Drawing Skulls

I’ve been working in my sketchbook trying to establish a regular drawing practice. It’s not easy for two reasons – I don’t find I have much time for drawing amongst the other jobs I have to do, and once I start drawing I become so absorbed by it that nothing else gets done, so it becomes a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy!

I’ve been drawing skulls. They’re such a fascinating thing to study, so much to get your teeth into, form, detail, proportion. There’s lots to challenge the artist. I’m keen to do some more portrait work and of course making some drawings of skulls is the perfect preparation for this. If you can draw what’s under the flesh and skin then hopefully that will help understand the structure of the face and head.

I haven’t got a skeleton to work from so I’m having to use books and images on the internet for my reference images. This one is from an old booklet on anatomy for artists. It’s obviously a drawing of a skull rather than a photograph which may not be ideal as a source image to work from, but I had it to hand.

I’m working in an A4 sketchbook so I can potentially go pretty much life size with these studies if I want to. I’m using pencil, specifically a propelling pencil by Faber Castell. I do like these. If you try them, be sure to get the little sharpener to go with. It’s vital to keep the lead sharp for precise drawing. That sharpener leaves a pile of graphite dust wherever it goes so I keep mine in a little ziplock plastic bag.

I’ve not been using an eraser for these studies. Not because I’m not making any mistakes, but rather that I just start with such faint lines that even if they are wrong, I leave them be and just ignore them. I’ve been building up the tone quite gradually only making darker areas when I’m confident that they are in the right place.

And here’s another one. I do think there’s great value in repeating subjects over and over. I drew this second one more quickly and confidently than the first, even though I worked from a different source image. I felt I had learned the main shapes already so I could be more fluent with the drawing.

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