The Skull Simplified

Looking at the Skull

The skull is the most important of the deep forms that give shape to the face. Differences between one person and another are largely a result of differences in the skull. The skull determines the shape of our head and the location of our features. Hallowe'en and horror films aside, it is a beautiful and fascinating structure.

Part of an artist's training is to carefully observe and draw the skull from a variety of angles (a plastic skull can be used). Eventually, the skull's basic framework is memorized and then used as sort of a mental armature whenever the head is drawn. Norman Rockwell, whose drawings of heads were always his strong point, recalled, "I had an art teacher years ago (George Bridgeman) who made us draw hundreds of skulls in all positions. I felt he was overdoing it at the time, but now I realized what a wonderful lesson he taught us. Whenever I draw a head, I instinctively feel the skull structure beneath."

We'll look at the skull in a simplified, streamlined version. Then we'll examine it's proportions, finally describing the different parts of the skull and how they relate to what we see on the face.

A Simple Version

The best way to memorize a complex form is to find a simpler form that's a close equivalent. From an artist's viewpoint, cars are boxlike; Christmas trees conelike; smokestacks and pencils simply larger and smaller versions of cylinders. Relating objects to simple forms is very helpful both in drawing them from life and from the imagination. Although attempts have been made to equate the head with a box, an egg, or another fundamental form, most artists prefer a slightly more complex shape to use as their imaginary model. One example is illustrated.

A simple model for the head, the combination of a slightly rounded box and a smaller wedge, can be easily visualized from a variety of positions. The box form is like a cube with a bit added on; the wedge is a streamlined version of the skeletal ¬°aw.

Liberator Wedge Action

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