Cats are wonderful models because they mostly ignore you and remain as they are when you walk up with a camera or sketch book. Meeps is my daughter’s cat that came to live with me when she moved across the country. I was reluctant to take him at first because we’d just lost an elderly cat and I didn’t want to get involved with another so soon. However, he quickly stole my heart and has been a great source of ideas for artwork. Like a born model he tends to pick sitting areas with great lighting.
The portrait above is of my son. I was interested in trying to capture the effect of the light reflected onto his face from the computer screen. If I’d known it was going to turn out so well, I would have picked out a better piece of paper for it. These six drawings were all done in a tiny sketch book I bought because it was pocket/purse sized. I’m always looking for compact art supplies that can be carried with me when I’m out. This one was for doing small studies like the ones below. However, these types of sketchbooks tend to get beat up from carrying them around, so after I did the portrait of Wyatt I retired it early for fear that something would happen to that particular drawing.
The reason these are different colors is because I scanned some of them and photographed the others. The gray ones were scanned into the computer. The others were photographed in front of a window that brings in light reflected from a red brick wall outside. Thus the slight pink tinge.
I usually don’t record dreams but the little creature above was so interesting I didn’t want to forget it, so I drew it first thing in the morning. My version of Surrealism.
Like the previous post this one is about drawing the effect of light and shadow outside. The light/dark contrast is greater in these drawings because they were done with a ballpoint pen instead of the #2 pencil lead used in the previous drawings. Pens are great for contrast, but the fact that you can’t erase makes them a bit trickier to use.
The thing is, the ability to erase can actually slow you down – especially if you are a perfectionist. This can be a problem when drawing outside due to the fact that the earth is rotating approximately one thousand mph. By the time you erase and redo just a few things, your light can have faded or your shadows moved significantly from where they were to begin with. However, if you’re working with a pen you will be forced to either keep going and try to make adjustments or start completely over – in which case you may never get a finished drawing.
The best thing to do then, is find a pen that is capable of making a light mark without skipping. That way you can develop a preliminary sketch before irreversibly darkening anything. And you can do some subtle cross hatching. Problem solved.
I used to draw a lot with the really cheap Papermate™ pen that sells in packages of a gazillion for a dollar. (You get used to these types of economies when teaching art in public schools.) They were adequate as far as value changes go, but can be unreliable and also they have the inconvenient caps. (These caps are also a problem in high school class rooms where they can serve as convenient missiles for students who are tempted to throw things. I once had nearly a whole baseball team in 5th period. That year I discovered that pen caps were only a fraction of the arsenal lying around the art room just waiting to be pitched.)
Anyway, lately I’ve tried several different pens including the Paper Mate InkJoy™ ball point and two different kinds of Pilot™ gel pens. My favorite pen so far, however, is the Bic Atlantis™ ballpoint. It makes a wonderfully smooth yet variable line, and is retractable.
August is a good time to try out new products like pens, because school supply sections in stores are bursting with promotional deals. They will also have some products that are not normally on the shelves the rest of the year.
Like painting, drawings can emphasize one element over another. A drawing can be about line, value, texture and even color. These drawings are about contrast in value. Lately, I’ve been very interested in trying to create a convincing light and shadow effect.
Strong contrast in value can be created indoors by shining a lamp on the subject. However, if I want to draw outside, I need to look for contrast in the environment. My favorite times of day to do this are in the early morning or late afternoon. That’s when shadows are long and the sun lights up the trunks of trees and other things that are usually in shade. (Mornings and evenings are also more comfortable for being outside in the summer where I live. Less heat and humidity and fewer mosquitoes and such.)
Two things to consider while working outside. 1) Typical of other on-the-spot drawings, these need to be done quickly since the sun doesn’t stand still. In fact, when you’re trying to do a realistic drawing, shadows can change ridiculously fast. 2) The drawing medium can make a difference in the level of contrast possible. These drawings were both done with the Pentel™ 0.9 mm pencil which gets as dark as a regular # 2 pencil but never truly black. If you want really strong contrast, work with a softer lead or with a pen. The drawings in the next post post will be similar to these but in ball point pen.