Face Proportions: The Ultimate Guide #1 – Merrill Kazanjian

Maybe his analysis it’s not the most accurate (since photos has different angle views and inclination) but I find interesting how Merrill Kazanjian has tested all those “portrait rules” we can find in drawing-books. 

Search the internet or your library for information on the proportions of the human face. You will find a ton of information, but each source seems to say something different. This is video 1 in a series of videos which will make you less confused about the proportions of the human face. You will be less confused, because I will give you proof that a lot of the formulas that you learned for portrait drawing were wrong. At the end of this video, I will give you a new formula to help you draw the human face from memory.

In this experiment, I have taken the most common formulas for facial proportion and tested them on a group of people in a similar pose. I used a computer program to help me take accurate measurements. I made sure that my control group was comprised of both males and females and were of many different races.

So lets get started with a very common proportion rule. The question is- Is it one eye length between each eye? The answer, as you can see, is yes. But this was the only rule that I found to be universally correct.

Lets stick with the eyes for question 2. It is often stated that it is five eye lengths across the face. It turns out that for 9 of the 10 people that I tested, that rule is incorrect. I found that if you included the width of the ear on to the face, then that rule would be closer to true, but definitely not universal. Of the control group, only one person, had a fit, so we can conclude that this proportion does exist, but it does not fit the majority of people and thus, shouldn’t be part of a drawing formula.

I recently saw on the internet that the outer corners of the nose, should line up with the inner corners of the eye. Only one of 10 people that I tested proved that proportion to be true. There were also two people who came close. Once again, we can conclude that this proportion does exist, but it does not fit the majority of people and thus, shouldn’t be part of a drawing formula. Most often, the outer nose lined up where the tear ducts met the white of the eye. For the record, I hope that the lady in the bottom left never catches a cold.

Question four asks: Does the pupil and iris line up with the corners of the mouth when the face is calm? I will warn you that this was the most difficult to answer, because the mouth is the most variable feature of the face. The shape slightly differs from person to person and it moves a lot. I found that only two people had eyes and mouths which lined up, but, everybody except the gentleman on the top left was extremely close. So, despite the results, I would include this measurement for a general face proportion formula, but I would also be sure to observe the person who I am drawing to get my answer. It is also important to note that 8 of the 10 peoples mouths fit between the lines drawn down from the middle of each eye.

Since question five is related to the placement of the ears, I changed a few of the photos in the control group. In order to gauge this, I had to be able to see the ears clearly. Most portrait formulas state that the ears go from the top of the eye to the bottom of the nose. This turned out to be a pretty accurate statement. Question six is directly related to question five and asks whether the nose and the ears are generally the same size. Although there were only two exact measurements, every other person was very close in measurement. So we can conclude that it is Accurate to say that the ear generally goes between the upper eye and the bottom of the nose and is very close in height to the nose.

Now lets test the most common and controversial face proportion question…..Are the eyes at the exact half way point of the head? You will find top results on the search engines stating that this is the case. I once had a teacher who insisted this and took off points on any student who disagreed with him…..If he only did his homework! The eyes are NOT at the center of the head. The actual middle of the head is just below the orbits of each eye. There was only one person whose eyes were measured as the center of their head, and of course it was MacAulay Culkin.



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