It’s always fun to have a day to myself when I can get out my drawing pencils and sketch. I usually use HB graphite pencils, charcoal pencils, and white chalk pencils on 98 lb. mix media paper bound in sketchbooks. Currently, I’m using a Canson 11×14-inch acid free book, which holds up well when I switch to drawing with pen and ink or use water-based paints.
Today’s drawing is a graphite one I did a few years ago—2018, actually—when I considered adding drawings to my book projects. It’s a drawing of my Vree Erickson character, based on a photo of a teen actor whose name I’ve forgotten. I sometimes pull images of people in the public domain off the web for my morgue files, so she’s probably in her 30s by now. If anyone recognizes her, please comment below.
I began with a light sketch and blocked in a basic shape of the girl. After I was satisfied with the proportions, I scanned the drawing for a record of my step-by-step process. Unfortunately, to show you the drawing (in the image above), which was very light, I had to play with the contrast balance to show most of the lines, which pixelated the image. But it’s a good representation, otherwise.
Next, I began shading, which I kept light. I always work from light to dark when I draw.
As I continue, I squint at my reference photo a lot during the shading process as it reduces detail and weakens the value contrasts to a few instead of many. I learned this technique many years ago. I’m an old-school illustrator from the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, and some of my learning aids (besides classroom teachers) were books written for the beginner illustrator. One of my favorite beginner books is The Illustrator’s Bible by Rob Howard and published by Watson Guptill. It’s a bit outdated (copyrighted 1992) when compared to today’s books on illustration, and not lengthy enough to be a bible IMO, but it taught me a lot about tools and techniques when I thought I knew everything about illustration. Anyone interested can find it at eBay and Amazon.
Another outdated gem is Watson Guptill’s ArtEffects by Jean Drysdale Green, copyrighted 1993. This one is more for the experienced illustrator: less about techniques and strictly about being experimental. Most experienced artists I know (especially the younger generation for some odd reason) HATE experimenting. They stay in a safety zone of proven techniques, which is a shame. Imagine where art would be if Whistler never experimented with technique. His paintings would never have influenced Monet, who would never have influenced the Impressionist movement.
My all-time favorite (old-timer’s) beginner drawing book is The Sierra Club Guide To Sketching In Nature by Cathy Johnson, a first edition copyrighted 1990 (though there are revised editions on the Web). My edition deals with many techniques and mediums to sketch nature, which can be used to sketch other subjects, such as portraits. After all, rendering hair is basically the same as rendering fur.
I continue shading (shown above), adding darks and blending and softening edges (as shown below) in her hair, skin, and the fabric of her jacket.
Since this is a portrait drawing, I concentrated on putting the most detail in her face (shown below). I stopped when I was satisfied with the overall lights, darks, and midtones in her face, neck, and hair. I kept the drawing loose and sketchy the further away from her face. I used the white of the paper shown in her jacket’s drawstrings and the bottom of her hair as directional devices to lead the viewer’s eyes from the bottom of the drawing to the face, which is the point of interest.
The tools I used were basic drawing instruments: paper, HB and 2B pencils, a box cutter knife to sharpen the pencils, fine sandpaper to shape the graphite’s point, and kneaded and plastic erasers. I sometimes use blending tools such as stumps, tortillions, cotton swabs, face tissue, and the sides of my fingers, but not this time.
Now I have a (another) drawing (I have too many) of my Vree Erickson character from my Ridgewood stories, based on an actor I don’t remember the name of. I won’t use it to illustrate my books, but it’ll have a place in my sketchbooks, all of which remind me to take a break from writing every few weeks and to keep drawing. I’m a firm believer that if you don’t use it, you will lose it.
Keep doing what you love best.
That’s all for now.