At First Sight

At First Sight
September ’17: At First Sight

Amazing things happen to people in the presence of a child. Though this phenomenon is difficult to describe, you can’t miss it with your eyes.

My brother-in-law is a man of adventure whose world travels from the frozen mountains of Iceland to the hills of Florence to the vast wilds of Yosemite will someday make for an enthralling novel. A seasoned software engineer and mountain climber, he bears a broad and balanced palette of expertise in technology, wilderness, and culture.

He became an Uncle for the first time when my daughter was born. This is a sketch of the moment when, after months of anticipation and a long cross-country flight, he held her for the first time.

In getting to know these two as individuals, it strikes me that they both have a a knack for discovering what’s “out there.” My daughter will climb, burrow, and tumble through any physical space that’s available to her to quench her thirst for exploration. Hans could not be a better Uncle with whom to share that thirst. I can’t wait to see the adventures they’ll have together.

Until then, may their bond continue to blossom in that special kind of tenderness that exists between Uncle and Niece; the kind that begins at first sight.


Template for Humanity

Human Template
August ’17: Template for Humanity

Bottom: w/tutorials (pencil sketch finished w/ink)
Top: w/o tutorials (all ink)

I recently learned about drawing the human face and I encountered a few revelations not just about drawing but also about God and humanity as well. Let me tell you more…

I watched Alphonso Dunn’s amazing 3-part tutorial on drawing the human face in profile and head-on views (see ‘reference’ links below). He does an amazing job simplifying this complex task and inspiring some creativity. He walks you through creating a basic template for obtaining the approximate proportions and placement of facial features (see the sketches above the female faces) in both profile and head-on views.

Finally, the third tutorial reveals countless unique characters can emerge via simple adjustments to the basic facial template. This very technical process beautifully parallels a truth about humanity: God created us equal. We look different, we come from different cultures, we speak different languages, just as we should. God took the same basic template of humanity and when he made you, he added a few creative adjustments.

Sadly, these creative adjustments are and have wrongfully been the subject of feuding, war, and bloodshed.

White supremacists believe their skin color grants them superiority over those of different pigments but God has told us to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3) and to “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Some believe that their place of birth grants them a higher status and a right to leave the refugee to suffer, but God has told us “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34).

Some believe that wealth is a just ruler with which grace and compassion can be measured out to others, but God has told us “Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all” (Proverbs 22:2) and “suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:1-4).

Whether we realize it or not, we are all guilty of trying to falsify the claim that “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Some of us do this through outright aggression, others through passive thoughts, attitudes, ignorance or tolerance of the structures that cater to the few and oppress the many. Perhaps we may recognize and agree with Jesus that greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind“.  But don’t we leverage the fact that “love your neighbor as yourself” is the second commandment Jesus refers to, misinterpreting ‘second’ as ‘optional’, and forgetting that Jesus said “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments“? (Matthew 22:36-40, emphasis mine).

So what is to be done? As with these drawings, let’s get back to the basics. Let’s lay down our excuses, justifications and any other fancy word we’ve contrived as a softer label for pride, favoritism, and hatred. Let’s remember that God is the template for us all, for, “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27). Let’s remember that God is our template from which we know what it means to love one another, for he said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). Let’s remember that we, despite all of our uniquenesses are united not only in our creation origin, but also in our imperfection, and our need for salvation and redemption in Jesus, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) but that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that WHOEVER believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, emphasis mine).

Lastly, let us remember that we need God’s help to be the humanity we were meant to be, for “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2) and “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14).

On earth as it is in heaven…







Alphonso Dunn
Part 1: Proportions of the Head:
Part 2: Profile Proportions:
Part 3: : How to Create Characters in Profile: 

Bible verses


Sketch Gallery: The Eyes Have It

The Eyes Have It
August ’17: The Eyes Have It

Bottom images: with tutorials
Top image: without tutorial

The eye is an incredibly complex instrument. Of the whole human, the eyes are perhaps the most potent tool for expression and conveying emotion. Without the need for words, these tiny little guys can suggest any item on the gamut of emotion from joy, sorrow, fear, hope, and inquisitiveness. The mechanics of the eye is an incredible story as well: A colored lens of muscle congealed within a lidded sphere, loaded with millions of rods and cones that take in light, and send the data to your brain where the light is processed and compiled into the images you see. Amazing. No wonder they’re so challenging to draw.

The bottom two images were drawn while watching some wonderful tutorials by Tom McPherson of the Circle Line Art School. Please try them out, they’re very well-done and easy to follow. The top image is an original I drew afterwards. The bottom-right image was helpful in drawing a highly detailed eye, with iris detail and individual eye-lashes. The bottom-left image was useful for practicing eyes in the context of the face’s upper hemisphere.

Drawing the eye and various parts of the human face is both an interesting challenge and a great lesson in learning how the different parts of the face work together to convey expression. The eyes are powerful communicators on their own, but even more so when paired with a subtle tilt of the corner of the mouth, turn of the head, or wrinkle of the eyebrow.

“If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts int eh body, every one of the them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”
1 Corinthians 12:17-20

Circle Line Art School (pair, lower-left) –
(and single eye, lower-right) –

More drawings at:

Sketch Gallery: Faces

August ’17: Faces

Left: Pencil/graphite w/tutorial
Right: Pen/ink w/o tutorial

Having recently gotten interested in portrait drawings, I wanted to learn more about the techniques involved in drawing faces. I found some excellent tutorials (links below) by Tom McPherson’s Circle Line Art School Youtube channel that provide very straightforward step-by-step guidance for doing so. I’d highly recommend giving them a try. These images are the result of my drawing while watching the tutorials (the pencil drawings on the left) and then trying to reproduce them later from memory (the pen drawings on the right).

I had a lot of fun with these and it was interesting to experiment between pencil and pen. The first drawings are in pencil because that’s the medium that was used in the tutorial. The second is inked because that’s my preferred medium. The reason for this preference is not very deep, other than the fact that I tend to always have a pen in my pocket (less so a pencil) and I find the ink’s permanency and dark tones to be more visually appealing. However, a good pencil sketch is beautiful in its own right as well. I found the pencil to be more flexible in terms of being able to create varying tones of shade via subtle changes in applied pressure and loose scribbling, and forgiving because of the simple fact that it can be erased. Shading with a pen requires some different techniques as loose scribbling tends to look more sloppy than pencil, so the shade must be built-up with layers of intentional lines stacked on top of each other on criss-crossing angles (called ‘cross-hatching’) to communicate lighter vs darker tones. Also, once the ink is on the paper, it ‘aint going nowhere. This feature introduces a touch of both fear and intentionality in my pen drawings which could explain why I’m happier with how the pencil drawings came out, produced under less pressuring circumstances where more time is spent focusing on the overall art rather than the minutiae of technique.

Additionally, working on these faces gave me the opportunity to learn a few things about how a real-life object (like a human face) gets translated into a graphite or ink drawing. In my still early attempts to translate flesh and bone to paper and ink, I am tempted to think that every contour and feature of the face should be completely outlined. The nose, for example, should be a conical shape with two circles at the base and two defined lines running upwards to a blunted point. However, drawing these faces with the help of the tutorials showed me that it is far more realistic to use fewer lines that one might think should be there. The nose of the woman on the right, or the man on the left, only have two lines (like “c”s) to indicate the edges of nostrils, and a faint, shadowy line going up one side of the face to convey the ridge of the nose. The rest of the nose is not really ‘there’ (on paper) but is suggested by shading, which tells your brain that there is some dimension of the nose that blocks the light to a greater/lesser degree in that space.

In much of my learning so far, I’ve repeatedly heard words like, “suggest”, “indicate”, and even “illusion” when it comes to discussing techniques for conveying a sense of how an object exists in space. What this suggests to me is that an artist has done his/her job when, instead of drawing an image verbatim and line-for-line, they have ‘convinced’ you that a series of lines and smudges of ink is actually something greater. In a literal sense, art is a form of communication. Spoken language is a series of phonetic sounds in which we package meaning and send it to a listener who may understand as intended, interpret their own different meaning, or hear a jumbled mess of syllables and grunts. The outcome is co-dependent on the speaker and that of the listener. Similarly, art packages its meaning into lines and the spaces between them. If, when you look at those lines and spaces, you see more than lines and spaces, then perhaps you’re looking at art.

Circle Line Art School
(female face) –

(and male face) –

More drawings at:

Sketch Gallery: Delight

August ’17: Delight

My wife and I went to visit my parents this past weekend. Shortly after the busyness of arriving, unpacking, and settling in, there was a brief period where there was a quiet stillness in which most of the house occupants were running errands. The only sounds in the house were those of my father calmly strolling around with my daughter in his arms, the baritone of his voice resonating through the tranquil rooms in response to the lilting syllables she sings in manners of curiosity and wonder. I quietly followed them on their tour of the house and snapped a picture of this tender moment, which served as the reference for the sketch. I felt fairly satisfied with how the hair came out on both figures. I also practiced some reserve in regards to detail and shading this time around. I am amazed at how little needs to be added in order to convey crucial detail as well as how dangerously easy it can be to overdo it. For example, a tiny curve and dot (like a sideways apostrophe) serve as my father’s eye and a previous attempt to lightly detail his mouth blacked-out half of the feature. Oddly enough, the hardest part of the drawing was my dad’s smile. I couldn’t figure out how to convey the side-profile perspective of a smile and it took at least 5 or 6 sketches with pencil before I was comfortable committing it to ink.

Drawing this one out allowed me to appreciate some very true qualities of both my father and daughter that were captured on camera at this particular moment: her, with gloriously tousled hair, looking off into the distance and pointing wherever her wonder leads. And he, a tirelessly diligent man whose strong, mechanical-engineer arms and stiff-upper-lip work ethic are both completely disarmed by, and protectively surrounding, his Granddaughter. To me, this picture is a look into that place where the two are uniquely themselves in a beautifully contrasting way: The strongest yet gentlest of bear-hugs, a small and feather-weight hand resting on a muscular shoulder, and a squint-eyed smile of pure delight cast toward a child lost in wondrous exploration. Such things need no words. Such things comprise the hidden language shared between a Grandfather and his Granddaughter.

For more drawings, please check out the Sketch Gallery.

Sketch Gallery: Seth

August ’17: Seth

Another portrait drawing installment, this time of my good friend Seth. I was fortunate enough to be Seth’s roommate for about 9 months during our last semesters of college. He hid defaced cereal boxes in my room; I had a habit of slamming the toilet seat on the other side of the wall adjacent to his bed while he slept…you know, usual roommate stuff. Anyways, Seth is an upstanding man whose friendship I hold near and dear to my heart. I’m happy with how the shading of various facial contours came out on this (done by holding the tip of the pen nearly parallel to the surface of the paper) as well as those of the shirt folds under the suspender straps.

Seth is a gifted composer who specializes in film scores and writing to visuals. Please do yourself a favor and check out his beautiful work at:

For more drawings, check out the Sketch Gallery.