Warning: Art technique ramble. Potential to bore.

I have received many messages asking about techniques, and all of them are terribly kind. Then, there are the questions asking whether I have a thing about drawing eyes.

Well, I can’t say I’m obsessed by eyes, but certainly they do offer a challenge, whilst giving back a great sense of achievement should they look just how I envisaged.

With these enquiries in mind, perhaps I can provide a little more tech waffle regarding this drawing, done some time ago.

Starting off with the right paper is very important, in my opinion. By considering the colour palette you propose to use a complimentary paper colour is a good bet. In this case it had a tint of pink. I got it off t’internet. Of course, one can lay down a background colour on white paper, in acrylic for example, but why go to all that trouble when the paper manufacturer has done it for you already.

I guess that as one gets more experienced at using colour, one is less likely to just settle for a limited palette, and instead embrace the pencils out there that cover so many different shades of those basic primary and secondary colours. I certainly did.

In this drawing I used three different shades of pink, for example, and with the lightest shade of pink I added areas of white pastel to soften the colour even further. White colour pencil would then be used to pick out where light had directly caught the pores of the skin, and a Uniposca highlighter pen provided the distinct reflective areas, such as the reflection on the eye, and in the tear duct.

In the areas immediately above and below the inner eye I introduced some aquamarine pastel, a dry pastel that could be blended with a cotton bud. This was very subtle but gave the impression of veins just under the skin, a normal thing to see on Caucasian/ light skin tones. It’s a very delicate area of the face so should ideally reflect that.

Using black for the first time, to ring the cornea, fill the pupil, then draw the upper eyelashes gave more depth to the piece. The lower lashes were done in burnt umber, as to use black on those would ignore the fact that some degree of light was falling upon them. Using a dark brown provided that subtle difference.

I’ve mentioned previously how before one tackles drawing an eye one should first understand the structure of it; the way it works, and the colours one should expect to see under certain light conditions. The sclera, or white of the eye, is rarely white. In this drawing I used light grey, warm grey and rose pink, then used a white pastel pencil to highlight the ‘white’ areas of the sclera.

We imagine the iris as one colour, but look very closely. If you zoom in on this drawing you’ll see I used a background layer of burnt umber Polychromos, then used yellow ochre, burnt sienna and terracotta pencil to highlight the contraction furrows. In simple terms, the iris is made up of these furrows, and they are so made in order for the iris to open and close like curtains whenever the ambient light requires them to do so.

But, why are our irises different colours? Melanin makes the eyes dark brown and 10,000 years ago, everyone’s eyes were this colour. Then a mutation turned off the pigmentation on the front of the iris. This allows light to reach the fibres of the stromal cells beneath, and they reflect light back as blue. Green, grey and olive eyes are just half-way colours.

And, around every iris are the limbal rings. In this drawing I used dark grey for one ring then a light blue very subtly around that.

So, that’s how this drawing was done. Understanding the mechanics of what you draw often helps, as do the names of each piece, although not essential it at least gives you a better chance in Trivial Pursuit!

Right, ramble over.

Toodle pip, cool cats


By ianbourneart

I draw. I write. I do stuff.

2 replies on “Eye”

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