A Little Trouble With Teacher

老師 (teacher) and I had a little bit of trouble with each other at my last lesson. He was a little high-strung and said I was not following his instructions. I was a little sensitive and felt that he should not expect me to draw as well as his other students who have been in this class for years.

So the little drama ended up with me rendering the China-born model into an African.

She is from China but I turned her into an African.

老師 taught us the 1/3 method in dividing the head and placing the various facial features on it. After a few lessons I still could not fathom how to place the nose and why he drew a big cross from the eye brows and mysteriously place the width of the nose correctly. When he said that I was not drawing the proportion of the eye-brows to width of face correctly to 1/5, I was quite indignant because he never taught me that before (that happens in a multi-level class because the teacher sometime assume you already know).

So I re-read Ms Betty’s method and much prefer her 1/2 face method, which is also a method more commonly found in drawing books. Drawing books also mention the 1/5 width division for the eye brows and in between the eyes, so I realise this is a standard rendering.

老師’s 1/3 method (left) and Ms Betty's 1/2 method (right). As you can see, both methods give you the same results for the positioning of the eyes, nose and mouth.

Lest I should be an ungrateful wench, let me add that 老師 is really patient and sweet all the time. Maybe that day he was having an artist mood swing, and just could not muster enough resources to deal with an inept beginner. And maybe that day I was going through PMS.

Van Gogh Drew A Flat Head Too

Whenever I feel a little discouraged about my progress in my journey to learn how to draw, I try to remember that the great artists started out as novices too.

This example below is an early sketch by Van Gogh. The drawing instruction book Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain cited it as an example of the error of “chopped off head” effect, when drawing students could not grasp the fullness of the head and seem to think that the head is smaller than it is. This is because beginners tend to focus too much on the features of a face as we think these are more important. As a result we forget about the proportion of the head.


This 1880 sketch shows that Van Gogh struggled with problems with proportion when he first learned to draw.

Van Gogh worked as an artist only during the last ten years of his life. During the first two years of that decade when he was teaching himself how to draw, he only did drawings and apparently no painting.

On the facing page of the same book is this sketch 2 years later, showing that he had overcome his difficulties and increased the expressiveness of his drawings.

Woman Mourning (1882)

Quoting the Van Gogh example is a little excuse for myself (aka spoilt child meeting obstacles).But it also gives me some needed courage that with lots of practise and lots of thick-skin perseverance, I can progress over time too.

“…at the time when you spoke of mine becoming a painter, I thought it very impractical and would not hear of it. What made me stop doubting was reading a clear book on perspective, Cassange’s Guide to the ABC of Drawing: and a week later I drew the interior of a kitchen with stove, chair, table and window – in their places and on their legs – whereas before it had seemed to me that getting depth and the right perspective into a drawing was witchcraft or pure chance.” (Vincent Van Gogh, in a letter to his brother, Theo.)

6 thoughts on “A Little Trouble With Teacher

  1. The important thing is that you are learning a new skill, and putting your heart into it. Little disagreements and differences of opinion are bound to happen from time to time, especially among artsy, creative, potentially temperamental types (I have spats with people around me all the time!). One of these days, I’m going to try and remember how to draw too. I used to sketch more than I wrote, but now I only write and write and don’t draw anything. So you are an inspiration to me, and to anyone else who wants to expand their horizons and rediscover different aspects of their creativity!

    • You are the sweetest and the bestest Adele! And now I learn something new about you! Look forward to seeing you pick up drawing again. And we can enjoy this journey together : )

  2. Stumbled upon your blog from tracking photos of myself floating on the internet. Can’t help commenting on this post. Everyone seem to get this proportion of the face thing wrong. Its not used as a way to draw but a way to see. 🙂

    • Hi Kamal! So wonderful to have you visit my blog. Thanks for your comment. I will try to see it from that perspective in future, to use the recommended proportion for seeing and not for drawing. I have not thought about it that way, maybe that is why I felt so constrained when drawing faces. : )

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s