Drawing Realistic Ears
Unless you are a cartoon artist, drawing realistic ears is one of the the hardest parts of the human body you will ever learn to draw. Not because it is hard to draw - but because very few artists think it is important. I mean, after all "it is nothing but an ear!" Ok, I know I just said it was hard, but let me show you how to approach drawing realistic ears in a way that will make drawing them seem like a piece of cake.
Observing a human subject and their body parts is a challenge, especially attempting drawing realistic ears as they actually are - not as we think they are. It is even harder if the person is familiar to us, so I have found that using a grid helps to stay in perspective. By using the one-inch squares as reference points, or by drawing a face or ear upside down, you are forced to be observant where maybe normally you wouldn't be.
The main thing is to not get stuck with specific proportions, as no human face is perfect. The next time you leave your house, pay special attention to the people you see. Look at their ears - notice the different sizes and shapes. Making an effort to notice these details will help you in your quest of drawing realistic ears by making you realize that there is no such thing as a perfect ear.
When applying artistic proportions to the ear, mouth, or an eye - try to go slow, stay alert, and trust your instincts. The ear is important, as it is the link between the head and the neck. Place it in correct proportion if possible - The width of the ear is half of its height.
I have found that what you are seeing in front of you is not always what you are actually seeing. Understand? Different angles or viewpoints always change things visually, which unknowingly forces us to place the eyes too high on the face, shorten the skull too much, or place the ears crooked on the head or one larger than the other. Drawing realistic ears is no different. Draw what you see, not what you think you see!
I'm going to bold this next section because it is so important. Regardless of the body proportions, drawing realistic ears have a rule of thumb to follow Learn this rule, and if you are drawing cartoons or hyper-real portraits, you will have much better results. The bottom of the ear is in line with the bottom of the nose where it connects to the head. The top of the ear should be in line with the brow bone or eyebrow. The top part of the ear where it connects to the head is in line with the eyes - sketch the face and draw a line from one to another - remembering that the bottom of the ear varies with each person. Some people have long ears, and others have short ones. Three rules of thumb that never change is that there are three main basic parts of the ear that are necessary: the outer edge, the inner edge, and the hole leading to the eardrum. If you can get them down on paper, the battle is half done.
The Shapes of the Ear
In the picture to the right picture I have outlined the most important lines to keep in mind when drawing realistic ears. The blue line is the outer parts of the ear, and the orange line the inner parts. Study these curves and also look at some reference photos to become more familiar with the important structures of the ear. When you see the ear as made up only of these lines, you will have come a long way in your understanding of the ear. As you begin to understand your ear drawings should greatly improve.
Drawing with Live Models
When you are drawing the human ear, you usually are either making one up or using a photograph. The other alternative is to use a live model for portrait work. When using a live model, there are a few rules that portrait professionals follow for the correct proportion of work:
- Sit the model down, placing them higher than yourself.
- Make sure they are comfortable.
- Make sure they can lean against something.
- Ask them if they would like a stool for their feet.
- When placing yourself, try to place yourself far away from the model, for true proportion.
- Before drawing the ears on the head, do not draw the head too high on the canvas, as it will make them too tall; if you draw the head too low, the model will look as if he was too small.
- Most portrait artists draw the head in three settings if possible, four if needed - 1-½ to 2 hours per setting approximately.
Make sure you use contour lines with a light pencil to get the correct outline and proportion of the ear before beginning the shading. Ears have lots of "crooks and crevices" that require lots of shading, so knowing where the light is located will help with the shadow. If not, place an artist's lamp toward the ear, or sit the model next to a sunny window. The shadows will make the ear just as attractive as the correct location on the face!