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Art Lessons: Ball and Mask

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The ball and
mask lecture is really important.
Because when you do this exercise, over
and over again, you really get to know it
so intuitively that it's like a quick way
to jot a note down on a paper.
It's a, it's a, it's a snapshot.
It's a way to really get your ideas
across, in a really fast way.
So, for example, if you're in a cafe, and
you're seeing people, and
you want to experience them, you want to
see them, you want to draw them.
And you wanna note it down.
The ball and the mask is a really quick
way to just get their proportions and get
it in right there without just sitting and
noodling and trying to trace every line.
With that, it's an indication, it's like a
And it's shorthand.
So that's a really, really important thing
to learn.
A short hand way to get visual information
down on a page.
Let's check it out.
So the way I like to break the, the head
down is as you could see here.
Is there's a cranium right here.
Our head you could just touch your head in
the back.
And it's really round.
And it's really big; a lot bigger than we
think it is.
In fact, when people draw, normally, when
students start out drawing,
they really have a tendency to exaggerate
the proportions.
In other words, they make the, the eyes
huge and cartoony, and the nose big, and
the lips big.
And then the ears are maybe a little
smaller and
by the time they get to the skull, it
doesn't even exist anymore.
Well, why is that?
Why do they do that?
Why do people do that intuitively?
Why do kids do that?
And it's because the features are so
The features are so compelling.
You want to draw that.
Oh, look at that eye, it's got so much
detail in it.
You know, look at those lashes and the lid
and the pupil and they're blue.
Oh my God, I gotta draw that.
But then when it gets time to draw the
back of the head,
they're not really interested in that.
They're not, have no time for that.
They're like oh, ew, I don't wanna do
And that's the truth.
You see it all the time.
And unfortunately that makes for bad
Now, don't get me wrong, Picasso did a lot
of really expressionistic
portraiture as well as Kokoschka as well
as Max Ernst,
as well as Monet, thousands of other great
artists out there.
But they, they, they, they made that
decision based on choice,
not based on limitations or lack of
They had an understanding that they were
So, it's really important to understand
that when you draw the ball
of the cranium, it is a representation of
how gigantic our heads are.
Look at that.
Mine's got a very big brain, by the way,
so it's extra huge.
Okay, so, when we do that, we kind of
iconically do that.
So, you can see how much dimension this
I mean, it's really big.
The ball, is a representation for the
cranial mass.
Now the mask is a representation of the
mask, of the actual features.
So that's going from like the mandible,
down, like that.
Now, if you really think about it,
it's not that much space that the mask is
It's really cranial, cranial mass.
The ball that takes up all the space.
So, you have, you know, your eye socket,
your nose, your mouth, and your jaw.
Then you have your ear, and you still have
all this here.
So, when you're doing it, when you're
Quickly usually you want to kind of just
get the ball down right away and
then you want to get what's called your
central axis, your central axis so
your central axis is basically the center
line the center line is really important.
Because that's going to tell you the
direction of your face.
If my face is over here, here's my center
My face is over here, here is my center
Here, here is my center line.
So your center line is something that you
really always need to keep track of.
It's like think about computating a
computer, it's like voo, voo, voo.
You're always.
Bisecting your face.
So let's say my center line is here then I
immediately draw my mask.
And my mask I keep really simple like
this, that's it.
So if I were to put the mask over that, it
would look like this,
[NOISE] so always think about it also as
your drawing around it.
So okay, here's my central axis, going
that way.
And always continue that, cuz then that
continues into the neck too.
You wanna kinda feel that energy like
So that's kinda a really quick.
Way of doing it.
A of course, you always throw the ear on,
going this direction, going.
This direction.
And then as you continue with it, you are
gonna get more and more sophisticated,
you're gonna break it down more and more,
and you're gonna get.
You know you,your able to kind of dig out
the wedge of that nose, right.
Like that, and you can see, like the more
time that you have with it,
the more you're able to kind of get crazy
with it, so to speak.
The more time you have the more you're
gonna build it up, and
the more sophisticated it's going to get.
But right now no need for that, it's just
time to get the ball and mask.
So let's take another angle, ball,
ooh, that's an interesting character right
I'm in a cafe, you know, I've got a quick,
oh, let me see what's going on,
well his cranium is like that.
The direction of his face is here, okay.
Here you go.
Quickly, bam.
That way immediately you're getting it
right in there.
Now you're gonna, now, that's phase one,
ball and mask, central axis.
But let's say you wanna do the eye line.
Okay, so you're looking at your character,
you're looking at your figure.
He's kinda moving but you wanna get it on
You do what's called the t.
This is the t.
So here's the central axis and this is
what's called the t.
The t is where the eye level crosses.
Okay, you can call it the cross or you can
call it the t.
I call it the t.
So that's where it crosses right there.
For here it would be.
The t is right over here.
Here's the central axis and
here's the t.
Here's the central axis.
Here's the t.
Now you notice I'm curving my t.
I'm curving it,
because it's moving around the form.
Not gonna oh, I'm not gonna draw, you
my head like this and do a mask.
Like that.
And then say here's my central axis.
Here's my t.
So what does that do?
That flattens my image out.
We're not doing hieroglyphics.
We're drawing three dimensionally.
We're drawing sculpturally.
So we wanna always continue around the
Think volumetrically.
So that's phase two.
So phase one, is the ball.
Phase two is the mask on top of the ball.
Phase three is.
Getting a ball.
Getting the mask.
Getting your central axis.
Getting your t.
Like that.
Now phase.
Four, is getting the ear in.
Because the ear is gonna give you all your
So if we get our ear in.
Like I did here.
The ear's going to tell me.
It's gonna give you what's called your
glasses line.
So if you were to put a pair of glasses
The glasses would come all the way here
and then they would go all
the way across the face like that,so
that's going to show you and
I'm going to give him nice kind of horn
rimmed glasses because he's sophisticated.
Okay, so here is your glasses line.
See, so these hook into the back there.
Like that.
So, you've got your ball, you've got your
you've got your central axis, you've got
your t,
now you've, and you've got your ear, and
you've got your glasses line.
Then, from there, you can carve the nose
out as a wedge, and.
Bottom of that nose comes to the bottom of
that ear.
Obviously consult my abstraction of the
head to see where the proportions lie, but
this is a very, very quick way to kind of
figure out proportions of the head.
And really it, it helps you.
Cuz you can see that, like I was saying.
Oh, the figures, figures over there.
Okay, he's, he's you know?
He's got his.
He's in profile.
He's sitting at the cafe.
Okay, cool.
What's he doing?
Oh, he's, you know, he's on his computer
cuz everybody's on their computer.
What is, what is he, we're in L.A., he's
writing a script.
Of course he's writing a script.
Everybody's writing a script.
How about that other guy?
Oh, that other guy's over here.
I'm gonna do a ball.
A mask.
You know, central axis.
And all of a sudden.
You know, central axis obviously for
profile doesn't really make sense, but,
and then you start to, you know,
discern this guy's got a hat, this guy's
got crazy hair.
And, what's he doing, oh, he's writing a
script too,
that's weird because he's in LA, so he
thinks he's a script writer.
But then there's a guy over here, and
there's a ball.
And there's a mask like that, and an ear.
And see how fast you could start to kind
of create these compositions.
And what's this guy doing?
This guy is writing a script.
Of course he's writing a script, because
in LA.
And by the way, I live in LA, so I have
nothing against that, but.
Everybody's writing a script.
No one wants to be an artist.
What's more noble?
Okay, so, as you can see, you know,
you can get very quick, you know, and even
background characters.
As long as you break it down, ball, mask.
Ball, mask, next thing you know you've got
a composition of ball and mask.
And you can deal with the lighting and the
value later.
But, you've got a composition of all these
figures because you know how to quickly
jot down the ball and mask exercise, so
that really helps you.
Sketch at a cafe, sketch your friends, do
a portrait do a self
portrait in the mirror even really go off
just draw on a bus or you know, go on a
trip and draw ,so
this will help you get better ball and
mask is invaluable practice it over and
over again until you get it and if you
don't get it practice it again.
And when you get it, practice it even
That is the key.
Keep drawing, you will get better.
100% guaranteed.
If you follow these simple exercises you
will be better because
everybody can learn how to draw.
Because drawing is not drawing.
Drawing is seeing.
So you could definitely learn how to see.