Weekly drawing: flying change

A few weeks ago I started a more regular drawing routine, with the plan to scribble anytime I wanted, and produce a finished drawing once a week. Some time ago my fellow blogger Anne Leueen made a post about flying change – but it took me until today to make a drawing out of one of her pictures!

I chose one of the pictures where horse and rider faced the camera. During the flying change, the rider communicates the change of lead through body and leg positions, that’s why the shoulders, hips and legs look more on a S-shaped line than on a vertical. That bend is what I wanted to capture on my drawing. Therefore I decided to use only black and white, no shadows at all, and let the lines be the protagonists of the scene.


It was not easy to visualise the proportions of horse and rider, so I used the pencil-as-a-ruler technique, and started tracing light lines. I discovered that it was especially difficult for me to copy the proportions on the horizontal axis (and I would have made the horse and rider either too broad or too slim, or an ugly mixture of both) so I rotated the picture 90 degrees on the left – so that the head of the rider was on the left side – and rotated my paper accordingly. I kept drawing, checking where lines met: the rider’s hand next to the horse’s eye, the rider’s arm on the tip of the horse’s ear, and so on. It helped me to know a bit about horse anatomy, but I don’t see it as necessary.

When I felt I scribbled enough, I took a new sheet of paper, went to a window to trace the drawing with a graphite pencil. Back to my desk, I traced most lines with a black pen and filled the darker areas with a felt-pen. I briefly thought about adding shadows, but decided not to, at least not for this drawing.

I hope this explanation can give you some ideas on how to approach drawing, and encourages you to try!


Copying a print from artist A Ge

Last week I accompanied a friend to their class of Chinese for beginners, and I decided to draw something while listening to them. On Wikipedia I looked for Chinese art, and stumbled upon A Ge, a contemporary Chinese artist (Wikipedia page, homepage). I picked this print of a child holding a dove, with a few more doves around on the ground, and took nearly one hour to draw half of it. I finished it during the second lesson I attended, and this is the result:

Copy of a print from artist A Ge

I like it, even if the pen I used was rather large, and many details were lost in copying. I took half of the total time to sketch the proportions with a pencil, and I am satisfied with the result 🙂 It is true that when I switched to the black pen, my focus was on details, so I had to rely blindly on the pencil lines.

Any comments on how to experiment further? I’d love to hear from you!

Lesson about gesture drawing

Today I watched John Muir Law’s workshop about gesture sketching, that focused on the preparation phase of a drawing: getting proportions right, identifying useful reference lines, blocking shapes, all before diving into details. It put together a lot of tips and gave many occasions to test these by copying from pictures. It is quite useful to learn to put the sketch together rather quickly, for the cases when the subject is an animal that moves fast.

Here is the sheet of paper that I filled while watching the video (notes both in English and Italian, as the video was in English but I write faster in Italian!):


Value study: kitchen chair

Yesterday I wanted to draw, after a week of total break. I walked around the house in search for an interesting subject and decided to draw a part of a kitchen chair, that had a nice combination of lights and shades.

I tried to remember the explanations and tips given by John Muir Laws in his workshop about colour and value, namely nailing the value of a given part of the drawing rather than focusing on colour. I translate it as getting the shades right, by guessing the black component of the colour of that area. I’m not sure if this is technically correct, but it is a good approximation. Another source for a cool explanation of value, hue and contrast is this colourful post from Tin Can Knits.

I’m quite satisfied with the light areas of the top of the chair and the contrast with the dark background, while I think that the rest of the drawing is not as realistic. My drawing is more the effect of starting the shading from the top of the drawing and progressing one patch at a time. This has the risk of drifting values, especially in a large drawing. I think I can do better by doing a longer observation phase before starting any shading, so that I will keep track of areas with the same value. Another help can come from a black and white preview made with a phone/camera.

Further tips are welcome!

Study of a foal – pencil drawing

Today I watched John Muir Law’s workshop on colour and value, taken from his blog post of the same name – it’s a long video, but I found it really worth watching:

I was intially surprised when he said that getting value right is far more important than picking the right colours. He showed the effect of colour filters over a picture, and one participant added a comment about black/white filters, which ultimately remove all colours and leave only values in form of greys. I looked again at the blue foal I painted last week and found that many areas of the painting were either too dark or too light. I am not so good at painting, so what happened most of the time was that I painted a stroke with the brush, to discover only afterwards if it was of the right value – and I was not very lucky 🙂 So today I tried again, with a HB pencil.

Study of a foal - pencil, value study

This time I got closer to the appearance of the legs. I left less white, less light tones, and tried to get the strong shades around bones and tendons, especially in the hind leg. The head was not so much in my focus, so I think that for example the ears could have been darker, and some details are missing; but overall I find this attempt more 3D than the blue one.

What do you think? Is there anything big that I miss, or some advice I could make good use of? Thanks in advance for your comments 🙂


Drawing update: study of a foal

Today I dedicated some time to drawing, after a pretty long break. I was in my local library, reading a horse magazine, and found the picture of a foal particularly sweet, so I decided to copy it. Its pose was quite challenging:

Sketching in the library: study of a foal

I first measured the total height and width of the foal with my pencil, and found out they were the same, so I transferred the measurements on the sketchbook and drew a large square. Then I measured with the pencil some intermediate points, like where the ears met the square, where the elbow was, how high was the hip from the bottom of the square. I didn’t make much measures and started outlining the shapes right away. Therefore, when later I looked at the picture and the drawing side to side, I had to make a few adjustments in the proportions.

I then used a pink pencil to draw some schematic lines, like the midline of the head, and the circle where the neck meets the body. It was not easy at all, with the foal lying on the grass all bended in many directions. I chose a red pencil to draw over the outlines, so that the pink lines represented only imaginary boundaries.  I finally drew light blue lines that connected the eyes, the shoulders and the hips (well, for the hips I was only able to guess). After double-checking with the picture, I made some corrections with a green pencil:

Study of a foal: corrections in green

I’m going to continue another day, by using a new sheet of paper and copying only the outlines, and then proceed to draw the shading. I will maybe do another sketch with watercolour, to quickly test the main shaded areas, and to resume with that technique too. I’ll keep you posted!

Drawing session: mammal profiles

Today I went to my favourite library with my sketchbook and looked for a book with a lot ot pictures of mammals, as I wanted to put into practice a few tips from John Muir Laws’ lesson. Here are the results:

African wild dog
Chimpanzee, handling a stone
Chimpanzee, playing in water
Wild boar
Grizzly bear, hunting fish
Indri (lemur), on tree
Jaguar, climbing on tree
Brazilian tapir, calf

I observed attentively before starting with the drawing, and then drew the outline very fast (1 or 2 minutes maximum). I didn’t use the eraser, just drew more lines. I tried to notice proportions, so that few pencil strokes could suggest the species, without the help of colour or surrounding habitat.

I am quite happy with the result, given that it’s the first time I draw most of these species in a realistic way (I have drew some in cartoon style before). My next step is to work on the outline, adding details (fur texture, eyes, precise shapes of legs/head/body/tail, 3D suggestion through line width). Stay tuned for next posts!