Now well turn to the threequarter view

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Recall our previous definition of the three-quarter view: one-half of the head plus one-quarter. Still sitting in front of a mirror, pose your head in this view by starting with a full, frontal view and then turning (either left or right) so that you can only partly see one side of your head. You are now seeing one full side plus one-quarter—in other words a three-quarter view.

Artists of the Renaissance loved the three-quarter view, once they had finally worked through the problems of the proportions. I hope you will choose this view for your self-portrait. It's somewhat complicated, but fascinating to draw.

Young children rarely draw people with heads turned to the three-quarter view. Children generally draw either profiles or the

"When drawing a face, any face, it is as if curtain after curtain, mask after mask, falls away .. . until a final mask remains, one that can no longer be removed, reduced. By the time the drawing is finished, I know a great deal about that face, for no face can hide itself for long. But although nothing escapes the eye, all is forgiven beforehand. The eye does not judge, moralize, criticize. It accepts the masks in gratitude as it does the long bamboos being long, the goldenrod being yellow."

— Frederick Franck

The Zen of Seeing, 1973

Fig. 10-25. A sketch by the author from a three-quarter view portrait by the German artist Lucas Cranach (1472-1553), Head of a Youth with a Red Cap.

Fig. 10-25. A sketch by the author from a three-quarter view portrait by the German artist Lucas Cranach (1472-1553), Head of a Youth with a Red Cap.

Head Youth Red Cap Art

full, frontal view. Around age ten or so, children begin to attempt three-quarter view drawings, perhaps because this view can be particularly expressive of the personality of the model. The problems young artists encounter with this view are the same old problems: the three-quarter view brings visual perceptions into conflict with the symbolic forms developed throughout childhood for profile and full-face views, which by age ten are embedded in the memory.

What are those conflicts? First, as you see in Figure 10-25, the nose is not the same as a nose seen in profile. In three-quarter view, you see the top and the side of the nose, making it seem very wide. Second, the two sides of the face are different widths — one side narrow, one side wide. Third, the eye on the turned side is narrower and shaped differently from the other eye. Fourth, the mouth from its center to the corner is shorter on the turned side and shaped differently from the mouth on the other side of the centerline. These perceptions of nonmatching features conflict with the memorized symbols for features that are usually more symmetrical.

The solution to the conflict is of course to draw just what you see without questioning why it is thus or so and without changing the perceived forms to fit with a memorized-and-stored set of symbols for features. To see the thing-as-it-is in all of its unique and marvelous complexity—that is always the key.

My students have found it helpful if I point out some specific aids to seeing the three-quarter proportions. Let me again take you through the process step by step, giving you some methods for keeping your perceptions clear. Again note that if I were demonstrating the three-quarter-view drawing, I would not be naming any of the parts, only pointing to each area. When you are drawing, do not name the parts to yourself. In fact, try not to talk to yourself at all while drawing.

1. Again, sit in front of a mirror with paper and a pencil. Now, close one eye and pose in the three-quarter view so that the tip of your nose nearly coincides with the outer contour of the turned cheek, as in Figure 10-25. You can see that this forms an enclosed shape (see Figure 10-26).

2. Observe your head. Perceive the central axis—that is, an imaginary line that passes through the very center of the face. In three-quarter view, the central axis passes through two points: a point at the center of the bridge of the nose and a point at the middle of the upper lip. Image this as a thin wire that passes right through the form of the nose (Figure 10-27). By holding your pencil vertically at arm's length toward your reflection in the mirror, check the angle or tilt of the central axis of your head. Each person may have a different characteristic tilt to the head, or the axis may be perfectly vertical.

3. Next, observe that the eye level line is at right angles to the central axis. This observation will help you to avoid skewing the features as I mentioned on page 212. Next measure on your head to observe that the eye level line is at half of the whole form.

5. Now, practice making a line drawing of a three-quarter view on your scratch paper. You will be using the method of modified contour drawing: drawing slowly, directing your

Fig. 10-26. First, see this whole area as a shape.
central axis compared to vertical (your pencil). The eye level line is at a right angle compared to the central axis.

This w idth equals this width

This w idth equals this width

Fig. 10-28. Fig. 10-29. J
Bandalu Portrait
A three-quarter portrait, Bandalu, by the author. Note the tilt of the central axis.

gaze at edges, and perceiving relational sizes, angles, etc. Again, you can start anywhere you wish. I tend to start with that shape between the nose and the contour of the turned side of the cheek because that shape is easy to see, as in Figure 10-25. Note that this shape can be used as an "interior" negative shape—a shape you have no name for. I'll describe a definite order for the drawing, but you may prefer a different order.

6. Direct your eyes at the shape and wait until you can see it clearly. Draw the edges of that shape. Because the edges are shared, you will have also drawn the edge of the nose. Inside the shape you have drawn is the eye with the odd configuration of the three-quarter eye. To draw the eye, don't draw the eye. Draw the shapes around the eye. You may want to use the order 1, 2, 3, 4 as shown in Figure 10-28, but any order will work as well. First the shape over the eye (I), then the shape next to it (2), then the shape of the white part of the eye (3), then the shape under the eye (4). Try not to think about what you are drawing. Just draw each shape, always shifting to the next adjacent shape.

7. Next, locate the correct placement of the eye on the side of the head closest to you. Observe on your model that the inside corner lies on the eye level line. Note especially how far away from the edge of the nose this eye is. This distance is nearly always a distance equal to the full width of the eye on the near side of your head. Be sure to look at Figure 10-28 for this proportion. The most common error beginning students make in this view of the model is to place the eye too close to the nose. This error throws all of the remaining perceptions off and can spoil the drawing. Make sure that you see (by sighting) the width of that space and draw it as you see it. Incidentally, it took the early Renaissance artists half a century to work out this particular proportion. We benefit, of course, from their hard-won insights (Figures 10-28 and 10-29).

8. Next, the nose. Check on your reflection where the edge of the nostril is in relation to the inside corner of the eye: Drop a line straight down, following (that is, parallel to) the central axis (Figure 10-29). Remember that noses are bigger than you think.

9. Observe where the corner of your mouth lies in relation to the eye (Figure 10-29). Then observe the centerline of the mouth and the exact curve. This curve is important in catching the expression of the model. Don't talk to yourself about this. The visual perceptions are there to be seen. By seeing clearly and drawing exactly what you see — exact angles, edges, spaces, proportions, lights, and shadows. In R-mode, you do respond—but not in words.

10. Observe the upper and lower edges of your lips, remembering that the line is usually light because these are not true edges or strong contours.

11. On the turned side of your head, observe the shapes of the spaces around the mouth. Again, note the exact curve of the centerline on this side.

Brian Bomeisler
Fig. 10-30. A three-quarter self-portrait by instructor Brian Bomeisler.

12. The ear. The mnemonic for placing the ear in profile view must be slightly changed to account for the added quarter in three-quarter view.


Eye level-to-chin = back-of-the-eye to the back-of-the-ear becomes Three-quarter:

Eye level-to-chin = front-of-the-eye to the back-of-the-ear

You can perceive this relationship by measuring it on your reflection in the mirror. Then note where the top of the ear is, and then the bottom. See Figure 10-30.

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  • rudolph
    How to draw a quarter view self portrait?
    8 years ago
  • anna
    How to find vertical line for 3 quarter view portrait?
    2 years ago

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