Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Advice and the drawings that sucked

I've been rummaging through the archives again, because who doesn't love to see how bad their favourite artists used to be? I know I do. 

If there was some advice I could give to aspiring artists and my fellow acquaintances with drawing as a hobby, it would have to be this: 

Skip the smooth shading. 

I always see people insisting on using fingers, q-tips, tortillions and whatother blending contraptions, and it just never looks that good. I'm sure there's a place and time for carefully smudging your shading for that perfectly smooth blended look, but this isn't it. Like many others, many years ago, I made the mistake of thinking that if I just blended the shading a tiny bit, that would somehow improve my art immensely. I've stopped doing that. It made me focus on the wrong things completely.

Most of those who are familiar with my style would know it's pretty sketchy. Instead of hiding the strokes of the pencil, I embrace them now. Before, I thought blending would make my pencil drawings more realistic. But that does not equate to being better. On the contrary, I believe the character and style of the visible work that are pencil marks are a lot more valuable to my art than any benefit of realism. The natural grain of rough paper is beautiful, and blending often destroys that. 

I realized at some point that perfect blending wasn't important in developing my game as an artist. When I was supposed to be thinking about how whatever I was drawing existed in three dimensions and how that affected things, all I was working on was that smooth transition between greys. Consequently, my drawings looked flatter than ever.

Using fingers to smudge graphite is especially bad, because of the oils and grease left on the paper surface. I would recommend against that in 95% of cases. Sometimes, if I don't have access to harder pencils (Like H2 or H3 (Which I never use anyway)), I might carefully smear using my finger to make the graphite more even, and push back the grain of the paper. But I don't recommend it. I try to keep my fingers and hands as far away from my drawing as possible. 

Another drawback of blending is that it makes erasing much more difficult. To be honest, I rarely get things right on the first try, and quality erasers and also kneadable erasers are important tools whenever I'm doing any serious pencilwork. 

Case in point. Very flat. I wasn't forcing myself to think of heads as three dimensional objects. It's bad for a lot of reasons. One time, I showed this one and a couple other drawings to a neighbour, and he said all the people in my drawings looked ill, or old. Saggy. I hadn't really ever thought about that. After that, I had to force myself to draw healthy faces, which was a challenge... All the wrinkles and extra skin were a way to compensate for me not actually being that great at drawing.

This one is decent for its time. I think I was about 13 years old when I drew these. But it's clear that I should have stuck to drawing from reference, as I seemed to have no idea of how faces actually look.

This last one is some sort of caricature. I'm really not digging the thick and uncertain lines. There's a lot of chicken-scratchy lines. There's really nothing good about this one. It goes to show, you need to learn how to draw regular faces before you can begin playing with caricatures. I had no idea how I was supposed to draw the neck, and I think I must have said "fuck it" before I drew it in, because it's really fucked up.

I like the wart I drew on the side of his neck, that was a nice touch! It just sits there, on the edge. It's a hairy one. Hairs on end. His ear kinda reminds me of chicken-wings.

Anyway, I put a halt to my obsession with blended shadows. You should be able to draw smooth shadows without using any tools except a pencil. After that, you can start using shortcuts like tortillions or whatever other blending paraphernalia you fancy. It should be regarded as an advanced technique, and it's definitely not right for every drawing. If you use it too much, your drawing will look dull, and there won't be enough hard edges to focus your eyes on.

Old drawings! Fun..! I keep this old and shitty sketchbook on a shelf on the desk, and I bite people who try to look at the drawings. I'm ashamed that I was once this bad. But here are the drawings anyway. At least three of them.

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