When are rules not rules?

If you are an artist and have started to learn about portraiture you may have gotten bombarded by all kinds of “rules” to follow when finding the features of the head. Let’s take one example that I have been told for years:

The eyes are located at the midpoint between the top of the head and the chin.

This is one I hear all of the time. I even have artists quote it back to me in my workshops. And if you go online, you will find many tutorials telling students to locate the eyes at this midpoint. There are drawings showing where the eyes should be located in their drawings. (you know I hate the word “should”)

Yet this is “academic” study. It rarely helps in the real world when you are staring at a model. So, let’s put this rule to the test…

Here is Scarlett Johannsson.

So yes, her eyes are at that halfway point between the top of her head and her chin. But only if I look at her straight on.

What about The Rock?

Hmmm… nope, his eyes are not located exactly at the halfway mark. So, does this make him an aberration?

No, just human.

And what about if pick a photo where his head tips up or down? Here the camera is pointing up at him which exaggerates even more that his head is smaller from the top of his head to the eyes. We can’t see the very top of his head anymore and so the rest of his face takes up a larger percentage from this view…

Back to Scarlett. What if I pick a photo where the camera, and again our vantage point, are lower? (so in essence we are looking “up” at her… notice how much more we see “under” her nose from the previous photo… a lot of “nostrils” give it away)

Her eyes are no longer at the halfway mark. The bottom half is bigger.

So, rules are only as good as their usefulness. After that, you have to see what is in front of you.

I will have more info on locating the features of the head next week. But if you want to really learn more, I have 2-day Portrait Workshops returning again starting September 24th and also in October and November. I stress how to find a likeness without relying on “rules.” Learn about the “thirds of the head” divisions which apply to every human… and to every angle.

For registration and for more information, click here!

Share this!