Yesterday I visited a new library in the city, and was very happy to find a lot of books about drawing and painting, as well as great collections of animal pictures. I went there with the goal of drawing ten heads of a given animal species, and I picked two books about dogs with high-quality pictures. Here are the outcomes:
You can see each sketch as a single picture on my Flickr share. Overall I find that the drawing session was worth it: I started with somewhat flat and simple portraits, then understood more and more about the subjects and also worked faster. I think I’ll keep the suggestion to draw ten items per session, because I noticed how the first ones don’t look so good, and if I manage to draw more than five or six, I get at least three decent sketches. It was also useful to draw different dog breeds, with different proportions and fur length, and also test a few angles other than the front or 3/4 view. I have other pictures to copy from, so stay tuned for next update!
Here are a few studies I made this week: the first is about goats and sheep. I found a book of livestock breeds and decided to draw some of them. I found out that some sheep look like goats and vice versa, but chose to draw rather typical breeds to practice proportions and textures. Well, I tried… the sheep with black head and legs is a bit off, the back too high, maybe the head too large. I think I didn’t work on the proportions long enough, as I wanted to draw the details of the wool (and I find it came out great!)… Next time I also want to draw more horns, as the goats’ horns in particular have a peculiar section and therefore make funny spirals that look different at every angle. Sheep horns make more regular spirals.
The second set of sketches is about lions’ noses. In the library I found a great photography book on big cats (Raubkatzen: wild und faszinierend) and could easily examine quite small details. I decided to make a kind of plot and position noses according to the angles of the head:
Next time (next species in my list will likely be another big cat, or the fox) I will make a plot with axes meeting in the center of the page, so that I can draw noses pointing to the left or pointing upwards. There are otherwise too many pictures I couldn’t use, or had to mirror during drawing (and it’s really too difficult for me now).
Along the lesson John gives ideas for drawing tasks that make you practice what he explained, for example “draw 10 heads and faces of the species of your choice within a week of the lesson”, “draw 10 ears of the species of your choice”. I was a bit cold about this kind of homework, but I discovered that it made me observe better, and remember the concepts better too.
As first homework I chose to draw heads of two seal species: grey seal and harbour seal. I found a book in the library, “Robben an Nord- und Ostseeküste”, that presents the two species, and features high-quality pictures. There was an extra challenge, as the description of many pictures did not mention the species, and this made me observe them with even more attention. I drew seal portraits on two pages, one for each species.
Another homework I picked was “draw 10 noses of a species of your choice”. I chose horses, first because they are my favourite animal, and second because I have never drawn decent horse muzzles. I first thought that ten muzzles would be too much, that I would get tired after the first five. On the contrary, after the first attempts I noticed that I was nailing increasingly more details, seeing more in three dimensions, and getting the proportions and shades right. My favourite muzzle is the ninth, from the picture of an Arab horse.
For the next tasks I have found a book about foxes, with a lot of pictures! I’ll keep you posted on the drawings I’ll make – spoiler alert: one homework is “draw one page of a species’ ears” 🙂
Wateau, a luthier specialised in guitars, moved in my extended neighborhood around a year ago. Since then, I have been quite curious about his work, and finally had the chance to visit his worshop thanks to the European Artistic Crafts Days.
I was the first visitor to come for the open day, and Mathieu guided me through the workshop, explaining the functioning of odd tools and giving me information about guitar construction techniques. Then a few clients arrived and while he was performing a few fixes and tuning of their instruments I looked around, searching a good subject for a sketch.
I finally decided to draw the press that Mathieu built himself, and that is used to bend the wood of the sides of a guitar. I somehow didn’t save the picture of that tool, but only the one of the drawing:
The press works by appling heat to flexible metal plates, between which the soaked wood is placed, and by progressively bending the wood in the shape of a half-guitar template (that is a removable part of this tool).
It took around 20 minutes to sketch it, including a quite long phase of observation. It is definitely an odd machine with a lot of parts and it was quite difficult to choose where to start! But Mathieu has been patient and let me sit on one of the tall chairs while he cut wood parts for guitar necks and cleaned one of his workstations. It was pleasant to share a silent moment with each one focused on independent things. I found it remarkable, because it is usually the result of a longer acquaintance, but I’m experiencing it more and more often with like-minded people whom I just met. I plan to ask him to pay another visit, so that I can sketch a few more subjects, and enjoy the atmosphere of the workshop. Stay tuned for more craftsy posts!
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!
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:
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!
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!):