So here's the big secret: you canNOT understand the planes of the head until you throughly understand the skull and facial muscles.
Not a big revelation?
Then why are so many amateur artists online venting their frustrations and confusion about not understanding the planes of the head? They, like me, approached this topic incorrectly: we separated the planes from the skull and muscles. This separation abstracted the knowledge; the planes ended up having no relationship to a real human head and became impossible to remember. On the other hand, when studying the planes while keeping the skull and muscles in mind, they suddenly made complete sense!
I searched numerous sources for this skull–muscle–planes connection—Reilly, Fixler, Loomis, Vilppu, Bridgman and the Famous Artists Course—but found nothing that clearly explained to me how all of the elements worked together.
Finally, I stumbled upon Jeff Jackson's blog, the first clear explanation I could find. Here he diagrams the skull, muscles and planes; his step-by-step instructional PDF on drawing the planes is also helpful and I recommend that you download both.
Following Jackson's example, I decided to break down every step of this topic into even smaller, more manageable steps. This method is helping me and I'm confident it will help you.
Next post: learning the bones of the front of skull.
Would you like to see improvements in these lessons? Tell me about it by posting a comment!