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.
The invention of the camera was both a curse and a blessing to the art world. It was a curse at first because artists had to find other reasons to paint in order to make up for some of the market taken by photographers. That effort to find new direction was one of the springboards for the art for art’s sake and the self-expression movements in modern art.
Before long, however, artists began to find ways to actually exploit the medium of photography. For example, the Hyper-Realists of the twentieth century used cameras to create extremely realistic paintings that would have been impossible before due to constantly changing highlights, shadows and reflections.
When slide projectors and overheads were invented, artists were able to project their subjects directly onto the canvas and produce super accurate drawings. (Some traditionalists disapprove of this practice, but the use of a projection device by professional artists was not unprecedented. For example art historians believe that the great eighteenth century scene painter Giovanni Canalleto used a camera obscura to project his cityscapes onto his canvases. The accuracy of his paintings are considered to be extremely valuable to cities like Dresden Germany which suffered so much destruction in World War II).
Cameras also provide a convenient source of subject matter. Today’s artists don’t even have to wait for pictures to be developed before using them. We can work directly from the screens of phones, tablets and laptops. The pictures above and below are examples. They were drawn from the screen of a smart phone.
The previous post was about taking a closer look at our surroundings in order to find subject matter for the sketch book. Whereas that post dealt with seeing potential in the ordinary, this one is about seeing detail. Georgia O’Keeffe once said, “Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time- like to have a friend takes time.” The drawings above are about the practice of taking the time to see the smallest details. Details can be color, line, or any number of things. These are primarily about surface textures.
The ability to see and render texture in a convincing manner is key to realistic drawing and painting.
In the previous post I wrote about drawing things from the viewpoint of the passenger seat. These have to be super fast sketches because of the length of our visual memory, so my drawings were tiny renditions of individual objects.
This post is about drawing the things you may encounter at stops along the way. The top drawing was at a cafe in Fort Davis, Texas. I would love to have gone into more detail on that ivy but ran out of time. As I mentioned in a previous post about on-the-spot drawing, sometimes you have to let go of the idea of a finished drawing or you may never get started on one in these situations.
This is the picnic area at Sand Hills State Park near Monahans, TX. If you ever get a chance to go there, you’ll find that it’s like the beach without the ocean. They even have plastic surfboards for sliding down the dunes.
This shade tree was at a rest stop near Sweetwater, Texas. Taking a dog along on a trip gives you more reasons to stop at places like this. See the windmills in the background? Wind farms are a wonderful sight to see in west Texas.
I saw this truck while sitting at a Sonic Drive-In in Monroe, Louisiana. I got the tires out of proportion to each other, but it was necessary to spend some of my time there eating a hamburger (actually a delicious steak sandwich which are not available at our local Sonic).
This palmetto was at a service station also in Monroe. Since we were only there to get gas (and boudin) I didn’t feel that I had time to do it justice so I took a picture and drew it later from the phone gallery. Soon I’ll do another post about using a cell phone camera as a source of models.
The focus of this post is about basic materials for on-the-spot drawing. First, I usually carry a small sketchbook – 8.5″ x 6″ or smaller – because they are more convenient to carry and because it’s best to do smaller drawings when time is limited. If I go out just for the purpose of drawing, I might carry a 9″ x 12″ or larger, but the idea here is to always have one with me in case an unexpected opportunity arises.
I also prefer mechanical pencils because they eliminate the need for a sharpener. Again, if I’m going out specifically to draw, I might take an assortment of pencils, a sharpener, some pens and maybe even watercolors. (Wait! Do I ever get to do that? Uh, no.) Anyway, the Paper Mate SHARPWRITER™ was my favorite until my recent road trip to Texas, where I purchased a Pentel Twist-Erase™ at the Hobby Lobby in Odessa. It was my first mechanical with 0.9 mm lead.
The next day I took it for a test drive at the car wash in Monahans. (By the way, this is the second road trip to Texas on which we’ve had to pause and wash the car. Last year the windshield was coated with honey when we hit a swarm of bees. This year we had to drive through some flash flooding. The irony is that we’d passed through Louisiana during all that historical flooding without having encountered any standing water, only to have to plunge into it on a Texas freeway. Who knew?) But back to the amazing pencil. The coverage and durability were so much better than my usual .7 mm’s that I used it exclusively for the rest of the trip and now keep one with me all the time.
Recently, while visiting family out of town, I decided to take a break from painting and do some detailed pencil drawing. I was inspired by several objects lying around the house that would lend themselves to some interesting value studies – aka chiaroscuro. The Minnie in the Box was the first one. I worked under a sky light with a Paper Mate® mechanical pencil which has a nice soft lead.
This is actually a child’s boot but I made the toe a bit too sharp so it may just look like a lady’s boot with a really wide top.
I was fascinated with the curves and hollows on this picture frame but decided there were too many of them to do the whole thing – hence the interesting composition. ☺