Christmas is gone. I am sad. I don’t know how it happened. 😦
Back to life and reality and eugh.
Over the course of my Christmas I made every effort to power through my new sketchbook, since it took me almost 2 years to finish my previous one. I’m about a third of the way through it now, and considering I bought it in November I’m pretty happy with that. The sketches, doodles, and drawings I have produced in that time are a mixed bag of failures and successes. Though I’ve shared many of them on my social media profiles such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, I thought I’d show them here and talk through my process (or lack thereof) and what I’ve learned.
Firstly for this post, major comfortzone-ing; I’ll talk about working from life. Since I have zero confidence in my ability to work imaginatively, I will almost always opt to draw what’s infront of me over that cool idea floating in my head. In fact, I’ll often sit there for up to an hour at a time trying to find a cool item or place to draw, only to decide that today is not a good day for art and eating copious amounts of biscuits is a much better idea.
I’ll usually find that my ability to draw what is infront of me comes and goes with seemingly little to no pattern. Sometimes I try to be fluid and relaxed, and what I draw is just an awful over-flamboyant mess with no form or decency of line or accuracy. Other times I just tense up and what I draw is at the other end of the spectrum; I overthink every line and the drawing just begins to look like something I would have drawn years ago. The lines become feathery, I overthink line weight, and again I lose sight of what I’m trying to draw- perspective becomes totally off and the drawing just doesn’t feel right (see above).
Less often, but I feel it’s becoming more common as I improve, I get it just right. I’m not sure what the secret formula is. Sometimes I feel really excited to draw and I’m like YEAH LET’S DRAW, and it all goes to shit. Or it all goes right. Sometimes I’m really tense and nervous about creating another failure, and again it can go either way. Most likely I’ll start off a drawing pretty well, get a little over-zealous, and then go in with a bit too much line-weight or get a bit carried away with shading and ruin it. Such is life.
This selection of bird drawings, all done in one sitting, is a good example of both failed and successful sketches. The top left sketch was done without expectation and went really well, and then the following ones were a real mix. At the bottom of the image you can see where I’ve cut off even more pretty awful sketches. In all the drawings I would consider ‘failed’, I can see that my lines become soft, unconfident, and scribbly. The image doesn’t look like the subject matter and they are abandoned. Perhaps the subject (in this case) moves, or I just can’t enjoy the drawing when I know it’s all gone wrong already.
Here’s a few more sketches from life. I wouldn’t say I’m happy with them, but they’re ok.
I did this one in the grounds outside my flat. I’d just abandoned another piece which I had wanted to be a longer piece and I was cold and annoyed, but it was good to finish on a positive note before I went indoors. I did a lot of simplifying what was in front of me; there were many more trees in the background and leaves on the grass. I feel like I’m beginning to get the hang of simplifying what I see for the sake of creating a nicer piece of art. I used to draw word-for-word what I saw, but unfortunately real life is never perfectly composed and you have to learn how to modify it, within reason.
Some flowers in a vase were the least-intensive option for me when I was feeling a bit meh about sketching. For this one, I found that taking the time to shade in a darker background made a crap drawing look less crap even though I altered nothing else. The dark shading makes the flowers pop more and appear more three dimensional. Doesn’t change the fact that drawing cylindrical objects is ridiculously difficult though. Part of the reason I found this sketch so difficult was that there was no particularly directional lighting falling on the subject. This makes it very hard to give the sketch dimensionality; the subject as a still image lacks it in the first place, particularly a complex and colourful subject like flowers. It’s hard to not just make your ‘shading’ match the value of the hues you see (in this case I think it was bright yellow and dark red), rather than the lighting.
I decided to draw my whole view of the room I was in here, since I’ve not done that in a while. I didn’t really dedicate myself to trying to get the perspective correct or anything, hence why it’s a little wonky. That curved radiator at the back was a pain. Mostly when I’m drawing full rooms like this, especially when items of furniture are places at different angles, I realise just how different angles will appear from first glance. Trying to translate the angles of the walls and furniture from around you in 3D space to a small 2D rectangle is much harder than it would seem. It’s one of the few instances in which I’ll use my pen held up in front of me as a horizontal line of comparison. I move the pen around myself in an arc (with myself as the centre of the circle), and make an effort not to move my head far from looking straight ahead at the centre of my image to avoid messing up the perspective. That’s my method anyway, but I’m sure there are loads of better ways of doing it.
My mum’s dog Charlie is a gangly lurcher who gets himself into the weirdest and most awesome positions to draw. He never seems to be comfy though, so he moves a lot and I have to draw him fast. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ll usually start with the feet/legs or back line first and work out from there. Foreshortening is usually the hardest thing to deal with when drawing him but it’s a fun challenge.
That covers all of my life drawing for the Christmas period. I forced myself to do a few imaginative sketches recently, and I was going to bring those up in this post too but this got way longer than I thought. I’ll write up a separate post for those and share soon. I’ll also see about trying to make a sort-of reflection on the year, and my art over that time. 🙂