It’s been a fun exercise, though I like having these as pick-up projects rather than forcing a daily schedule. I’ll keep doing this and posting batches as they are ready. It’ll be a good project to have on hand if I’m more in the mood to draw people rather than my current object-sketching project, Undefined Variables.
This week in Inktober is Maddie, age 31. My pen may be running out, so hopefully it will last another two weeks. I realized that I sometimes start making these expressions too while I’m drawing them…which is probably a little odd in public.
Here’s the rest of my Inktober sketches in case you missed previous weeks.
For this week of Inktober I’ve been sketching Michael, 23 years old. Last week I decided to go directly to ink, and continued that this week. Like last week, the first one felt a bit awkward and got better with successive expressions. The mustache was a bit too heavy on the first, and I realized I needed to use a lighter mark to make it look right. It was also challenging to draw someone much younger (few creases!) so every mark counted. I finally noticed the small bit of a wave in his hair on the final drawing too.
Lots of stippling with his hairstyle! I enjoy stippling, but it takes a lot of patience. There are so many ways to unintentionally create strange patterns or marks, especially if you rush it. I usually end up blurring my vision a little bit and getting into an almost trancelike state to stipple consistently.
This is the latest little sketchbook I’m carrying around for the occasional moment to draw. The theme of the last one was Object Oriented, and it was a little brown book with sketches of objects drawn in brown ink. For this little black book I wanted a different theme, ideally playing off of another computer science term. Hence: Undefined Variables.
I’m trying out a more elaborate ruleset on this one. I didn’t really know whether it was working until I’d gotten four or five of these done. The ruleset is this:
1. Draw a scene of the objects in front of me and pick one object to cut out, leaving only the outline of the space where it would be.
2. Instead of drawing the true background, fill it with a nearby pattern.
Here’s the first quarter or so of the book.
Here are the rules I’m following: pick one person from the excellent Facial Expressions reference book, and each week, focus only on that person and draw a different expression every day. The book is a wonderful reference of people of a mix of ethnicity, body type, and gender, from 20’s to 80’s.
This week I chose Roshan, a 47-year old woman. I started off by penciling first and then inking. I’d barely started on the eye when I quickly realized that the Uniball Vision I was using put out too much ink for the notebook I’m using (a blank thin-paged paper-cover Moleskine). I switched to a Micron 02 (0.3mm) since the paper is so delicate. It’s much easier to draw creases and wrinkles when drawing with thinner lines overall. It feels slightly like cheating to me because I’ve been drawing with thicker (more unforgiving) lines. I figure if I do this for a while I can get more confident about working back to the thicker lines. I felt like it lost a bit of the expressiveness by drawing it in two stages (pencils & ink) so for the rest I used ink only. Week 1 is done!
I’m seeking out opportunities to do life drawing so I can get a bit more attuned to gesture and anatomy. I’d ultimately like to get better at representing facial expression and body language.
If you’ve never tried figure drawing before, it’s an interesting process no matter what you think of your artistic skills. In a few ways, it moves you into a space that is contrary to how you usually interact with the world. For that alone it’s quite a mind-clearing exercise.
We’re taught not to stare. It’s a behavior we intentionally adjust in ourselves because of the way it affects others, the many different ways it can be perceived…especially by strangers. Life drawing is a situation that is a direct challenge to this. The model is (usually) someone you don’t know that has given you permission to look as much as you need to, with no further relationship or obligation. It’s up to you what happens then, and what approach you take to understanding their particular truth.
In the first life drawing class I took, our teacher introduced the model, and after describing the structure of the class, said that we weren’t going to draw yet. For the first pose, we were simply going to look. The model disrobed and adopted the first pose, and we spend 5 minutes in near silence except for the occasional direction of our teacher about things to observe. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a very long time to just look. It’s long enough to get past the initial shock or titillation of seeing someone naked, past the self-conciousness of looking, past any fleeting feelings, judgments, or comparisons that could come up. It’s just not possible to hold onto them.
It’s similar to meditation, though instead of making the space for stillness or clarity, it makes a space for curiosity. I’ll try to figure out which muscles are tensed to support weight. I’ll wonder about the bumps revealed by highlights or shadows, and whether those are bones, or muscle, or skin. I’ll follow the curves and how they connect. I’ll look at the whorls and patterns of hair. I’ll think about what the pose itself seems to communicate.
Just as hard as it can be not to stare at something interesting, it can be equally hard to make yourself draw what you’re actually seeing. Your brain says “leg” and has an idea of what a leg should look like. If you’re drawing what you know a leg to look like, you’ll miss learning about the qualities of it that go beyond your current understanding.
Interesting things happen when you pretend you aren’t drawing a particular thing. You can bounce between different modes of seeing: seeing edges, seeing volume, seeing shapes, or the negative space around it, or just the highlights or the shadows, or just a color. You can imagine what would happen if the model shifts balance. You can see the whole pose as if the model were a stack of shapes, or just the skeleton.
So…lest you think it’s mostly about embracing nudity and waxing philosophic about ways to see, there’s a mechanical aspect to the progression of these drawing exercises too. These sessions usually start with extremely short poses – just a minute or two each – to get you capturing overall pose and gesture as quickly as possible. It loosens you up and gets you focusing on what matters most. Usually then it’ll progress to longer and longer poses. The ones I’ve been to lately have gone up to 20 minutes poses.
As I have more time to work, I’ve been trying out different methods of capturing both highlights and shadows. It’s probably a little too fussy as I’m running out of time for some of the details…so I’m still figuring out what level of detail I can get to. I am also finding it hard to do the right thing for heads/faces, probably because I’m starting with parts of the body first (usually shoulder area); somewhat the opposite of what happens when I’m drawing from a photo.
A brief update: here are the rest of the sketches from my little Object Oriented sketchbook (the rest are here, here, and here). I’ve got another sketchbook going now that’s a different take on objects, so I’ll catch up to that soon.
I’m about three-quarters of the way through my Object Oriented sketchbook–the earlier sketches are here and here. My pen began to run dry, so I switched to a new one partway through this batch. In hindsight, I should have kept the original pen for shading, as it’s been challenging to do detail work with the ink-laden new pen.
The second batch of sketches! It’s been a few months, and I have fourteen more Object Oriented sketches to show for it. When I originally started I promised to post more when I got halfway through, but apparently I went a few beyond that. Carrying this little book and pen with me everywhere has been working in the sketch-more-often department. Enjoy!