So here's what I've been working on the past two and a half weeks... Ahh, drawing all these skulls took a lot longer than I expected, especially since all of them, with the exception of the first one, are approximately half a page tall. The first skull was sort of my "trial" piece, and therefore, it's my least favorite one, haha. Editing the pieces was harder than drawing the skulls since the pencil looks so shiny in contrast to the pen in the photos I took (maybe I just suck at taking photos?).
Anyhow, why did I draw all these skulls? A couple weeks ago, I was reading someone's journal on DA, and he/she stated that the best way to improve one's drawing skills is not through copying (as in working from) other people's art but through working from an original, realistic photo. He/she pointed out that working from another artist's piece means making the same mistakes that artist made. I thought about his/her statement for a while, and I realized that it is important to work from other artists' pieces.
I mean, what really got me into art was a "Manga Mania: Shoujo" book by Christopher Hart that my 6th grade art teacher brought in one day. I fell in love with the image on the cover, so I went out and bought the book a couple days later. Whenever I felt like drawing, I'd flip through the book and try to recreate an image that I liked. Yes, I was making the same mistakes that the original artist made, but through this process, I was learning how to "see." I learned how certain eyes were shaped, how wrinkles fell in clothing, etc...
Tell a beginning artist to draw a self-portrait of himself/herself. The first attempt will be horrid, mostly because the artist doesn't know where to start and has absolutely no sense of proportions. Working from a photograph of a realistic object is incredibly difficult because the object (the human face in this example) has so many details, and the beginning artist has a vague idea of how to capture all those details.
In my opinion (I'm sure several people disagree with me), the best way to improve at art is by learning how to "see." Simplified figures (like other people's art) can help you explore different shapes, different styles of shading, etc... Once you know how to draw basic shapes, then you can move on to the realistic figures. In terms of art, I still consider myself a beginner because I look at other people's art and sketch out the basic pose of the figure, as I'm trying to study anatomy.
I drew these skulls to show my process. The first skull I drew was actually a plastic model of a human skull, whereas all the other ones were real skulls. While the first one looks the least realistic, drawing it helped me get a basic sense of where all the sockets are located and how the teeth are shaped. Then I slowly worked on drawing more difficult angles of the skulls.
While the skulls are certainly far from being replicas of the original images, I hope other artists view these images as simplifications and use the images to help them to "see" different parts of the skull.
Anyhow, sorry about that giant wall of text!
Faber Castell pen (small point) and mechanical pencil on Canson sketchbook paper, roughly 2-4 hours for each skull