Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Aqua Blue Iguana and I

Today I went to PetCo (a chain pet store not far from where I live).  I knew they had parakeets and I thought maybe I'd try drawing a bird.  Since my class last winter on drawing live subjects in public, I've wanted to give live animals (who are not my own pets) a try.

Yeah, well, the birds were lovely, but WOWZA:  there was an Aqua Blue Iguana in a large space right next to the birds, and I had to draw the iguana!  It's like a living version of my Allosaurus.  All you dino sketchers out there, I highly recommend finding a live iguana to draw.

I had a few kids come up and look over my shoulder, but no one stayed long.

And by the end of my hour with the iguana, I had so fallen in love with it (I mean, I spent an hour gazing into its eye!), I was ready to buy it and bring it home, but I resisted. 

Also, I must purchase some Cobalt Teal paint if I go back to sketch it again.  My colors were completely inadequate for any sense of local color.

You can see the four pages I completed below.  I don't know if the resizing of the image allows for you to read the notes, but I've included them anyway, in hopes that you can if you want to.

I used my Strathmore 500 mixed media journal, an 03 fineliner, and two colors of Daniel Smith watercolors, indanthrone blue and burnt sienna. 

What most interested me about this sketch out (and I guess what interests me most about life) is the story.

I sit down to start drawing, starting with the iguana's eye and very quickly, things start to go "WRONG!"  Note the quotes.  That voice in the head that tries to scare the creative beejeesus out of us.  Roz Stendahl calls it the Internal Critic, or the I.C.  I have named mine Ichabod.  Anyhow, piped right up and tried to stop my fun.

I've learned my best defense is to go loose, get scribbling, and remind myself I'm just learning. 

And I sketched the iguana over and over.

 So I sketched again and again.  I knew I wasn't getting the proportions right, despite measuring and looking.  Frustrating.  Ichabod chimes in that this is a waste and I should quit while I'm ahead and go draw a bird.  Or maybe a cricket.  I will never get this iguana, even if it does look a lot like the Allosaurus.  And why bother, because you don't have cobalt teal anyhow and any paint you add will not look good. 

That Ichabod--he is just hilarious, isn't it?

So I paused and took some editing notes.  What was working.  What wasn't.  None of Ichabod's chatter, but sensible observations.  

Then I started again and guess what?  My contours were suddenly more accurate than anything I had started earlier.  So I just let my pen play until I had filled two pages, then I went back to the contour that seemed most accurate to me, and built on that, restating, refining.  This is the darker pen sketch in the middle of page 2.  I got a lot of good parts of that drawing.

Then, I turned the page (I was in about 40 minutes now), and said, well, let's try a portrait again.  I spent the next 20 minutes working on that sketch and painting, ignoring local color (except for the general "blueness") and working on values.  

When I finished it had been 61 minutes total.  And I thought, well, this outing was a smashing success!  I almost quit, but I did not quit.  I got some really good experience with this iguana.  I got amazing experience with cranky Ichabod, and with "failing" at initial drawing attempts. 

Then I took a few more minutes to write out notes to capture the whole experience, so that later I remember not to get discouraged.  And also to remember the power of the 60 minute sketching session.  If I had only had 30 minutes, I would have quit before I turned that page and started that portrait.  

And while it is not the best portrait of an iguana, what happened on page 3 is so much better than what happened on page 1, well, it is totally amazing to me.

It was a stellar sketching day!  I hope you have one too!

This post comes from work I did in a class with Roz Stendahl, Drawing Practice:  Drawing Live Subjects in Public.  I recommend it!

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