This is little Freddie. He is one and a half and he is ace. His favourite things are tractors, smiling and his Mum.
I often draw portraits of children for my clients (more often than not I don’t publicise them because of privacy reasons). They’re such a joy to draw and paint. Full of character and cheer, their facial features are quite different to humans as they’re still growing. As an artist, it is both a different challenge and a refreshing change.
So how does it differ? Well, artists usually go down the route of life drawing, self-portraits and the like when starting out, all drawing adults. Years spent drawing adults means that you get used to the bone structure, musculature, expressions and mannerisms of adults.
Kids are so different: most obviously, the eyes are proportionally larger than an adult’s. Recently a client confided to me that she had really struggled to find an artist who draws children well. Mainly, she said, due to the eyes not being accurate, to be ‘too adult like and not expressive enough’. Well it is true – unlike an adult, a child’s skull is small and still growing, while babies are born with eyeballs close in size to an adult’s. This makes kids extra-cute of course, but it’s also an artist’s reminder to draw them differently, to think about how the eyesockets and the eyebrows sit. Coupled with the puppy fat that children carry, which creates a more rounded face shape with less definition and structure, the trick to drawing a child’s face is to really ‘look’ at your subject matter.
Of course, some of the art historical greats have drawn adult babies – there are countless examples from art history, including the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Mannerism (think this, this or this ) where babies (more often than not Jesus) was depicted nothing more than a tiny man, with adult proportions and scrawny – almost wizened – legs, arms and facial features. These paintings do serve a purpose – not least, learning – and laughing – about these were what got us through Art History A’level classes…..
From an art practice point of view, again the trick to drawing anything new, including infant’s heads, and this picture of Freddie, is to ‘look’. It sounds trite, but challenge your perceptions of what you’ve seen and check that the proportions and the shapes that you’ve drawn on paper match what you see in the flesh. Are the eyes rounder, or more almond shape, and are the ears in proportion to the face? Also, think about the structure underneath the face – when you’re drawing a piece of skin over the cheek for example, can you imagine the muscles and the bones underneath, is there the correct shading, however so slight? This was something that Michaelangelo was masterful at, time and again. The increasing technical success of his inordinate amount of work – like yours, mine and all artists -boiled down to just one thing: practice, practice, practice.