Saturday, September 17, 2005

Progress From the Front Lines 9/16/05

Well, I tried to get this up by today, but technically I'm typing this sucker in the wee early hours of Saturday, the seventeenth. So sue me.

Like I had mentioned in the earlier post, a lot of the original printed image was lost in the process of mounting the drawing paper. So, this is where my drawing skills come into play. For drawing onto my mounted drawing paper, I use Winsor Newton soft vine charcoal. I prefer the Winsor Newton brand because it's better quality, and usually very consistent throughout. I use vine charcoal simply because it's great for drafting and easy to correct; usually you just brush it off. Since it is so easy to remove, be careful not to lean against it and make care to not rub against is with your hands or arms.

Now, using a second enlarged copy I had from Kinkos, I referenced key points to rebuild the lost portions of the drawing. This technique is really the foundation of all realistic drawing. Before knowing this stuff I was alright on my own, but after learning how to measure stuff up, I think my drawing abilities have become much, much better.

The key to it is referenced distances. You may see the often mimicked look of an artist holding up his thumb to the subject he is drawing; but do you know what is actually taking place? In short, the artist is using that thumb as a ruler, and making note of the distance between key points on the subject. Any point will do as long as it distinguishable in both the subject and the drawing. These distances must also be vertical or horizontal in nature. Diagonals are too tricky to judge, but you can easily make sure something is level vertical or horizontal by using a level or even something like a plumber's line.

I really should have drawn up a quick diagram for this, but I'll just stick to explaining it for now. If you have questions or too many people tell me this doesn't make sense, I'll edit this posting with some visual aids.

If you take a look at the photo, you can see that I have some vertical and horizontal lines running on my drawing. These are to line up the distances of the wings. I looked on the reference copy and saw that the tip of one wing was directly below the left side of the "h" in Sabbath, so I drew a line straight down on my copy and knew that would be the same distance for the tip of the wing on my angel.

Next, I need to know how far the top of the farthest feather and how far the bottom of that same feather will be. Using a straight-edge (in my case a painter's stick that's been painted white) I measure from a distinguishable point on my reference to those two points. I mark this distance on the painter's stick with a tick mark of vine charcoal and then look to see if that distance is similar to any other on the reference. I'm not sure exactly what I used when doing this, but we can say for sake of argument that the middle angel's left arm, from the tip of the shoulder to the base of the pinky finger, is the same as the distance from the top of the wing to the top of the right angel's leg.

Once I know this, I simply mark out that same arm distance on my drawing, and I now have the new tick mark on my stick to measure out from the top of the drawing's right angel's leg.

You always should reset the distance after you know what it is from the reference. Never use your markings from the reference to draw on your drawing, because there will be a proportional difference. This is especially true in this case, since my mounted drawing stretched about 4 to 5% larger.

Doing this by eye can be less tedious, but inevitably less exact. The same method still applies though. You just need to speak to yourself the measurements; ie - "It looks like the distance of that feather's tip from the head is about the same distance as the length of her forearm, so on my drawing I need to make sure it looks about the same as my drawing's forearm."

I do hope this all makes sense for any of you interested. When I eventually get my website redesign finished, I'll make a point of putting clearer explanations of this technique down. So when pigs start flying, be sure to check that out.

This is pretty much the final stage of my redrawing.

Here you can also see that I filled in areas with black to better define them. Lines can be good at describing form, but broad areas of value change are better. Don't be afraid about laying down big areas of that vine charcoal either; it's either going to be brushed off or painted over. If you decide that you want to use it to fill in an area not completely black, but slightly gradated in tone, go over the vine charcoal with the side of your finger to lighten it, or use a tissue lightly.

And that is pretty much the redrawing stage of this project. Like I said earlier, if I did the mounting correctly, none of this would be necessary. But that is why being able to draw well is so key to any form of art, even if you decide to use a copy as a guide like I'm doing here. You never know when you'll have to fix mistakes or improve the copy itself.

Next time I'll start explaining the painting process. See you then.