Apparently a lot of people were looking for drawing advice, because that last post got over 150 views (on only the post, not even the blog. What were you people doing last week? It’s a little too late in the year to assume it has to do with New Year’s resolutions to draw more; we all know you gave up on those by the 12th of January anyway) and I got a few emails, and texts from friends with questions/comments, whatever.
At this point, I am pretty much convinced I can teach anyone to draw (Feeling a little cocky, are we?) But in the meantime, here’s a summary of advice I handed out, and some things I thought of that I or my fellow art people have done and looked like an idiot for (Basically, we’ve paid the price for you, so enjoy).
These were some of my favorite ones, and seemed like a very good starting point. Discussing pencil choice, how to hold a pencil, and how to see, as well as paper choice and translating value scales!
What pencil should I start my drawings in?
This is a very loaded question. I’m not going to lie, I start half my drawings in mechanical pencil (I can see Bakker’s shot to the heart face right now). But maybe don’t do that (at least at first). You should probably be in the HB category (H’s are lighter pencils that are used for more precise, thin line-work. Don’t use them for shading later on in your drawing; move into the B category. And when I say move into the B category, I mean like B, 2B; don’t start with 6B or 8B first, you go getter).
I only say this because chances are you are going to want to just go at your drawing head on from the start. What do I mean by all of this? Most people don’t structurally build their drawings. They just outline shapes they think are right kind of like a coloring book. And if this works for you-fine. But a lot of people tend to make “sight assumptions” based on what they’re drawing. Meaning, you tend to know you’re drawing an eye, so you draw an eye. You don’t draw THE eye you’re actually looking at. Or, if you know it says Outkast on this person’s shirt, you write OUTKAST on their shirt in your best block letter screen-print style, not examining how the figure affects the shirt’s shape and way it lays, which in turn affects what the letters look like. So, while you’re gunning to draw what you’re drawing, rather than what you actually see (from life or from the photo), you’re laying that drawing out in a 6B pencil like it’s nobody’s business. Which is totally fine until.. Oh crap, you can’t really erase that line. Yep.
Because, chances are you have a slight to really heavy hand, and chances are you are drawing like you write. If you can use a 6B and be able to erase afterwards, kudos to you because you’re probably holding your pencil right. What I mean by this is you aren’t holding it like you’re writing a note to your best friend. When we write, what we’re actually doing is putting indents into the paper with the pen we’re using (This is why CSI always has someone “finding out” what was written on a page above by inspecting the indentations in the next page). Which is what pushes back against, say, the ball of a pen and causes the ink to roll out and onto the page where you indent. This is why (most, functional) pens don’t just squirt ink out when you hold them perpendicular, downward facing to the floor. The ball inside of them isn’t experiencing pressure, and thereby isn’t rotating, and isn’t distributing ink.(Wow, I am sounding like a science genius). You may also notice that when you write for a long time, your finger grip and knuckles are sore. It’s fair to assume you’re pushing relatively hard to write. Well, if you do that when you draw, you may try to erase and notice even if you manage to get most of the actual pencil up, there are still nice lines in the paper. So, you basically have to start over. Congratulations! Don’t feel bad, we’ve all done it.
Does paper really matter?
Short answer, yes. It really doesn’t have to be expensive paper. I actually bought a couple of cheaper, non acidic drawing and sketch pads from Michael’s or the like. (I don’t really remember where I was, it was during college). You want something with a bit of tooth/grain, and less compressed (Typical computer paper is about 20lbs; the higher the paperweight, the thicker the paper) In other words, and I cannot emphasize this enough, don’t do your serious drawings on computer paper. It has barely any sort of give. I don’t care if you practice them, or whatever; that’s fine. But it has a lower weight, which means it can only hold up to an eraser so many times. It also doesn’t hold the graphite as well, so your darks really won’t be dark, and will actually start to look reflective rather than darker if you try. Get an acid free, archival paper so your drawings don’t turn yellow and disintegrate. You probably want something hot pressed, or fine grain, if you’re working in pencil (I’m assuming you want to do portraits in pencil. If not, consult here). A prime example of really understanding the difference between computer paper and a good drawing paper is to feel them. Drawing paper feels thicker, and has a different color to it. Because, although they’re both paper, they’re made differently, for different things, and from different things.
How can I figure out if my values are right?
Of course, you can practice doing 3 value scales, 5 value, 7 value, 10 value, 15 value, 20 value, etcetera and work your way up to 50 values or until you’re satisfied. But, there are other ways that are a little more “practical”. Like I mentioned before with NP practicing her layout skills, you can also practice your value scales using photographs. The best way to practice is to start with a color photograph and “guess” (educated, people!) at a value scale. Do this until you basically have your whole estimated scale done. Then, change the photo from color to grey scale (You can do this in Word, Preview, etcetera. You don’t need Photoshop to do this. If you really don’t know how, I’m seriously questioning how you’re even reading this right now, but just ask). But don’t change it until then. From there, you can see if how you translate hue, saturation, and intensity are really translating properly into grey-scale. And you can begin to adjust accordingly (I can’t say this enough, don’t be embarrassed when you have to adjust). For the longest time, this boy in my art class was under the impression that under all circumstances, yellow is the lightest value after white. And logically, the principle seems sound when you consider the colors of the rainbow. But sometimes, a yellow and a pastel-ish purple can really look pretty damn similar in grey scale. Or a green can seem darker, but really be the same as a red. This is because your eyes work to categorize HIV (Hue, Intensity and Value) at the same time, which doesn’t always work out properly, no offense to your eyes or brain. Realizing and recognizing this will later help you when you are drawing from life as well. Unless you only see in shades of grey (everyone’s jealous of you right now), everyone should practice this.