Drybrush Painting

It’s true – I said that I’d sworn off painting, and then I was like, “Well, now I’m excited to try painting again…” Then, of course, I didn’t proceed with doing anything, so ’round and ’round we go.

Well, guess what.  I was perusing Instagram (yes, Instagram – you can follow me here) and all these people had beautiful portraits with such amazing contrasts that I could hardly believe it.  How on earth did they do that?

Hahahaha.  With my nemesis, of course – OIL PAINT.  It’s a whole thing with using what is called drybrush technique with oil paint to paint these amazing portraits that look like they’re pencil drawn, except smoother and darker.  Amazing.

After watching a gazillion videos on the technique and stocking up on the items that I would need, I decided to take a portrait that wasn’t going the way I wanted it to and use it as my guinea pig for this incredible painting technique.

The result?

Happy Child - Oil Dry Brush
Happy Child – Oil Dry Brush

Well, I learned that I wasn’t quite sure how to do blond hair with black oil paint, so the hair was done in pencil, and I think it shows; however, the portrait as a whole came out rather nicely, if I do say so myself!  It looks like a technique that I will be continuing to explore in the future, and I hope to present many more portraits with this beautiful contrast.

“The Quick Sketch”

A few days ago I did up a “quick sketch” of Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister (because, in my opinion, celebrities are good subjects for quick sketches) and posted the sketch to social media (G+).  One of the users of the site commented something akin to, “Quick sketch my ass – this took at least two hours.”  Okay, so maybe his comment wasn’t so brash, but that’s the gist of it.

But he’s right!  The sketch did take an hour and a half…. So why would I call it a “quick sketch?”

Because it was one.

Quick Sketch - Lena Headey
Quick Sketch – Lena Headey

The average drawing, depending on the subject, can take me 8-12 hours, maybe more if there’s some killer detail.  For me to do a drawing that is only 1-2 hours – that’s a really quick sketch!  You may notice that the eyes aren’t quite right, that the hair isn’t fully rendered, her eyebrows aren’t quite Lena Headey’s eyebrows; it’s not meant for perfection, it’s meant for practice.

It’s all in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it?

Art Supplies – What do you need?

Someone who seems to be on my site regularly (thanks Ray) brought up a good point on my post about 10 Thoughts all Artists Experience, and that point was the burning desire to purchase the next shiny toy. I think this thought probably applies to most artists, from painters to writers to traditional graphite artists. My belief is that the thought of buying something new is motivating, and can make an fledgling artist feel hopeful that the new toy will drastically improve the end product.

So. Stop.

Save yourself some money and heartache.

Yes, Prismacolor pencils are going to do better things than Crayola pencils, but the artist needs to have a base to begin with. If the artist can’t draw what he/she wants to produce, new pencils that cost a small fortune aren’t going to fix that problem.

Observe.

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These are my basic tools, and even I have more than might be necessary (look up 5 Pencil Method on YouTube).

My pencils range from 6B to 6H, with an F pencil in there. I have four mechanical pencils of varying sizes/density. I have charcoal (soft and medium), a black pencil, mechanical pencil refills, a sharpener, eraser, kneadable eraser, a chamois cloth, a stick eraser (I also have a mechanical eraser, not pictured), a brush to clean off eraser leftovers, and a circle template that is used entirely for drawing eyes (the only perfect circles in nature), and a little sketchbook. Yes, most of it is all bundled up in a cloth pencil case, so you can count that, too, if you wish.

Let’s be honest here. In pencils, I probably only use 2B, 4B, and 6B for the soft graphite, and 4H and 6H for the hard graphite. It’s very rare that I use the other shades. I often use black to keep the shininess off darker areas of my drawings (such as the pupil).

In order to draw, you need something that leaves a mark (a pencil, for example) and a surface to draw on. That’s it. The rest of the tools will fall in place once the basics are mastered.

The only thing that will make an artist great is practice.

Advice from Various Artists and Why You Shouldn’t Always Listen

All right, I’m not going to quote anything verbatim, because this is all pretty general advice that a variety of artists will tell anyone. Plus, who knows where they got it from to begin with?

1) Fully render one part of the drawing at a time.
Kinda, sorta… if you want to. Rendering one section at a time makes the artist pay more attention to tedious details, and the overall view is less overwhelming. The downside is that there’s a lot of prep work, because you’ll need to make a reference value to make sure you don’t have different values in one area as opposed to another; plus, if you’re drawing freehand, you might have some trouble with proportions.

2) Always do the darkest areas first.
This helps with maintaining values. Cool; however, I personally like to do the lighter areas on skin first, because it’s easier to darken than to lighten, especially with charcoal. I also like drawing hair (often dark) last. It’s a matter of preference.

3) Take an art program.
You can… there’s nothing wrong with doing so, and taking a program will likely fast-track your progress. You could also save your money and study independently and practice practice practice.

‘Drawing’ White Fur

Ever look at a drawing and think to yourself, “Wow, how did he/she draw that white fur? It looks so soft!”

It’s all an optical illusion. I’ve posted before about how the eye fills in the blanks, and that’s all white fur it. There will be a few lines here and there, but for the most part, it’s blank (or negative) space.

Here are some tips:
1) Hair casts shadows. Shading in small areas of shadow make the white parts look more real and 3D.

2) Less is more! Don’t shade in too much, or you’ll ruin the effect.

3) Draw lightly and use an electric eraser to draw out white lines for whiskers, ear hair, etc.

'Map' - graphite, white ink
‘Map’ – graphite, white ink

In the drawing above, the cat’s whiskers are simply erased area that are outlined with graphite. The ear hair is the same. The forward paw only has shading to separate the toes.

Give it a try!

Action Poses

Drawing an animal or figure is commonplace in the art world, but it takes time and practice to find the action in the image, to capture it and bring it to life for the viewer.

Take the image below as an example.

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This is my dog, Dexter, and this pose speaks volumes about his personality. This is what he does every chance he gets – he cuddles. I could draw his face straight on, but what would that capture except the average face of a golden retriever? A head tilt, a telling pose – those are the tiny evidences of personality that can bring a drawing to life.

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Again, a snuggler. Her expression is one of laze and contentment.

'Map' - graphite, white ink
‘Map’ – graphite, white ink

This shows Map’s friendly face, and it gives her a pose of comfort. Someone looking at this drawing can easily deduce that she is a house cat, and that  she’s approachable. The forward paw and the curled in paw – these are both action poses that introduce the viewer to Map as an entity, and not just a drawing.

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Try something new instead of the portrait pose, and I guarantee that you’ll like the results.

Educated vs Self Taught

I love to browse artists’ websites to see the different styles of work that people do.  Sometimes I get inspired to try something new, which is always a good thing.

A while ago I saw something on an artist’s website that got under my skin a little bit.  That particular artist posted in her ‘About Me’ page that she was an educated artist, and that unlike self-taught artists, she knew what she was doing.

Ouch.

I looked at her art, and it was good, no doubt about it.  Was it better than mine, the art of a self-taught artist?  No, not really.  Her style was very simple and not super detailed, but it had a nice, soft quality to it.  It was nice.

What is the difference between a self-taught artist and one that has been formally educated?

Artists who go through the formal training get to know the parts of the body, like bone and muscle structure, and they practice doing the same things over and over again until they get it perfect.  There’s obviously a lot more than that, but this is just to give a reader an idea on what I’m talking about as far as “educated” means.

A self-taught artist practices and practices until things look right.

In the end, do I care exactly what the muscles are called?  Not really – it doesn’t add anything to my finished product.  It is super important, of course, to understand where muscles/bones are and how they’re shaped, or else drawings will come out looking kind of weird.

All the same, it’s practice, imagination, and observation that  will dictate the level of success that an artist will have.

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This baby in progress, for example, is a few lines and some shading.  I can look at the photo and see where the shading and shadows should be.  The next time I draw a baby, I’ll know about the chubby cheeks and round little nose, and I’ll be able to produce it again.  It’s all just practice and experience and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Tutorials

I’ve been pretty slack with adding tutorials – I know it. I’ve been so busy with my full-time job and commissions that I just haven’t gotten there yet.

My intentions over the next few weeks are to do some more tutorials, including:

  • how to draw a simple rose
  • How to draw animal hair/fur
  • Whisker techniques
  • How to draw feathers

I think the tutorials will be fun to do, and hopefully they’ll be helpful to many people who are starting out.

More to come soon!

 

 

Finishing a Drawing

Some people find it difficult to figure out where to start with a drawing, while others (like me) have a hard time finishing one. Both problems can be super frustrating, but both problems are equally simple to solve; just get the job done. Start somewhere, shade something. Work on it piece by piece until it comes together.

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I’d never show someone my millions of sketchbooks. They are so full of half-assed sketches and experiments that they look like piles of garbage. That garbage, though, is my inspiration. Those books are evidence of the hours and hours I’ve dedicated to practicing this craft.

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A partially finished drawing is nowhere near as satisfying as a finished work. It holds so much potential and promise, but it’s just like a giant ball of potential energy; it needs to be made kinetic to become useful. It becomes something to be proud of. There is nothing worse than walking away from something that should be great, if only given the chance.

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Sometimes it’s necessary to walk away from something that just isn’t working… but don’t make a habit of it.

Should I Use an Easel?

Ah, as you walk amongst the throngs of Parisian street artists, you see that some of them have easels nestled comfortably under their canvasses. Confusingly, you also see some artists who are using their laps, and let’s not forget the dreamers who are using artists’ board. Who is right?

Don’t bother trying to peak over someone’s shoulder in order to compare results; chances are, they’ll all be good.

Many mainstream artists will say that an easel is necessary to avoid losing the 3D-ness and to get caught up in the foreshortening of the drawing, and while that may be true for many, it’s not the case for everyone!

It takes some practice to get accustomed to using an easel, because there’s no longer anywhere to rest your drawing arm. The whole process can feel awkward and uncomfortable, but like many things, it gets easier the more you do it and get used to it.

I myself have an easel, but I don’t use it very often. I like to think of it as my travel companion; it comes out of its case mainly when I’m away from home, or sometimes I take it out to place finished works on it until I’ve decided what to do with everything.
In general, I use an artist’s board. It’s smaller than an easel, fits in a portfolio bag, and I can sit with it on my lap when I’m working. The downside, of course, is the horrendous posture that comes with hovering over the board.

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As you can see from the image of my unfinished drawing above, an art board can still be used effectively to achieve good results.

I also have, in my beloved art studio (a colorful room in my basement that contains only some shelves, yarn, and piles of art supplies), a glass art desk that tilts. It’s much more posture friendly, while still allowing me to comfortably tilt my work. It’s a fantastic thing to have, but definitely bigger and pricier than an easel or board.

My point is that what you use is up to you. Don’t knock anything until you’ve tried it a few times; something as subtle as your drawing support could make a world of difference to your end product.