I thought it might be vaguely interesting to go through the process of drawing a pixelly head like the ones I’ve been doing this week. It’s a process that is applicable to all pixel-style drawing: begin with the form and sketch out where the details go, then a trying things out until more and more bits come together. Let’s look at the drawing I did of Franz Beckenbauer:
It begins like this, finding a few good close up photos of the subject:
Photo agencies like Getty Images are always better than Google Images; especially if the subject is, or has been, in the news recently, cos there’s generally a lot more pictures to choose from, with lots of slight variations which helps gain a more rounded view of what the person really looks like.
Then it’s a pretty simple beginning. I always use the same skin tone for Caucasian people, because it could get to be an obsession to pick the exact skin tone of each individual. Plus it’s difficult to tell exactly from photos cos you don’t always know the lighting situation of the reference images; so someone might look more tanned, but it may just be an overcast day.
I begin with a block, just like a sculptor; chipping away to create the vague head shape, then chuck in a couple of details to try and work out the distances between the key parts of the face and their position on the head:
The next bit is kinda the opposite of what art teachers tell you at college (to slowly build up form and structure and leave details til the end), but I like to get one detail looking nearly perfect early on, cos it keeps my enthusiasm going. With Franz, it was the sunglasses. Once they were right, they helped me work out the other parts of his head. (Sun)glasses are useful for that: their size helps with measuring the proportions of the rest of the head.
So now, the eyes, forehead, hairline and hairstyle are fairly close to being sorted:
But the nose, mouth, chin and cheeks are rubbish. He looks too jowly, too old. So a gradual process of chipping away at the face shape begins. It’s all tiny changes that come to these three variation which show how each step is heading in the right direction. Plus I’d focused too much on the creases at the edges of his mouth and coming from his nose; when to portray him correctly, a little bit of lying is needed – making his mouth a bit too small and ignoring those creases in favour of some shading:
Pretty close at that point, all it took to finish it off was to re-add a bit of weight to his face, and add the shadows that infer the creases in his face, rather than making them too strongly defined. The final Franz Beckenbauer:
And here’s a little recreation of each of the steps, animated to show how it works.
Oh, and I should point out that the drawing below is the real size; everything else you see is enlarged for clarity and to stop you being as blind as I am: