Monday, November 4, 2013

Change of Plans

Sometimes art takes you in a different direction than you had originally planned. In my last post I presented a reference photo and had created a preliminary sketch on paper to begin a pencil drawing of the female form. That project sat for a long time and I never completed it. There was always something that kept me away from it. Other projects, other interests (roller derby being one of them) and basic life in general pretty much kept me away from art for several months.

Then I read a book by Jacqueline Carey called Kushiel's Dart. I became completely enraptured with the main character of that book, Phedre no Delaunay. One day I was looking at the original photograph that I had taken of my model, Tamara Tenny, and I realized that I was looking at a photograph of Phedre. Everything from the curve of her back to the expression on her face was that character to me and it dawned on me that as I had been reading, I had been seeing her in the character.

That, for me, is where technique moves into the realm of art. I could no longer be satisfied with simply creating a drawing that demonstrated technique. I had to create the character that I had become so obsessed with.  I had to create a work of art that brought about the same emotion in me that I experienced while reading the book. So, I started over.

There was no way I could express what I wanted in a work that was only 11x14. So, I searched my stash and found a sheet of 20x30 cold press illustrator board that would work perfectly. It's smooth finish was ideal for the techniques I use and with that size, I would be able to capture that beauty that was the character. Not only the physical beauty, but the beauty of her personality.


Kushiel's Dart is set in a mythical world several hundred years ago. The kind of wall that my model was standing against is not appropriate for that time period. It is also not appropriate for the upper class world in which the character existed. My original thought was to have her standing in front of a marble pillar that would be illuminated by the light at the lower left but fade into blackness on the right. But the more I studied the work as I was creating it, the more I realized that too many things would be lost in the contrast of the darkness against her hair and that contrast with the body being lit from the distant light source on the right would be way too much. So, instead of a marble pillar, I decided to go with a solid marble wall. A Google image search brought me several options that I could choose from, but none of the results were really what I was looking for. In the end, I simply created my own marble based on many of the images that I had found. 

I began by sketching in some of the striations and deformities that would be inherent in the marble. Then starting in the lower left corner I began VERY lightly laying in some graphite, making sure that there was a lot of variation in the level of intensity (for more information about my techniques in laying down graphite and using the tortillion, please see my Lessons page.) Once the graphite was laid down, I used a medium sized tortillion to smooth and blend the graphite to create a line free depiction of a marble wall. 

I normally start a portrait from the eyes and work my way out. But since this one was so large, I was afraid that if I did not work from left to right, I would end up accidentally damaging work by laying my hand on a finished area. I also wanted to make sure I utilized the same light source in the finished piece as I did in the photograph.  In the photograph, the light was coming from a directional lamp that I had on the floor pointing up. My vision of the drawing is that she is standing near a fireplace and the illumination is coming from the fire. 

The Stages

There is not much to tell about the following images. If you have followed my lessons in the past then you know that I do not draw objects or people. I simply recreate lights and shadows using graphite. For the lighter areas I used a Derwent 2B woodless graphite pencil and for the darker areas, like the drape she is holding and her hair, I used a Derwent 6B woodless graphite pencil. If you have any questions about anything you see here, please email me and let me know. Or comment on this post. 

The last thing to do for this project was to create the tattoo that is a very important part of the story of Kushiel's Dart. The problem I ran into was that I did not agree with the publisher's official design. To me it did not evoke what was described in the book. So, I decided to create my own tattoo design based on what I saw while I was reading. 
"With some effort, I recognised the underlying design, which was based on a very old pattern, the briar rose. Somehow Master Tielhard had kept the dramatic vigor of the archaic lines, yet infused them with a subtlety that spoke at once of the vine, the bond and the lash. The thorny lines were stark black, accented in only a few choice hollows with a teardrop of scarlet - a petal, a drop of blood, the mote in my eye."
(Ph├Ędre no Delaunay, Kushiel's Dart)
The following image is the completed piece with my own version of Phedre's Marque.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

New Graphite Project: Tammi

I have been getting a lot of requests from people to expand upon the pencil portrait lessons and start working on the full body instead of just the face. I have been blessed with the friendship of an amazing woman that has agreed to, not only be my model, but to co-write my next book with me. The book will cover as many aspects of drawing the female form realistically as possible. To that end, I would really like to hear from you. What would you like to see in this book? What areas do you have problems with that you would like to see us cover?

We are just getting started with the art for this book and have done very little writing at this point. But we have done an amazing photo shoot that I'm sure you will absolutely love as reference material for your own learning.

Over the next few weeks, as we begin work on the book, we will be posting a series of lessons that will deal with a bit more than just the face. The photo we have chosen for this lesson includes muscle definition in the back, dramatic lighting, Tattoos, fabric and a texture for the background. The following image is what we will be using for this project.

We will be working with:
  • Strathmore Bristol smooth 100 lb stock 11 x 14. 
  • A good quality 2B pencil
  • A click eraser
  • A selection of tortillions

If you have any questions regarding any of the tools please see the lesson entitled The Right Tools

I choose to work with Strathmore Bristol smooth 100 lb stock because I like to get as smooth of a surface as possible in order to get a nice even blend with the shading. But here is a little tip for getting an even smoother surface. The face of the paper is designed with a certain texture specific for certain artistic needs. But if you turn the paper over and use the back side, you will find that it is even smoother still. 

Once the tools have been gathered you have to create your initial sketch. I go over several methods of doing this in a previous tutorial called Creating the Initial Sketch. The method that you choose is entirely up to you and what you are comfortable with. As in previous lessons, we are working from a photograph instead of creating a figure out of nothing. So make the best use you can out of the reference available

Below is a scan of my initial sketch. Please note that the lines you see here are a lot darker than what is actually on my paper. You can barely see what is on my paper so I had to enhance the image a great deal in order to show it to you. Remember that you will be erasing or drawing over all of these lines as you progress so you want them very light and easy to erase. Also, if you put too much pressure with the pencil on your initial sketch you will cause indentations in the paper. If you need to blend over those indentations (as will be done with the definitions in her back and with the draping) you will end up with very unpleasant lines where the graphite is having to work over them. 

As you can see, I only sketched out the roughest of details in order to use as a guideline for the rest of the work. At this point I have some decisions to make. Mainly in what order to work on the various elements. Most likely I will start with the face because it is most important for detail. If the face does not work correctly then the entire project will look wrong and I will have to start over. From there I will move to her body, likely starting with her left hand and making my way towards the right. Since I am right handing, this will lessen the chances of my hand damaging work I have already done. Then I will work on the wall behind her. This is going to take a lot more work that you might imagine because of the texture detail. If done incorrectly it could look flat and boring or it could be way too exaggerated and completely take away from the beauty of the subject. We want the viewer's eye to be drawn to her, not the background. Finally we will work on the fabric and hair. I want to leave the darkest areas for last because using that much graphite can get very messy if you aren't careful, plus there is a technique to getting a darker coverage but in order to do that, the rest of the image needs to be complete. 

That's it for now. Mull over what I have said here. Work on getting you supplies together and creating your initial sketch. I will be back in a few days to talk about the next step.