Rendering an Ear

Savannah Tate Cuff
Duration:   15  mins

The ear is the last feature to be rendered in artist Savannah Tate Cuff’s portrait drawing. The live model’s face is in a three-quarter view, so only the model’s right ear is visible (on the left in the drawing). Savannah first explains key anatomical information about the ear. It’s not set vertically on the skull but has a slight tilt, and because it’s made of cartilage, there is a great deal of variation among ears. The basic structures include the helix, or outer rim that curves around the edge of the ear, which casts a shadow onto the antihelix, the wide shaped plane within the ear. A form shadow beneath the antihelix is generally light, as it receives reflected light. Savannah’s plan is not to render the ear entirely, but to indicate key sub-forms. As she places the ear on a portrait, she pays attention to the tilt from the corner of the eye to the top of the ear, relative to how the head is tilted up or down.

Savannah reviews additional sub-forms, including the tragus, antitragus, and the familiar earlobe, always looking at where the parts of the ear are thicker and thinner. On the previously blocked-in form, she begins modeling by clarifying the overall shape and then flattening the shadow shape cast by the helix. Any redness to the ears can darken the value slightly. Because these are small sections of the drawing, keep the modeling simple, Savannah says. Note that the tragus is always a stable central axis point, though other parts of the ear may move up and down in relation to the head. White chalk adds a final highlight to indicate the model’s earring.