big change in silhouette. For studying the shapes and proportions of faces, it's useful to just drill abstractions, Loomis, Reilly, Bridgman, Huston, or even japanese industry manga faces if you prefer that style and favor expression over realism... but hurrying them doesn't improve the practice, as they are by their nature as abstractions already idealized.

    Look, I am not asking you to show how you would do it, as that would be arbitrary and unfair, depending on your amount of practice you had. But find anyone, who is good at portray drawing OR caricature, who teaches starting face drawing from quick sketching at a pace of a minute or less. Sources from the internet, sources from literature, anything.

    Most people have conscious control over their jaws, lips, cheeks, nostrils and eyebrows to form an expression, but the motion of the facial muscles is extremely minute compared to the muscles of limb and torso. And there is general consent in the art community, that it is good practice to draw from big to small. Timed practice from reference with faces would mean, you deliberately practice starting with tiniest details. It's a trap, don't do it.

    If you want to use this site to practice drawing faces, don't use the "class" feature, use the "all the same length" feature, and chose at least 5 minutes or 10 minutes, or use the self defined length and enter 3600 seconds.

    There is still the same risk of getting lost in spending oozes of time rendering a flawed construction, but other than in poses, you can't just avoid it by putting yourself under time constraints. You have to know about it, and use self discipline to stop yourself, when you go into rendering mode, while your constructtion is still flawed.


    Sorry, I don't know what to say it, and in that case, how to say it. What I truly mean is, by drawing the gestures of the faces and expressions, you can and will be able to capture your ideas and energies with a few lines as possible. You see what I'm saying and I mean?


    Polyvios, sorry, this wasn't an answer to your post. But the post I originally answered to has obviously been deleted by its author. But there still isn't gesture happening in the face, in the face it's called mimic or facial expression, and it's called differently, because it actually also works differently than gesture.

    The features of the face just aren't limbs, they aren't connected by joints, and they don't use massive changes in silhouette to communicate an action or a feeling. Tiny differences in muscle movement can make a giant difference in emotional content of an expression. Fear and laughter, anger and bewilderment, sadness and boredom, those expressions are so close to each other that a lot of people seriously struggle to tell them apart when actually talking face-to-face with another person.

    Yes, an artist, who is able to differentiate between such subtle nuances with as few lines as possible is certainly recommendable, but just forcing yourself to capture such nuances in 30 seconds from random photographic references won't teach you how to find the exact decisive lines, that are needed.

    I understand what you are saying and mean about the goal. I just think that in this case short timed drawings are the absolutely wrong tool to achieve that goal, and are actually a trap. You see what I am saying and mean? I don't disagree about your intention, but about the proposed way to get there.

    Gesture is about big and bold movement, it's like a hammer, while mimic or facial expression is about little precise movements of tiny muscles, more like a screwdriver.

    There are similarities between a nail and a screw, but the old saying that if you only know about hammers you treat everything as a nail is still true.

    And this certainly not about you personally Polyvios, I am so invested because that very misconception, trying to learn facial expressions the same way as gesture is best learned, is so often thrown around by people, who just aren't very good at drawing faces.


    Not sure how helpful or accurate of a technique this is, but when I draw the figure, the line of action I often see is the line of the spine, or sometimes the the wingspan of the figure, across the shoulders and down the arms. It can change based on the pose but generally that is where I find myself looking.

    When I draw faces and expressions, I usually draw the sphere of the skull, then sometimes the cross axis of the face (eyeline and vertical line down through the center of the nose) to establish the tilt and angle, then I find a line of action across the brows and sometimes also the mouth. If you have the brows, you know a lot of what you need to draw the eyes, and if you have the mouth, you know most of what you need to know about how the nose and cheeks are contorted. That way if you want to come back and get into more detail later you have the foundation of the expression laid out, even without the reference image. Additionally, if the expression has the mouth wide open, I find it helpful to rough in the jawline when I draw the cross axis of the face.

    I hope that's useful!

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