Battling the Sketch-Sloth

Bank holiday weekend and hardly a sketch done.

Last weekend I was in Berlin and it started quite well, nearly every minute was filled with sketching. Perhaps I overdid it … and now I’m in a sketching hang-over? More likely I was too impressed by some of my first sketches and managed to intimidate myself into not continuing.

I’ve broken my gesture practicing streak again(!) but although I have continuously asked myself whether I’m doing this practicing the right way, I am certainly convinced it fires me up and helps me start my day on the right foot. So, six ay-em, early morning gesture drawings are back on the menu.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, I really need to start using my sketchbook for what it was actually made for:

  • trying out ideas
  • writing notes
  • practicing the following:
    • lines (line weight, length, line gesture, texture)
    • colour rhythm
    • composition
    • perspective
    • anatomy, people drawing
  • playing around
  • sketching

If a nice drawing turns up now and again, that’s fine with me.

Anyway, to end this blog, here is a small collection of last weeks drawings from Berlin, life drawing in Bonn and Bonn itself (I actually spent a few hours in town drawing yesterday … so much for being a sloth).

 

The biggest mistake you mustn’t make

In August, I was on Tenerife with my wife, L.

It was quite hot, I didn’t take many art tools with me and for me being on holiday for 10 days I hardly made any art at all.

What was the problem? I was listening to a voice in my head telling me that even if I tried to do something here and now, it wouldn’t look anything like what I would want it to look like … the paint brush I use all the time has past its prime … the watercolour sketchbook (300gr) is too precious … I don’t have the right colours to paint skin tones … there aren’t enough contrasts … it’s too hot. I was giving in to these nagging voices.

In the end, I managed to save myself to a certain degree, I jumped in the deep end and painted the sea (using sea water) and also made a quick and dirty sketch of the beach at sun set (which I didn’t like for a few days and now I really love and think I should delve into more often).

The biggest mistake(s) you mustn’t make:

  • listen to the nagging voices
  • tell yourself the art tools are the problem
  • convince yourself you’re not as good as you (think you) used to be
  • stop playing/fooling around

Fünfundneunzig Minuten

Gerade wieder nach Hause gekommen, nach einem langen Tag auf Dienstreise und mehr als zwei Stunden beim Aktzeichnen.

Insgesamt 95 Minuten haben wir heute Abend gemeinsam das Modell gezeichnet.

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Beim Vorzeichnen habe ich mit einem stumpfen Bleistiftstummel den Rythmus der Kräfte in der jeweiligen Pose gesucht. Danach habe ich ziemlich locker die Konturen mit einem “S” oder “XS” PITT Fineliner gezeichnet. Wobei ich besonders auf die kleinen “Unebenheiten” die durch prominente Muskelgruppen oder durch das Skelett direkt verursacht werden. Als letzter Verarbeitungsschritt verbringe ich noch einige Minuten damit, die Form, bzw. das Volumen des Modells mit Buntstiften herauszuarbeiten. Dabei achte ich darauf, mich (so gut es geht) bewusst auf eine Lichtquelle zu reduzieren.

Acht 10-Minuten-Posen und fünf 3-Minuten-Posen = 95 Minuten. Danach war mein A3 Blatt ziemlich voll gezeichnet.

And on the fifth day …

Who would have believed it? I didn’t draw for four days. No gesture practice, self portraits, nothing … not even any hatching exercises.

… then I went to Tuesday’s Life Drawing Session, for which no model arrived …

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I began the evening on the stage … three 10 minute poses for my fellow life drawers. The next hour of drawing, I attempted to use my meagre FORCE knowledge to make those poses more believable. What I’m really surprised about is the true to life likeness of the faces I drew tonight and I can only guess it’s coming from all the quickly sketched self portraits I’ve been doing in front of the mirror. Of course, I’ve also fed my brain with loads of information over the last 3 years (perspective, anatomy, mnemonics, tone, volume) and it was sure to pay off one of the days, wasn’t it?

Getting serious again

I came back from one of my life drawing sessions  …. (yes, I have more than one each week … privileged, little, snotty boy, right? Hah! Jealousy will get you nowhere!) … where was I? right, life drawing … and I’d moved back to lines again, which is kind of getting on my nerves a bit, but this is what that evening brought about:

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So, that’s … pencil marks first (finding the basic lines, 1 minute max), fineliner directly afterwards (to commit to the lines, 2 minutes or more) and then a reduced set of coloured pencils (10 to 15 minutes of cool Zen-ness). These are all on the same sheet of A3 190gr/sqm “1584” paper. The paper is great for me and my selection of tools.

Note: I must admit, I’ve been spending some time with a new book I’ve been given as an early birthday present from my gran, it covers Figure Drawing in a refreshingly modern but also academic manner, I may mention it in a future post. The studying of books is starting to pay off, if I’m allowed to say that myself at all.

In the meantime, because I can’t go to life drawing more than twice a week (can I?), I’ve been posing for one or two daily self portraits in front of a mirror. 5 minutes per sketch, all in an A6 Moleskine diary with a fineliner and with limited success. Here’s one of the better ones, if you ask me:

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Note: Probably I should also mention that I’m currently taking Paul Heaston’s latest Craftsy course, all about making lines and crosshatching and all that stuff he’s famous for.

My daily gesture practice was interrupted a day or two, which is ok once in a while. But I feel I’m not stretching myself enough here, so I’m going to be cranking up the seriousness and attitude in the next few weeks. Here’s an example of 30 second and 90 second gestures using https://quickposes.com :

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And to end the post, here’s a little painting I did on a very windy day at a sketch meeting in June (I haven’t posted this yet, right?). It’s just lovely knowing you’re painting and sketching surrounded by other painters and sketchers. Good to get out, mingle, feel like you’re sharing an experience, not just stay shut away at home, drawing cups, shoes and selfies:

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Good night!

The Sweet Spot

There was a time when I drew once a week. I’d come back from my weekly Life Drawing Session, rush to my scanner and upload everything to my blog.

Since being the owner of a sexy smartphone with permanent access to my Facebook and Instagram accounts, and basically drawing daily, the blog posts have become less and less.

However, I’ve been down in the dumps lately. I’ve been dependent on too many outside influences and have been negligent of my own feelings and goals. On top of that, I’ve lately spent a few hours raiding the last remnants of my previous 3 years of drawing and painting. I’ve done away with about 80% of that stuff now, but it left me feeling like the past three years hadn’t made much of a difference.

This feeling of frustration had been growing in me for some time and may have helped me to move to a different style which seems to be keeping me from being too tidy but also from being too sloppy. I actually think I may have reached a temporary sweet spot. I’m not sure if I want to stay in this very spot, but it’s allowing me to break out of my usual line making activity and I’m additionally no longer afraid of painting before drawing.

I look, I paint and then I hold a coloured pencil pretty firmly and draw very focused but fiercely, making unforgivable lines and curves.

I used it just now at Life Drawing and this is what came out.

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Days of Doubt

I’ve just finished a 30 day challenge of drawing at least one portrait per day and now that the emails are no longer arriving, I’m feeling a bit lost. Additionally, I’ve had one or many bad head colds the last 4 weeks.

Whatever, I’d started to doubt myself the last 24 hours, asking whether I actually know where I’m going with this and if there is any progress I have achieved (“What?” Yeah, that’s doubt for you).

Anyhow, I was on a business trip yesterday, spent hours at airports and in planes and in retrospect, the time seemingly flashed by  in minutes because I was sketching people most of the time. Just sketching, nothing rendered in great detail. And I find myself asking myself where all that time had gone (I was on a 15 hour trip). And, “was it used sensibly?” I can’t find a simple answer to that question yet.

I’m quite sure I should be doing more to increase my skill set, because it seems like I’m using  a lot of my precious time, just sketching and not drawing or painting. I still haven’t sat down to practice any anatomy, although I have started collecting female body builder pictures on pinterest, because that’s something I picked up somewhere on the net, I think while reading up how to study with George Bridgman’s study notes. Which is also something I never considered looking into. I just found the link again, after searching for “bridgman alcoholic stick” (would you believe it?). You could also try “Studying Bridgman properly”.

There is a three step study recommendation:

  1. understand the text as well as possible
  2. make a tonal study of Bridgman’s sketch
  3. find a photo reference covering the studied area of the body and copy from the reference using your newly learnt knowledge (the recommendation is to use female body builders because they are lean and the muscles stand out)

Just need to do it …

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contour lines, paint, then crosshatching
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crosshatching then paint
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Flight home
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30 second gestures

A Sketcher’s Traveling Kit

I left for a short (4 day) trip to India 2 weeks ago and got back last Friday.

As usual, it wasn’t easy deciding what to take with me. The correct number of shirts, pairs of pants, socks, toothbrush and co. were obviously not the issue. The real pain points were of course: which art supplies shall I take with me?

It will probably not come as a surprise to anyone reading this that I packed too much. Yes, too much, as most of us probably do. But I think some art friends will be surprised in a moment how little I took and still see me planning to reduce it on future trips.

I’ll start out with what I took along, I’ll add a photo of it later. Then I’ll let you know what I’ll take along in future.

  • Lamy Safari fountain pen (F nib) prefilled with De Atramentis black ink
  • empty Lamy Safari (M-nib), with one unopened purple ink cartridge
  • Tombow Calligraphy pen (hard nib)
  • a Kolinsky paintbrush, size 8
  • two containers for water
  • a nib and nib holder
  • a pot of India ink
  • reduced set of 6 coloured pencils (Polychromos)
  • one unused(!) water colour sketchbook (heavy paper)
  • one Moleskine A5 diary (half full)
  • pencil, kneadable eraser, pencil sharpener, pen knife
  • Schmincke watercolour tin for 12 pans (filled with 10)
  • a small Koi waterbrush
  • a sleeve ripped off an old t-shirt
  • a book with reference photos of figures, to practice drawing at night

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So, what will I take along in future, based on what I used of the above?

  • a Moleskine diary
  • the magical Tombow Calligraphy pen (hard)
  • the small Koi waterbrush
  • ripped off sleeve of a t-shirt (wraps wonderfully around thumb and wrist)
  • tin of 10-12 watercolours
  • pencil (optional), kneadable eraser (doubly optional)

Wow, that’s pretty simple. That’s basically nothing.
But those were the tools I pulled out all the time.

  • while waiting for the planes arrival at departure
  • while on the flight to India
  • while waiting in the hotel’s lobby
  • while at the breakfast table
  • while watching my colleagues play cricket
  • while practicing poses in the hotel room
  • while practicing drawing lines when the colleagues were bowling

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And what did I sketch while I was on my trip?

Ok, there’s one in there with coloured pencils, perhaps I’ll slip the reduced coloured pencils set in too. The pencil case is soooo sweet 🙂 But that’s it! … I promise … I feel myself wanting to add a real paintbrush and a container for water. But if I want to whip the tools out in seconds, and also pack them away as quickly as possible … then they can’t come on the trip with me.

5 hours a day

Wow, what a Sunday!

Before breakfast, I was already on quickposes.com and practicing “30 second feet” and faces.

Directly after breakfast, I broke out the Sktchy.com iOS app and ran a few quick portraits on a paper bag from the bakery. Copic pens got a short act in there too.

1 pm took us into town, where we visited a vernissage of Kurdish women in Bonn’s Frauenmuseum (http://www.frauenmuseum.de/). Once there, I was excited to find that it was quite easy for me to just reach for my fountain pen, small A6 Moleskine journal and 4 colour pencils to indulge myself in a selfish act of drawing. Later I had small chats with some of the Kurdish ladies and their children.

Once home and after some tea, knowing that my wife would be out for a night of dancing (Tango Argentino), I started working through my Sktchy app photo queue. Still working with the 4 colour pencils, Lamy and A6 Moleskine cahier journal.

All told, I believe I clocked 5 hours of drawing today. Something I haven’t done for a long time, but I believe I covered some important areas: practice, fun and project. Hopefully to be repeated fairly soon.

Here is most of what I drew today.

I Love to Draw

I hope you can tell that I love to draw.

Nevertheless, somethings haven’t been going well lately. The gesture practice is feeling like a chore. I’ve been experiencing a lot of laggardness, something has been dragging me down. But I haven’t given in completely to this wintery feeling.

I’ve added bananas and scratched alcohol from my diet (I wonder how long that will last). Things are looking rosy again … and so we come to the main object of this post …

Just returned from Life Drawing Evening Class. It’s so nice to go out of the house with an absolute minimum of tools on you, giving yourself the exercise to just “do with what you have on you”. Tonight those were:

  • my white Lamy Safari (F nib) fully loaded with black deAtramentis ink
  • an A5 Sillman&Birn Epsilon Series sketchbook (still not full)
  • a Tombow Fundenosuke twin tip pen (black tip empty)
  • a pink Faber Castell Polychromos

We had some lovely 5, 10 and 15 minute poses and I enjoyed myself thoroughly, getting lost in that drawing zone I cherish so much.

I tried that out last night too (i.e. finding the zone) (unsuccessfully, I must admit) and re-installed the sktchy app on my phone for the umpteenth time. This time, I concentrated on some of my favourite artists’ portraits and sketched on anything I could find, ranging from paper plates to paper bags.

(Before I leave you with the pictures of the last two nights, please note that you can leave a comment in this wordpress theme (Sketch) if you click the title of the post you’d like to comment on and scroll to the bottom of that post. You probably don’t want to, but just in case. Perhaps you have a tip or a question.)

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