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As with any piece of detailed drawing, eyes can prove difficult at times. There are so many facets to consider, it can seem an insurmountable task. Don’t fret, it isn’t really, you just have to break the whole process down to a series of relatively simple tasks. The first thing to do is to look past the eye, to the shapes and tones. It is these that will create both realism and emotion in your drawings. All of us need inspiration at times, and my first piece of advice would be to collect as many photographs sketches and drawings of as many different eyes as you can. Here are 20 amazing eye drawing ideas for inspiration, with some ideas to try and help you and some talk of the lessons I have learnt myself.
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As you can see from the series of sketches above, if you look at the final drawing, it seems complex and very detailed, but instead of looking at the whole image, start to separate it off into any basic shapes you can see. I was once told by an old art teacher to try turning the picture I was trying to paint from upside down to try and see beyond the image itself. It worked remarkably well for me, it may do for you too.
You can start anywhere, but here you can see the overall shape of the opening is used to start. This is just a preparatory sketch for now so don’t worry about mistakes. Once you are happy with the curves that form the shape of the opening, look at how the circular shape of the iris fits into those curves. You can also begin to create some depth by emphasizing the curvature of the eye with light shading. Although you may see the vague shape of the pupil, its dark colour means that reflections will often dominate the central area and these can be quite random in shape, pick out those shapes and look at the way the lines of colour radiate across the iris, Pick out the darkest areas first and as you work you can gradually overlay more areas of shading. Keep it simple, building up the shading to create the shape of any reflections, the lip of the eyelid and also the curvature of the eyeball itself. Introducing the curves and lines of any folds of skin around the eye will give you chance to experiment with expression too, and always look at how the light creates shape with shadow, this will give you the depth of expression within the eye. Lastly, as you add the eye-lashes, you can add any final shading around the eye. If you imagine a ball sat in a shallow hole, wherever the light source is the shape is created by the shadows, use those shadows, they are your friends. You can see that at times I have used a very sharp pencil to emphasise the shape of certain parts of the image, like the eye-lashes. Then, as the picture develops, I often use a much rounder (more blunt) pencil tip, to soften the image and create depth. Using different pencil grades can help with this. In general I start with a fairly sharp HB grade, use a 3B to emphasise the darkest areas. Use a very sharp HB for detail like the eye-lashes, and then a much rounder tip HB and 2B to soften the image and create the gradient of tones within the shaded areas.
You will be amazed at the subtle differences in shape and tone that can help you create expression, as you look at, and draw, different eyes from the reference material you have collected, you will begin to see how those shapes can help you create more lifelike and expressive drawings. This will bring your artwork to life. The eyes are the windows to the soul, and time spent here can make any drawing a pleasure.
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