The Devil’s in the details! If you’re out and about, sketching on the go – wherever that may find you, on a bus, at the zoo, in flight, at the opera, you may decide that a smaller sketchbook serves you best. But what about trying to cram in all that glorious information and those so necessary, juicy details? Small note book, small pen nib? Maybe. Consider the line weight in the first two drawings; the first of friend and old codger Franz, mustachioed and weathered, and the second, a tuff as nails gal smoking a drag. Line drag Well, for starters, is it just about countours all precise and wirery, able to enumerate every eyelash and whisker? What if I just gotta have some tone, to capture the bronzed patina of a weeks worth of Equatorial sun? A whole lotta lines and clock chewing hatch marks to build those values and deep shade. Tom DrueckerDrawing 3 of artist/printer Tom Druecker, shows why I work with several nib sizes, say a .3 nib or a large brush to get bold contours, some finess/grace marks, and to quickly brush in appropriate values. Note, that also means I favor using various grays, cool and warm when doing monochrome so that I can separate various elements with the slightest shift in temperature. You’ll also notice that if I enlarge the scale of a figure, then obviously I have more room to play and the wide range of drawing tools and nib widths mean I’m not as likely to be there all doggone day trying to draw some dude’s shoe.
Good so far, but, what if I am smitten with a scene, with trucks, and trees, a couple talking, and grass. I mean grass, a field full, and on that grass are people, wearing sneakers and hats and…… Yeah, gobs of eye grabbing jazz, and remember, we walked out the door with that cute little, just so perfect, 5″ x 7″ sketchbook cause we didn’t wanna be burdened. And I’m an idiot enuff to wanna get that hewn grass texture, the shine on a face, maintainance man with utility belt over yonder….you get the picture.
Let’s look over pictures 4, 5, and 6, below, drawings executed with a combination of fountain pens filled with waterproof Platinum Carbo ink, various Pitt Artist Pens, in an unlined Rhodia sketchbook.image image imagePretty quickly it’s evident the various pens and brushes help me capture many pictorial aspects and move the drawing along because I’m not asking a colt to do a Clydesdale’s job nor expecting a Pelikan to do the hummingbirds’ darting about.
So, this is a good time to inspect the drawings closely to see not only how varied the marks are but how the marks come to be, the purposes they serve, and when to use a linear contour, and when to rely on shapes and suggestion. That last word, “suggestion”, we’ll revisit later in this essay.
Grass. Already I can hear a collective sigh, as if I asked an air conditioned den with teenagers strewn all over the furniture to head out into the heat of summer to mow, edge and rake an enormous, meandering lawn. Look at drawing 6: I sat there notching blades of grass till I finally fled the biting flies to complete the field indoors. You don’t wanna know how much time this goofball dedicated to doing that, but you will wanna take note that part of that time, I drew lines of ink on my finger, then stamped that stippled line on the page where I got, in an instance, from 8 to 18 nifty little parallel hatch marks that to date I haven’t been able to replicate with a pen nib. Frankly, got no desire to neither. Drawing 4 shows that technique applied to the gentleman at the counter’s jacket.
Check out the noggin in drawing 7, Headsame trick gave that dude’s head a ring of hair. Swipe thumb with brush, stamp head. Pop, just like that and on to the next feature. A little familiarity with the direction of your fingerprint grain and you can rotate your digit so the marks conform to the implied shape of the skull. Notice also, the warm gray for that fellows’ skin helps give instant distinction from the cool gray of his shirt and the directional application of the cool gray on his shirt with a few overlapping strokes of a wide brush finishes him in very little time. Hence the concept of efficient use of tools and techniques gives greater advantage over the notion that you’ll just have to draw faster with your hand whipping back and forth over the page like an eggbeater at Warp 3.
To follow up on the strategy of efficient drawing, we’ll bring back into the discussion the afore mentioned word, suggestion.

So we now look at drawings 8, 9, and 10, drawings executed with Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens in a Tomoe River Paper hard bound Sketchbook.

image image  imageHow much effort and description is crucial, and what is uneccessary or redundant? Here, we look at contours and the lines we use to describe them. Figure 8 of a guardian figurine shows a combination of lines thin and bold, and shapes, some crisply defined, some very smokey at their boundaries, to delineate edges and features. Figure 9, illustrates a combination of solutions to contours where I may use a bold, black out line, but then abandon that method altogether on her nose and let the medium gray of the eye socket on the right and the shape under her nose combine to create the suggestion to your eye and brain, of the top edge of the bridge of her nose. Structure implied. Does it hold together? Bear in mind, this is a sketch, and I had little time to convey as much as possible about the phenomenon of light and volume before me.
Drawing 10 uses a brush with a narrow range of value to quickly knock in basic features while indicating light source. Check out her irises and her bottom lip. Break the countours and voila! you have glare, glimmer, highlite.
Roy BoydSeveral techniques are used in drawing 11 of Ray Boyd during an awards ceremony where time was scant. Finger stamping, smudging ink while it was still moist, heavy contours to give strength to primary facial structures, quick stroke from a brush to block in planes, and leaving a minute space between the strong line of his top lip and the warm gray tone beneath his nose leaves just enough light to suggest the highlite catching upturn of that lip. A subtle detail that gives that feature volume and the nature of his skin a sheen.

image image
Drawings 12 & 13 show complicated features such as hands, in a small area the size of a thumb nail. Prioritizing the contours of the pinky on the hand in figure 12, while breaking the line of the finger tip behind is one way to make that pinky pop to the front. A few cross contour lines that loop across the finger surface are enough to tell you that your vantage point is above the hand. The hand of drawing 13′, smaller still, holds less info, but uses a mid gray tone to creat shade, complete the palm, a softer edge than the fingers to let them jut in front, and leave the tips exposed to light so to indicate light source and give the finger tips a bulbous character.

Drawing 14 tries to capture a lecturer’s face and scarf in an equivalent space. The barest of marks were necessary to construct eyebrow, eyelid, and gaze. Six mini taps with a light gray are sufficient to build cheeks, nose,and chin.

Smaller still, what elements come into play, and which can be disposed of to give the impression of a construction worker, a person of color at that, who has dark hair, is wearing a light cap, and taking a brief pause on the job? Gesture is huge to make this smudge of a drawing read as a figure at ease with back arched. Avoiding outlines that are overwhelming help push him into the background, combined with the fuzzy rendering of the trees beyond contribute to the impression of a bright but hazy day.
Marks carry information.
It’s that simple. A big alphabet of marks, and developing a plan on when to use them, will build drawings that engage the mind, delight the eye, and create pages that hold surprise for the viewer.
See you at the Urban Sketchers Chicago Sketch Seminar in July.

The Devil’s In The Details

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