I was looking for great nature photography books in my local libraries and stumbled upon this one, that narrates the friendship between a vixen and two humans: the three met almost every day for a few months in a specific point in the woods, and from there they walked together, with the humans observing the behaviour of the animal and taking pictures. It is a fascinating narration, full of awe and respect for wildlife, and of incredible close-ups of the vixen.
As I have to give back the book in two days, I decided to draw a few portraits of the fox just now:
As usual, the first two sketches are a bit off. From the fifth onwards I got a better grasp of the typical marks that make the drawing look fox-like: the large ears (still, I made many of them too small), the white patch on the sides of the nose and cheeks with its sharp boundaries, the colour pattern, the black back of the ears, the pointy muzzle. I think the last portrait sums up that quite well. Her ears are really huge 🙂
I’m getting hooked to this 10-sketch sessions, I’ll post more of them with new species – if you have preferences just leave them a comment below!
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!
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.
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.
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 🙂