Landscapeito: first attempt

Today I watched John Muir Law’s lesson about drawing 5-minute landscapes and got inspired to draw one myself. I went to the park near my house and picked a corner with a couple of trees. The sun started to shine nicely right as I started drawing, so that it made better shadows. I took longer than five minutes, but not more than fifteen. Here is the result:


I am quite happy with the result! The subject in itself is not so exciting, the drawing is far from pretty, but I am proud of having been able to watch the video, grab my sketchbook and pencil, go outside, find a subject to draw, and actually draw it. I could have stopped anywhere in the process – I could have thought: yeah it’s late for today, there is not much light, there are no nice landscapes around my house, this sketch is not looking that good, I’m not going to finish it… instead, here it is!

I hope this inspires you to do the same, find a small art task like these 5-minutes landscapes, complete it and feel proud of your achievement. Any journey starts with a small step!

Drawing Sunday: step-by-step pencil drawing

Hello all! Today, for my Sunday’s art post, I wish to retrace the steps of the drawing of the leaping horse I prepared for the final assignment of Natural History Illustration 101 eCourse. I hope it encourages you to draw more!

So, first I chose a picture that I wanted to copy, and after a long search, I fell for this one and printed it out:

English Thoroughbred, by buba_noi (Source: Flickr)

I have been drawing horses since a while, so I am already a bit familiar with their anatomy and proportions. Still, I worked on a preparatory study that shows the main inner structures (not really the bones, but straight lines that are a simplification of the bones):


In the preparatory study I traced the main structure lines with a pink pencil, to let them stand out more, then I added more lines with a graphite pencil. While doing this study I realised that I made the belly and hind legs too small, so I erased them completely and re-drew them by measuring relative proportions with the other parts of the body that I already drew. The study helped me in the next stages of the drawing, by making me notice proportions, symetries and relations between the different parts of the body of the horse.

Then I took a new piece of paper, went to the window to use it as a tracing table (a transparent surface with a back light, that enables you to overlay two sheets of paper and trace on the top one by following the contours of the picture on the lower one). I have no picture of it, but it was simply the outline and a few more inner lines.

I moved back to my desk with the new sheet and used a 6B pencil to draw the basic tones:


Sorry for the blurred picture, the camera didn’t get enough light to focus properly. I started with the head and right front leg, then proceeded from left to right (so that I didn’t smear the drawing with my hand). I chose to change how dark to make an area only by looking at neighbouring areas, so when I finished the drawing I noticed that the right hind leg was the darkest area, when on the picture it was not; maybe I should have regularly compared which areas of the whole picture had the same shade.

Then I proceeded with harder pencils (first 3B, then B) and made more definite, crisp, and dark shadows, with care not to cover the very light areas. Again I proceeded from left to right, but in addition I put a piece of paper below my hand, to avoid smearing. I had to catch up with the dark areas of the head, neck and front legs, while comparatively making less tonal adjustements on the back legs.


The final touch was the rendering of the hair. This horse, and its breed, has very short hair that I could hardly represent in the picture, because I hadn’t any pencil sharp enough to create that texture. So I thought of using my mechanical pencil with HB mines of 0.5mm and made some hatches on the shadows. I refined the shadows of the mane and tail, but am not really happy with them:


The important things that I learned while making this drawing are:

  • Make breaks when you feel that your concentration level is getting low. You can come back after a few hours or the day after.
  • Get a full mental image of the main tones, so that you have it as a reference when you make shades.
  • Allow yourself to draw a bit and to erase what you don’t like. This is the big advantage of pencils!
  • Make the preparatory study, so that you have the anatomy of your animal in mind, you can guess its three-dimensional shape and consequently lights and shadows. It is also an excellent time to get the outlines right, with as many attempts as you want, before copying them on a fresh sheet of paper.

I hope this explanation encourages you to try drawing your favourite animal! Do also browse the Internet for material and videos about drawing techniques. There are some amazing teachers out there!

Drawing with non-dominant hand

It is natural to work on the non-dominant hand (the left hand for a right-handed, and vice versa) on the drumset, where it is required that both hands develop equal strength and precision. It is not considered when drawing, but as my recent studies focused more on observing than on technique, why not letting my non-dominant hand draw too?

I felt that the observation step was as accurate as by right-hand drawings. The difference came when I had to draw – my left hand has very seldom held a pencil, so there is no muscular memory of a pencil grip. I somehow grouped my fingers together and started with the mare’s head. You can see the hesitations and trembling. There was sometimes too much opposition from the paper, that my left hand had to try hard to move the pencil. Another difficulty that arose half-way was that I started drawing, as usual, from the left – not taking into account that my hand would cover the drawing, therefore I went on holding the hand and arm above the drawing, like left-handers do when they write.

The drawing took maybe ten minutes to be done. It is of course very sketchy and by no matters finished, but the point is made: a good observation matters more to me that technique. Even from an unschooled hand, the subject is recognisable and with acceptable proportions.

That made me also think how adults can forget how hard it was to learn to write and draw when they were children. It is a good refresher for my teacher’s future.

I hope this is of encouragement for you! Let me know in the comments or on your blogs about your drawing experiments.

2016: more drawing exercises!

Hello all and delayed wishes of a Happy New Year 🙂

For me it started with a great read, “Just Draw It!” from Sam Piyasena and Beverly Philp. It’s a book full of ideas, some really unexpected, for the improvement of observation skills. I found quite some convergence with “Drawing on the right side of the brain”, object of a former post. There are many ideas suitable for short drawing/art sessions, and I ended the book with renewd enthusiasm!

So I looked around for drawing subjects, and here are two of my sketches:

(More on my Flickr page)

I have come to realise that (realistic) drawing requires a lot of concentration and observation, more than technique. I think that I need to train concentration and observation first, so that I can work in longer sessions. I suppose that the need for technical progress will come as a consequence of more sketching, and it is nowadays quite easy to find information in libraries or on the Internet about a specific style, tool or technique. For the moment I stick to my simple pencils and felt pens – and practice.

I also noticed that I draw more easily when the light creates good contrasts. It is for example challenging for me to draw in the evening without a significant light source, or when it is available but can’t create enough shadows. I also am a bit short sighted and I feel I am missing some details that I would like to draw, and good lights are a big help in enhancing smaller details.

So my two suggestions for the random sketcher: train your observation skills, and look for good light sources!


Practice: Graduation with graphite pencils

Today, for my weekly drawing exercise, I chose the graduation lesson from Carol Rosinsky of Toad Hollow Studio.

I liked the detail of her explanation and the attention required by this small exercise. It is definitely a right brain exercise, too slow and uninteresting for the left brain; but in the end, the smoothness of the graduation is a valuable result, if you blended it well.

It makes sense to practice this exercise with different square sizes and angles.

Have fun!

What you'll draw in
What you’ll draw in “Draw a Graduation with Graphite Pencils”, Carol Rosinsky (Toad Hollow Studio)

First steps with Sanguine (Italian: sanguigna) pencil

Among my pencils and pens I found a sanguine pencil – a thick, reddish, crumbly pencil. In Italian it is called “matita sanguigna” or simply “sanguigna“, because of its red colour. The main component, that gives it its colour, was the iron mineral hematite (from which comes the Italian name for the pencil, matita). Nowadays the same texture and colour are obtained with other materials as well. The Italian Wikipedia entry is clear and complete, mentions history and drawing techniques, it is worth a read even through a translation tool!

So far I have only sharpened the pencil and copied a small tree. This pencil is different as it is much crumblier and messier than regular pencils – but not as messy as charcoal, in my opinion. I like it very much and I want to take inspiration from artists’ masterpieces, so stay tuned for posts with pictures 🙂

More exercises

In past few days I drew a bit, using pencils, pens and markers. I am quite unexperienced with tools other than the classic graphite pencil, so the results are not exactly art 🙂 Have fun!

The lion head is drawn with a small graphite pencil (a bit too small to be held in my hand), and I lost patience quickly, so I just drafted shapes and shadows. I should have taken more time to examine the lion before drawing.

The second drawing is a copy of the photography of Fan Ho, a famous Chinese photograph. “Sun Rays, 1959” impressed me for the balance of shades and lines, and the three people who blend perfectly with the abstract composition made by the staircase. (I didn’t finish my drawing, but I plan to.)

The third drawing contains dinosaurs reading very small books. The idea came to me from the many labels “Keine Werbung” (no advertisement, in German) that I see on postboxes. Adding one letter it becomes “Kleine Werbung”, small advertisement. A T-Rex is the right recipient of small ads, that fit its small arms perfectly 🙂