Tag Archives: process

Warmup sketch, likeness and failing art

16 Apr

I’m exploring the point of failure in drawing. At what point am I giving up and why? Why in blazes do I want to bother about failing? Isn’t success much more important? Simply put, I want to improve my process. The best way to do that is to fail often and fail early and then revise where you want wrong.

Warmup sketch, likeness and failing art

Since the above drawing is my warmup sketch, I didn’t give a dang about structure. I took a random ad from my TV guide and started drawing top to bottom. There was some structure, but not much. Warmup is all about getting the bad drawing out of your system, so what follows is pure gold (one hopes).

And then it happened. The magic was lost. I saw so many mistakes on top of each other, so many entangled knots that I simply gave up. Of course, I knew this was going to happen, because I didn’t work systematically, being a warmup sketch and such.

And to be honest, a year ago, I would have been very proud at a result like this. I wouldn’t even have known that I made any mistakes, let alone how to avoid them. At most, I would have noticed that the result looked “odd”.

Also a year ago, I would have needed a 2B or even 4B lead, or I wouldn’t have known what I was looking at on the page. I enhanced the contrast of the scan considerably, so it reproduces better on a computer screen (and still it’s rather faint).

What has changed is that I’ve started to use a 4H-lead. The marks left behind by such a pencil are so faint, that you must be very aware what you are drawing in order to recognize the image on the paper. With that I mean that by using a faint pencil sketch, I force myself to internalize the original. I can then use that internalized image as my guide, instead of what is on a sheet of paper.

Yes, you read that correctly, if you want to draw from life, most of the drawing happens in your mind, not on paper. On paper are just the slight notations and some landmarks. The real story is inside your head. If you want anyone else to understand that story, you need to make it as clear as possible.

With “story” I mean “visual impression”. It is hard to explain to non-artists, but I will try to do so anyway.

How do you recognize a face? Well, I suppose you don’t really know. You just do. However, take a photo of someone you know and cover the top half. Do you still recognize him or her? You probably do. How is this possible? Aren’t the eyes what makes you recognize someone?

You have internalized the missing part. You already know the photo, even if you only got a glance at it before covering the top part. In your mind’s eye you can see those eye, even if your eyes can’t see it, because the top half of the photo is covered.

The same goes for drawing. You have drawn so many faces, that you’ve internalized a “standard face”, which you can draw with your eyes closed, so to speak. If you draw someone, you only have to notice in which ways that person deviates from the “standard face”. It’s this deviation you put on paper as an artist in the initial sketch. After all, you want to capture the particularities of a face, what makes it different from other faces. Then you fill in the rest with your knowledge of the “standard face” (what you’ve internalized by drawing so many different faces).

A typical beginner’s mistake is to start with the standard face, by using a schematic face they have adopted from a book about drawing faces. While such books are helpful to point the beginner what to look at, it’s no replacement for drawing experience. You need to have drawn a few hundred faces with some effort of trying to make it look like the original. At that point you have some conception of what a face looks like, beyond the point of recognition.

Again a stunning revelation for some, I guess. If it looks like the original, if I can recognize who it is, isn’t that enough? Well, it can be. For a mug shot, a composited portrait of a crime suspect, recognition is the only quality that is important. Rendering is kept to a minimum, so people don’t have to interpret the drawing too much. Even so, people are not as good in recognizing strangers, because they try to avoid eye contact. So these composite drawings seem to work best if the suspect is someone you know, someone whose face you have internalized.

Having a bad memory for faces myself, I don’t care as much about likeness as some do. It’s the structure of a face and the rendering of the features I’m concerned with as an artist. That this happens to coincide with a likeness is a happy accident, if you’d ask me in honesty.

So it’s the combination of likeness, structure and rendering that forms the “story” I want to tell with my sketches and drawings of faces. Because I publish my art and know that others care about it, I still need to concern myself with likeness. For most a portrait that doesn’t look like the original is a failed portrait, however “artsy” the drawing might be.

My take on it is that putting likeness at the top of the list of things to do in a portrait drawing or painting will lead to stiff art, like the person is consciously posing. If you put it lower on the list and start playing with structure and rendering first, the result will be much looser and satisfying.

I guess time will tell if I’m right. Many of my fellow students at my local community college I see measuring with a pencil first and mechanically reproducing a face with some kind of formula. The few who don’t have much looser art, but needed many years (ten or more) to arrive at that point. I have only been drawing seriously since 2009. The only difference is that I don’t put as much value on convention as some seem to do. Some may say that’s a weakness and if that’s true, I’m using that weakness to my advantage.


Beardus Maximus fan art, day 16

21 Oct

Being a geek in a primarily non-geek world is hard, but being a ghost in a ghost unfriendly world is even harder.

Beardus Maximus fan art, day 16

This fan art was made to support the comic book Rebootus Maximus, and to save a beard. Want to know what that beard saving is all about? Read Beardus Maximus on the PC Weenies blog.

How it was made

Because I know that there are people who are curious about how I create my art, here is brief explanation.

I started out by sketching an idea with pencil and paper.

Beardus Maximus fan art, day 16, sketches

I wasn’t sure how the paneling was going to be, so I just started drawing in blue pencil. Some of the art was redrawn, the poses of Ghost-Bob were traced from the original sketch, using a window as a light source.

Beardus Maximus fan art, day 16, panel 1 and 4Beardus Maximus fan art, day 16, panel 2 and 3

I used A3 (297 by 420 mm) photocopier paper (cheapest I could find), which I folded in half, because my scanner is only capable of scanning A4 (210 by 297 mm). Each half could hold two oblong panels, each 140 by 200 mm, portrait orientated. The color pencil had a light-blue color.

The panel borders were inked with a big size Faber-Castell PITT brush pen, and the inside artwork with the regular size Faber-Castell brush pen. Any mistakes I made were corrected with white acrylic paint and a brush (no water added). I didn’t use a ruler for the borders, to give it a hand-drawn look.

After the artwork was color-scanned at 300 dpi, I separated the scans into CMYK layers in GIMP. The C, M and Y layers were cleared, while the black K layer was retouched and turned into pure white on black. Any specks were retouched, and the CMYK layers reverted back into a single layer.

Now I made a canvas that could fit all four panels, imported the files, and rearranged the panels as you see them in the final version. Then I colored the panels and added the lettering.

That is all.