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In art school, my drawing teachers used to TALK about “getting down the likeness.”

One such teacher was Dr. William Maughan.

Dr. Maughan, now Director at the School of Illustration at the Academy of Art University, was the amazingly talented and seasoned instructor who taught me how to draw the human head — a subject I continue learning about every single day, despite my having already taken his intensive, 15-week course back in 2019.

Dr. Maughan wrote the book, literally, on this subject.

His published book, The Artist’s Complete Guide to Drawing the Head, was our textbook for his head drawing class.

As you can see from Dr. Maughan’s book cover, the main color he uses to render the human head (see left) isn’t black or gray — as is the case when one uses graphite or charcoal.

Instead, Dr. Maughan recommends using Reddish (645) STABILO CarbOthello Pastel Chalk Pencils.

STABILO CarbOthello Pastel Chalk Pencils - Reddish 645

As I learned over the course of Dr. Maughan’s semester-long class, CarbOthello pencils are wonderful to render with; they’re like chalky colored pencils — that’s the best way I can describe them.

It’s that very chalky texture that allows one to blend or soften edges so beautifully, which is necessary for depicting certain details, like hair.

Beyond technical details

One of the goals of not only Dr. Maughan’s class but other portrait or figure drawing classes was always to “get down the likeness.”

“Likeness” is exactly that: a likeness or similarity.

My take on likeness

To harp on this important point a bit more, likeness is what I myself try to go for when I render a person or portrait.

In saying this, it’s important to remember that likeness is not akin to exact duplication.

In other words, likeness isn’t about locking down a perfectly mirrored image of a subject.

Getting someone’s likeness — in my experience — means whatever I draw or produce will reflect a realistic gist or capture the person’s overall essence.

In the end, if someone see’s a portrait drawing and says “Hey that looks like (such and such person),” then the likeness goal was successfully achieved.

Until the next post,