Drawing a Nose for 20 Weeks…Really?!

Delayed Gratification with How to Draw a Nose

Learning how to draw a nose over 20 weeks was a lesson in patience as well as skill. This drawing of a nose is by my instructor Darren Kingsley, made with graphite pencil.
Learning how to draw a nose over 20 weeks was a lesson in patience as well as skill. This drawing of a nose is by my instructor Darren Kingsley, made with graphite pencil.

As a student at Studio Incamminati, I was introduced to doing charcoal drawings in, for example, 60 seconds, five minutes or ten minutes. We did longer ones as well, but the emphasis early on was capturing the gesture of the human form, in one or a few straight lines. We moved to mass drawing as the year progressed, but generally in quick figure drawings.

Well, imagine my shock when Darren did a demonstration of what we would be doing in his cast class: how to draw a nose in 20 weeks. And that was just one feature! We would be copying three-dimensional forms of human features such as the nose, an eye, and a mouth in two dimensions over the course of the semester.

For our first demonstration, Darren showed us how to draw a nose:

  1. Very slowly, and with a very soft touch, he first established the approximate height and width of the nose.
  2. He then began to work out exactly how to draw a nose: establish the form, finding it with straight lines, which became rounded only after he had achieved the shape he was looking for in straight lines.
  3. Then he began to put in the shadows. The drawing you see here is not the shadows as he put them in the first or second day, but the third.
  4. He began the shadows very lightly, using the time to continue to look and and correct the drawing, including shadow shapes. You might look at this drawing and think it was close to being done. The form shadows are there, the cast shadows are there, and the shapes look pretty darn good. But the reality is that we are going to be spending in the range of twenty ( yes, twenty!) weeks doing a single drawing of a single feature!

At first, I have to admit to being a bit overwhelmed by the thought of learning how to draw a nose in such detail, over such a length of time. But after the first three sessions of class we have had, I think I am a convert to Darren’s method of teaching.

Although I have been working on my drawing of an eye for six or so hours, I am still correcting very basic things, such as the height of the cast itself. The eye was too wide, and that needed to be corrected. There were (and are) lots of additional corrections to be made as I work my way through it. The angles will not be precisely right, nor the values, which will be put in very slowly. It will take the time that Darren has set out to really get the job done right—not just good—but as close to perfect as each of us can reach in the time allowed.

But rest assured, Darren does not recommend doing every cast drawing this way. It is a teaching technique. It is not an every time thing. (I checked with him to be sure!) In my view this is just another way of teaching us to see and achieve the proper angles, no matter how small they may be, and to see and obtain fine distinctions in value. Both will be critical to us as we draw and paint.

But who would have thought this was one of the ways we would learn it, especially after the fast paced drawing we started with!

–Judith

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