Drawing Vree

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.

Vree, sketch 1
Drawing just the basic shapes and proportions

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.

Vree, sketch 2
I begin adding darks around the face

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 It’s a bit outdated (copyrighted 1992) when compared to today’s books on illustration, and not lengthy enough to be a bible IMO, but it taught me a lot about tools and techniques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Another outdated gem is Watson Guptill’s ArtEffects by Jean Drysdale Green, copyrighted 1993.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.

Vree, sketch 3
I continue adding darker tones

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.

Vree, sketch 4
I begin blending and softening edges while I continue darkening

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.

Vree, finished, sketch 5
The finished drawing

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.

Character Art

It was a joy (and probably therapeutic) to create some new character art for my Vree Erickson books. Below are the characters in the Green Crystal stories and the Luminary Magic ones.

The art is mostly graphite drawings that I ran through some computer programs to enhance the images. I did this because the gray-scale scans from my scanner often ended up dark and “muddy” looking. Brightening them via the scanner destroyed a lot of high-value detail, so I experimented with some art/photo enhancement programs until my copies passed muster and weren’t storage hogs.

First up is Vree.

Vree Erickson character drawings
Vree Erickson is the main protagonist of the Luminary Magic series of books

Next is her friend Nick from the Green Crystal series of books.

Nick Corwin character drawings
Nick Corwin is a main protagonist in the Green Crystal series of books

If you follow this blog, Lenny needs no introduction.

Lenny Avery character drawings
Lenny’s appearance has changed a lot since his creation 50 years ago

His twin sister Gaylene is Vree’s best friend. I think Devil’s Advocate is the best 2-word description of her.

Gaylene Avery character drawings
Gaylene is smart and musically inclined and deserves to be more than a minor character

Gwynessa is a Fae who becomes trapped in a green crystal pendant in the Green Crystal series of books.

Gwynessa Liriel character drawings
Gwynessa is the offspring of an Enwen Aili and a Rivvik Hiora, two kinds of Fae creatures that dwell in the woods and forests of Ridgewood

Last but not least is Vree’s cousin Whitney. She plays a major role in the Luminary Magic series of books.

Whitney Clark character drawings
Whitney is a Luminary witch and lives on Russell Ridge, next door to Lenny and Gaylene Avery

Thanks for joining me.

Teaching Cartoon Art Is FUN

Not long after I stopped drawing my Louie and Bruce comic strip, I began teaching art courses to adults and children. One of the youth courses was Drawing Cartoons, so I used my strips as teaching aids during the 6-class course. About halfway through the course, we discussed anthropomorphism—giving human characteristics to animals or inanimate objects. From that, we created the character, Frank The Dog.

From Frank The Dog came Fred The Dancing Dog and his all-girl entourage. This lesson introduced drawing action and showing movement in the cartoon.

I enjoy teaching children because their ideas are fresh and inventive. This in turn sparks new ideas in my mind. Teaching art to children is an adventure to an end I never envision when I create my lesson plans. And bottom line: children are funny. They make drawing cartoons, which is already fun to do, a delight to do.

When I teach my classes, I have subjects on slips of paper that students choose from a hat. The subjects range from short and tall, narrow and wide, round and square, to various emotions and animals. A random drawing of “short, wide, round, silly, pig” resulted in the pig illustration above. The subject of crazy resulted in the cat illustration next to it. And from a random suggestion, the cat became a slob as I taught them how to refine their drawings.

Teaching at school may be what teachers do for work, but artists teaching children (and adults) at workshops can be a wonderful experience for those of us who can draw it (or paint it) as well as teach it to others. And with a classroom full of different personalities, there’s never a dull moment. Every day is a new adventure. You never know how the adventure is going to end, but it’s fun to find out.

Back To the “Drawing” Drawing Board

If I were able to go back in time and relive my childhood while keeping the knowledge I have now, I would choose again to be an artist first and a writer second.

I was an early and avid reader when I was a child. But I was also and moreover an art lover. Art, especially picture art, is what I first saw when I stepped inside someone’s home … beyond the mudroom, of course. Drawings and paintings on people’s walls captivated me and made me want to be an artist. So I worked long and hard to be one.

When I’m introduced to people, I’m announced with the title “artist.” I earned that distinction long ago.

“You’re an artist,” friends remind me when I struggle to write my stories. “Draw something. Paint a picture.” And I do, just to get away from whatever writing problem I’m dealing with.

And it comes so easily, drawing and painting. If only writing were so easygoing for me.

So, for a change of pace after a long bout wrestling with my next novel, I took up my drawing pencils and drew a portrait for a friend and co-worker. Below are displayed the fun I had creating the art.

First came the photo to work from.

It was the only photo she had of the couple together. Photos are limiting. And this one had many lost values in the edges, especially around the woman’s hair because of the busy and cluttered background.

I didn’t like the arrangement of her and the man she’s with—they are too far away from each other—so I rearranged them and brought them closer. They are married, after all.

I began with black marker and sketched a black and white composition that I call a cartoon. It gave me a reference of white space and something very important to composition, a something artists call “eye flow.”

I found the upper right and bottom left white space threw the composition off balance, so I trimmed it out and brought the couple closer together. When I was satisfied, I took new drawing paper and began sketching in what became the final drawing.

After it was done and I framed it behind glass, a friend photographed it and gave me a copy. It’s the only photo I have of the finished art.

My co-worker was pleased with the drawing and so was I.

I love drawing. I wish I could do it every day instead of working at the job I have now. But making art doesn’t put a roof over one’s head or food on the table for everyone who can do it.

Still, if I were able to go back in time, I would still choose to be an artist first.