Archive for the ‘Drawings’ Category
Two quick sketches I’m quite happy with. Femininity has been tricky for me to capture at times — many of my earlier drawings of women made the subjects look a little too mannish — but these turned out well, if only because I’m gradually learning the discipline not to draw too many lines. The one on the left is after a sketch by JW Waterhouse (a study for “Lamia”), and the one on the right… is not.
When I posted this on Facebook a few minutes ago, I called the gecko “the Billy Crystal of the lizard world”. I think it’s the smile and the glitter in the eye.
By the way, if you’re curious as to where I’ve disappeared to over the last nine months, go visit SCOPE magazine: www.scope-mag.com. My latest (and most time-consuming) project, SCOPE will keep me busy for a long time, I hope — so my posting on Archipelagoes will likely be limited, by and large, to the occasional sketch or photograph, rather than to my traditional essays. Please keep dropping by here from time to time, and certainly add SCOPE to your favorites list. Looking forward to hearing from you in both venues!
A selection of sketches from my morning practice sessions. I’m trying to do a full hour of sketching every day now, trying to escape from what I felt until just recently had become an unwelcome plateau in my level of skill. I spend 15 minutes doing exercises from Andrew Loomis’s Drawing the Head and Hands, 15 minutes on his Figure Drawing for All Its Worth, and a good half-hour on a study of a drawing made by one of the masters.
My current inspiration in this regard is John Singer Sargent (check out this great database of his works at Harvard), whose drawings are full of energy and vigor yet do not lose control of themselves. They’re tremendously fun to copy, and result in satisfyingly realistic pictures. The three sketches in the top row of the gallery above are all based on Sargents.
I’m particularly keen on the two women in robes, who remind me simultaneously of medieval nuns and acolytes of the Bene Gesserit.
A little something I worked up today with a camera and the ever-handy GIMP photo editor. I had some ambitions to push colour saturations in each picture to create a kind of gradient across the piece, but decided to stick with realistic colour instead. It was such a gorgeous Sunday — why try to improve it?
The nice thing about doing figure work but not doing portraits is that when your drawing goes south on you, there’s no one to look over your shoulder and say “Um, thanks Ian, but that doesn’t really look at all like me.” Having a reference is one thing, but a live person with a sense of identity can play havoc with your artistic morale.
The above picture started out as an exercise in reproducing a compelling self-portrait done by the great fantasy illustrator Frank Frazetta, who died last week. As I worked on it, I realized the eyes were too big, the mouth too pursed, the neck too thin. But since Frank has far cooler things to do now than look over my shoulder, I’m free to reassure myself that the drawing at least looks like someone might — perhaps a Christopher Walken-esque movie villain from the mid-1960s, the kind of character who works at a country gas station, speaks quietly, and has murder on his mind.
Photographs of ballet dancers, I discovered this evening, are an excellent reference point for learning how to draw the human figure. What’s more, there’s something about sketching dancers that feels both dynamic and essential — forms built without adornment as simple vectors and curves, yet filled with energy and direction.
Unexpectedly but thrillingly, drawing has rarely felt this natural.
I’m disappointed to note that my brief fling with Jim Gurney’s “Art by Committee” has come to an end, now that Jim has put the monthly challenge on an indefinite hiatus (giving him more time to focus on his fascinating ongoing tour of art techniques and great artists, I note with admiration). There are lots of fish in the sea, of course, and Illustration Friday looks like a good replacement.
Illo-Friday offers a challenge that is more open-ended than Jim’s: rather than a page of text or a business card, it offers only a word. From there, your artistic mind is free to roam — so long as you get your picture in before the following Friday. This week’s topic is “propagate”, and you can see above what I did with it. It was certainly an interesting exercise: I started by attempting to depict one meaning of the word, and found when I was part way through that I had captured two.
I had a bit of a crisis a couple of weeks back. I’d been working diligently on this whole “learning to draw” project for five and a half months, and had steadily worked my way through ups and downs to a point where I could say that my skills had progressed from “really very bad” to “mediocre”. This was a significant source of personal pride for me, as I hadn’t been sure when I started that I would manage to reach any higher level of artistic competence at all. I was feeling pretty good, frankly.
Then I watched Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary on Valentino.
My contribution to James Gurney’s latest “Art by Committee” challenge. The assignment was to illustrate the following extract from a science fiction novel manuscript:
This one was a great learning exercise from a composition point of view, driving me to rough out several possible scenes before finally choosing a close-up of Billy’s face — and even then I experimented with just how close the close-up should be. Billy, I thought, is a man trying bravely to cope with an unanticipated glacier of indifference from a formerly close female friend. And this being the near-future, he’s staring into the unforgiving lens of a laptop camera while he wages this internal struggle.
Yet another argument against videophones, in my opinion. Dating is hard enough without that.
Copying from the masters being one of the most hallowed traditions in art education, this is a sketch I made from a drawing by Louis-Léopold Boilly (1761-1845), the great genre artist and portraitist of Napoleonic France. Boilly’s full work is of his family and servants, and this is one of his two sons — although the artist would probably be amused to see that my inadvertent elongation of the boy’s face (an artistic tic I’m trying to rid myself of, not yet successfully) has transformed his cute ten-year-old into a young man of about sixteen. Go here for Boilly’s original, part of an exhibition of eighteenth-century French drawings at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City.
I produced this somewhat dark-themed picture as a submission to Dinotopia illustrator James Gurney’s “Art by Committee” challenge (which he hosts on his fascinating blog, Gurney Journey). This month, Gurney invited his readers to submit works depicting the hypothetical owner of this (actually quite real) business card:
As you’ll probably deduce from the drawing, my mind went in directions both sci-fi and seedy — triggered mainly by contemplating the male reaction to the implausibly optimistic marketing promise “A Wish Come True”. In terms of materials, I took a step back from charcoal on this one, using it mainly for the rain-esque backdrop and for a bit of skin tone and shadowing. Most of the drawing is rendered in graphite.
My apologies for a two-month absence from posting, but I’ve had an autumn which has been filled with distractions — some work-related, yes, but others more enjoyable than that. I had the pleasure of editing a fascinating chapter of a good friend’s upcoming book. I caught up on the first half of the first season of Mad Men. And I finally began to make steady progress on a newly-adopted hobby: drawing.
I’ll tackle the “why” in a later post. For now, glance at the scrappy little drawing above, which for all its lack of polish and professionalism nevertheless marks a breakthrough for me. Until this picture, I’d been drawing faces with pencils (good ones, mind you), and the precision of these tools had encouraged my involuntary tendency to produce fussy little pictures that lacked any shreds of the visual impact that I’d been seeking. The people I drew, however beautiful in reality, consistently ended up narrow-eyed and unattractive on paper.
Finally, I decided to experiment with the big chunks of graphite and charcoal that came with my Derwent sketching kit. I worked carefully, but with increasing pleasure. Thirty minutes later I was finished, and thrilled. This was the look I had been searching for. There’s a real joy that comes with achieving even a modest victory when you’ve had to build your skills up from nothing.
What now? Be assured that I haven’t given up one love for another — I’ll start re-engaging with this blog in upcoming weeks. But over time what I’m hoping to do is to experiment a little with working illustrations into my essays, to see where that leads, whether it improves the final product, and whether anything fun and original comes out of it. I very much look forward to hearing your feedback and suggestions as I go along.