Michael Britton

Portrait Drawing Lessons - Learn to draw portraits

Drawing Isabella
Page 3

I quickly sketch in the facial features also with sanguine conté. Take note of the angle of the eyes from the medial to lateral canthus. Also Isabelle’s eyes are not symmetrical; they are distinctly different in shape. [See Drawing Portraits from Photographs, Course 1, Lesson 4 Articulating the Features on how to sight and place the eyes, nose, mouth, etc.]

For me, the truly endearing facet of Rubens’s drawing is his rendering of Isabella’s smile.

The anatomical precision of Rubens’s drawing is remarkable, it is more precise than the majority of anatomy books. The aphorism that it takes 43 muscles to frown and 17 to smile doesn’t add up: there are only 36 named muscles to facial expression. The fact is that it takes 12 muscles to smile and 11 to frown.

Portrait Drawing Lessons - Drawing Isabella-10

Portrait Drawing Lessons - Drawing Isabella-11

Illustrated here are the five major muscles that, grouped together, form the surface structure of Isabella’s remarkable smile: they are the Malaris (pink), Zygomaticus Major (green), Masseter (yellow), Levator Labii Superioris (violet) and Incivisus Labii Superioris (Upper)/Inferioris (Lower) (red). Also indicated are the Nodes of the mouth (blue).

NODES OF THE MOUTH: The nodal portion is fibrous tissue, situation inside the lateral corners of the mouth, that connects numerous muscles of the labial tractors (the muzzle). The Nodes function as moveable anchors and stabilizers affording a near inexhaustible range of expression.

MASSETER: The Masseter is a thick quadrilateral muscle lying obliquely on the jaw. This is the primary chewing muscle. It is seen mostly when eating, chewing or if the jaw is clenched in anger.

INCIVISUS LABII SUPERIORIS/INFERIORIS: The four, small narrow Incivisus muscles are for kissing and whistling. The Incivisus Labii Superioris (Upper) and Inferioris (Lower) form a wingshaped sling inserting into the Node of the mouth. Using only the left or right side Incivisus muscles creates an expression known as ‘talking out of the side of your mouth’.

ZYGOMATICUS MAJOR: The Zygomaticus Major is a long and narrow muscle originating from the small bony bar of the zygomatic bone and inserts at the node of the mouth. It pulls the node of the mouth upwards and backwards causing the entire cheek to rise and bulge. The lower eyelid is also pushed upwards and smiling wrinkles appear under the eye and at its outer corner. The wings of the nose and the nostrils widen. The distance between the base of the nose and the upper lip is lessened. This, along with the Malaris, is the muscle of joy and laughter.

LEVATOR LABII SUPERIORIS: The Levator Labii Superioris is a wide, quadrilateral muscle layer that thins at it descends into the deep tissues of the upper lip right up and under the vermilion border. It raises the center of each half of the upper lip expressing a sneer. This is the ‘Elvis Presley’ muscle. When both Levators are employed an expression of disgust and contempt are displayed. So, too, is extreme nauseau just prior to vomiting. The lower philtrum is folded into a horizontal crescent.

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MASSETER: Extending from the temporal fossa to the middle portion of the nasolabial furrow, or smile line, is the second major ‘happiness’ muscle, the Malaris. Both the Zygomaticus Major and Malaris are used for smiling. However the Malaris alone can produce a smile, the Zygomaticus Major cannot. The Malaris raises and puffs out the cheek.

The structures of the head are built up with Sanguine Conté using an additive/subtractive process of cross-hatching, painterly stumping and simultaneous lifting out and spotting with a kneaded eraser. This is a process that cannot be learned by reading about it.

Rubens did not block in the hair with red crayon. Close observation of his drawing shows that he employed line to describe Isabella’s back-swept hair. Bear in mind that copying is not a slavish devotion to working method but a correspondence and understanding of drawing with a great master.


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