On Wednesday, I published a blog post about the rule of thirds. In this post, I'm going to be covering the golden ratio, particularly how it applies to drawing faces.
The golden ratio is often called the golden ratio of Da Vinci, because it's present in many of his portraits, including the Mona Lisa.
Simply put, the golden ratio describes what is considered to be s perfect face. If you see someone who looks really pretty or handsome, the chances are pretty good that their features fit the golden ratio.
Above, I've drawn a face and divided it into thirds horizontally and then in half horizontally and vertically. I measured my character's face to be six inches long and four inches wide.
According to the principal of the golden ratio, the spaces from the forehead to the eyebrows, from the eyebrows to the bottom of the nose and from the bottom of the nose, will be a third of the face each, thus, the lines I drew. Each cheek will be approximately the same width. The mouth has to be at one third the distance between the nose and chin. I had a hard time measuring one third of two inches with my ruler, so I eyeballed it as best I could and drew three lines from the bottom of the nose to the chin.
This is the completed face.
I'd like to caution against always relying on the golden ratio when you draw faces, though. This is pretty much what would be considered an idealized face, not so much a realistic one. Yes, some people's faces really will have these proportions, but not very many. A much better strategy is to just look at your model or reference photo than rely on any set formula.
While I don't encourage relying on the golden ration, necessarily, I do think you should know about it because it's important to art history and you might use it sometimes. Like I said, it helps to create an idealized face, which sometimes might be just what you want, like when your subject actually has these proportions or if you're personifying something nonhuman in your artwork, meaning you're trying to send a message with your piece rather represent something in the real world.
The golden ratio can be used to determine where all things are placed in your piece, not just how you draw faces. I chose to focus on how it applies to drawing faces for this post because that's the aspect I personally find most interesting about it. I'm going to embed a video, though, that explains the golden ratio vs the rule of thirds better than I'm able to.
So why have so many artists throughout history used the golden ratio to draw portraits, even though most people don't actually look like this? Well, I have a couple of guesses. Number one, the golden ratio equals perfect proportion and perfect proportion is something our eyes are instinctively drawn to, which is advantageous for the artist. Using the golden ratio could've also been a way of flattering a subject who was likely much more powerful than the artist.
There's a bit of debate in the art world as to which is better for making pleasing compositions, the rule of thirds or the golden ratio. My stance is, it doesn't matter which one you choose or if even use either at all. I don't plan my pieces according to any of these techniques. I just put things where they look good to my eye.
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Painter of portraits and wildlife