Drawing update – the cormorant

Hello all again, here is my first post after a while, and I wish to share some insights in my drawing process and a few thoughts and observations here and there.

First sketch

This first version of the drawing served the purpose of getting myself familiar with the shapes and proportions of the bird in the picture. I draw birds only seldom and I have no model in my mind to follow, so I have to take some extra preparation steps before diving into the final drawing. Cormorants are water birds, but they lack the substance to make their feathers waterproof, so they spend quite a lot of time standing like this to dry.

Every start is a blank canvas. How do I know how much of my previous experience will be useful? What awaits me this time?

Rough shading

I copied the outlines of the sketch on a new piece of paper, with a light pencil, and started filling the spaces with a uniform and quite light shading.

That looks familiar, I guess that’s a good sign.

Adding the first darker layer

This part had been my favourite. It required me a change of mode, because I fully focused on the shapes and the contrasts between the various parts of the picture, and forgot about the big picture. The fact that this layer of darker and more detailed shading took a long time made it even more valuable to me.

The magic is in the details. Observing while staying still, almost disappearing, and the observed live their life undisturbed. How I loved that feeling when I was out in the field, silent spectator, invisible to the wildlife (if they acknowledged me, at least I hope I was considered a harmless human)!

Taking shape…

The middle part of the bird required me a marked change in texture. I was initially having a hard time rendering the small ruffled feathers of the neck and the shiny feathers of the shoulders. I was very hopeful for the tail, but it didn’t come out as I wished. The point in the whole drawing is that I always added shades and never erased: some parts would have been way easier to fill up with a dark tone and then edited by erasing the tiny light strips of the feather spines – but I went for the slower and less forgiving path.

Am I trying to prove to myself and you that I’m worth it? Do you need that? I guess not, but it’s a very old habit of mine and it will take some more time to fade.

Almost ready…

I was pretty happy with how it turned out. It looked sort of flat, but it’s how I prefer my drawings to look like. I like when they don’t reflect the picture or the reality as close as they could. I want them to be a filtered representation, and the filter to be visible. So I could have considered it done, at that point.

There is rarely the chance to get anything 100% ready anyway. We would wait the whole time in front of a stalling progress bar.

One more layer of 6B pencil – signed and done

Here is the final step, one more layer of dark pencil to enhance the contrasts. I didn’t smooth out the hatching lines on purpose, and I wished I had used a coarser paper. Time to visit one of those wonderful stationery shops where you get in needing nothing and get out with a bunch of incredible stuff!

That’s my gift, my time, my attention, my patience. The little shared moments shine like fireflies.

Thanks for reading, and see you at the next update!

My Patreon account is now live!

Hello all, I am proud to announce my first post on Patreon!

I have opened an account where I will post a set of sketches every week about a given subject (from wildlife to plants and nature in general), accompanied by a bit of behind-the-scenes insights, and tips on how to observe and make your drawings look more realistic. I look forward for your support and your comments about my work!

Follow the link from the picture below to access my page:

horses-ears-enhanced

Drawing update: horses’ ears

A few days ago I challenged myself to draw horses’ ears. I have been drawing horses for as long as I can remember, but with a moderate and varied amount of attention to detail. Therefore I am able to draw horses’ ears somewhat by memory, so that they don’t look that convincing. Thanks to a library book with a lot of pictures (I prefer to copy from printed images instead of from a screen) I found plenty of portraits from which I could draw. Here is the result:

Drawing practice: horses' ears

As usual, the first two sketches are a warm-up. From the third onwards I tried to notice something characteristic from each sketch, and for the forward-facing ears of sketch #3, it’s the angle in the inner ear side (I used to draw round ears by default – some horses have a less pronounced angle, but it’s always there). The same angle is visible when the ear is turned backwards: in sketch #6 I drew the ear as a trapezoid|trapezium, instead of a triangle. It felt strange to draw the ears like that, but in the end they look more realistic. The following sketches are more about ear positions and differences among breeds and individuals.

My next focus will be on hooves/feet, stay tuned for next post!

Drawing update: bird sketching

Today I had to give back this book about budgerigars, from which I wanted to copy a few pictures. I went to the library with the book and my sketchbook, and drew seven birds in funny poses, as suggested by John Muir Laws in his video about drawing birds: front, back and 3/4 views. Here is the result:

Budgerigars are really cute and funny, and loud too! They are very athletic and like to climb branches and trunks using both feet and beak. They like to hang upside down and roll around branches. I had a couple of these birds when I was a kid and I remember how lively they were. Their cage was near the telephone, so people often asked if we lived in the jungle! We let them free almost every day and they quickly learned every corner of the house. Drawing today made me remember them with a smile 🙂

Fox sketches and book recommendation: “Fuchs ganz nah” by Klaus Echle and Anna Rummel

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.

Link to publisher’s page

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!

Drawing update: dog sketches

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:

Dog sketches

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!