Thursday, May 28, 2015

Stylized Sketching Helps Me Capture My Cats! Finally!

For another adventure in stylized drawings and overcoming my creative blocks in sketchbook scribbling, I decided to have a new go at drawing my cats.

For me, if dogs are hard, cats are impossible.  I hardly even try, they are so impossible.

Does anyone else out there have a problem drawing cats?

Anyhow, as I've shared in the last few posts, I've enjoyed drawing highly stylized scribbles of my dogs because by focusing on the style instead of on any sort of likeness, I am actually succeeding at catching some of the nature of the beasts!

First up with my cats, I continued with the high contrast drawings.  After drawing my earlier dog portraits with a fine line marker (and spending forever filling in the big blocks of black) I used a plain old medium point Sharpie and some marker paper for this portrait of my cat, Hattie.

Scribbling success for me, right here.  This took me only a few minutes to draw (always important, because on many days, I only have a few minutes to stop and really pay attention to the world around me).  And, hey, it looks like an actual cat!  Huzzah!!

Most importantly, thought, this scribble captures a bit of Hattie's indomitable personality.  Hattie is a large presence, both physically and psychologically.  Frankly, she is queen of the house.  And as such, she believes that all boxes should accommodate her.  I see that in this sketch and it makes me smile.

My other cat, Tim, is another story entirely.   For one thing, he is striped and orange and thus, wouldn't fare well in a highly graphic black and white drawing.

For another thing, he is the household sprite.  Nothing ever bothers him.  All is always well.  He derives pleasure and entertainment from everyone and everything.  Frankly, everyone in the world needs "more Tim."  

I wanted to do a stylized drawing, but it needed to be lighter in spirit and tone than the one of Hattie.

So I dug out some of my old cartooning books to get myself in a different sort of graphic frame of mind, and then drew this in under five minutes.

It took me a bit longer to watercolor it, because every layer had to dry before I could put on another. 

Now, does this look like Tim?  Not realistically, of course, no.  But does it capture a big part of Tim's personality?  Yes!!  Especially because he really does sit on or near that cabinet with an ever-hopeful look on his face almost every single evening.  Ten years from now, I know that this silly cartoon scribble of my cat will bring back everything about him that I adore now.

Well, that's probably enough of stylized drawings of my pets for a while!  Still, I hope you have found some useful ideas here for drawing your own pets, or for smashing through your creative sketching blocks. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

High Contrast Drawings of Dogs Really Work!

Last week I talked about how using highly stylized techniques can help you get unstuck when you find yourself unable to sketch something to your liking.

One of the techniques I had just begun to try involved the use of big blocks of black in my scribbles.  The sketches could remain black and white or have a little color added to them or whatever.

What interested me?  Adding heavier contrast and a more graphic feel to the work.

I shared a very quick scribble I did of my Dutch Shepherd, Nik, in this style.  I had tried this with him because I often find myself frustrated in my attempts to draw my dogs.  This was the result.

I took the time to try this technique out on the last German Shepherd I owned, Desmond, who died only a few weeks ago.

The result really intrigued me.

By eliminating the need to capture an accurate face, this style of scribbling frees me to capture bigger shapes and a sense of weight and movement.

The unanticipated result:  these very quick drawings (under 10 minutes each, and most of that because I was filling in with a fine tipped marker) capture these dogs better than anything else I hvae tried.

So much of dogs, of course, is their body language.  You live with a dog for years and you know their patterns, know what the slightest tilt of ears or curl of tail means.

As a human, I think I focus too much on faces when I try to capture a likeness, and I'm not sure I need to do that with a dog.  The body postures convey a lot--I recognize these animals in these scribbles and that recognition brings a lot of powerful memories with it.

This feels like a breakthrough of some sort--not so much for my scribbly drawings, but for creativity and achieving our creative goals for meaning.

Keep at it.  Try lots of different things.  Don't expect the expected to deliver what you expect--and be ready for the unexpected to really deliver the goods.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Get Unstuck with These Two Stylized Sketching Techniques

Getting stuck trying to sketch a particular subject?  Give some stylized drawing methods a try!

Stylized drawing--scribbles that aren't intended to look like the subject but to capture an essence of the subject--helped me make a lot of progress in one of my sketching frustrations.

Here is my story, plus two methods that you may want to try.

I've mentioned before that I really want to learn how to better scribble likenesses of my dogs.

That is what got me started trying to learn to draw in the first place--the desire to capture more of my dogs than what a photography could.

I struggle with it.  I delight in all the other things I scribble away at, including other people's dogs and cats, but I am not quite as free or delighted when I draw my own dogs.  Lots of reasons for that, I suppose.

Anyhow, recently, thanks to the "Stretching" class I am taking at Sketchbook Skool, I have made two drawings of my Dutch Shepherd Nik which I not only like quite a bit, but which capture some of what makes my relationship with this particular dog so special to me.

First, thanks to a lesson by Lapin (check out his work!), I did a "Big Head" style drawing of Nik.  The idea here is that you draw so that the face and head of your subject commands the biggest portion of the page, and then you shrink the body to fit.  Proportion is not a goal.

Lapin recommends drawing your subjects while they look directly at you, starting with the eyes.  Of course, Nik wasn't going to hold still that long, but I was able to take a photo of him looking directly at me.  Then, he fell asleep right next to me while I drew.

Later, inspired by the fascinating use of big blocks of black in the work of Miguel Herranz (his stuff here), I tried a completely different approach using only black and white.

Each of these drawings took less than 10 minutes--in the first case drying layers of watercolor took up most of the time and in the second sketch I spent nearly the entire time filling in the black (I should have used a thicker pen!).

So, doing the exercise has me asking some questions that I think are important for us when we use our creativity.  I know how important it is to be gentle with ourselves and not too critical, and for the most part, I enjoy the heck out of my scribblings.  But why am I so hard on myself when it comes to drawing my own dogs?  And why did these stylized drawings delight me?  What can I learn from these scribbles that will take me to the next steps of both drawing and encouraging myself?  What can I learn from my own experience that will help me help others in the future?

I do think that one reason I like these two drawings of Nik is that they are so stylized.  I had no intention of creating even a reasonable likeness.  And voila!!  I captured the essence of the dog.  His highly connected look (which also means he'd like a treat now, please) and his ever-eager stance with the Frisbee as he entices me to play.

In fact, in both cases (and most of the time, whenever Nik is not sleeping) he is enticing me to something!  He is an enticing dog!

Here's a photo for those of you who wonder what a Dutch Shepherd looks like.

So, remember to be kind to yourselves--and when you are having trouble getting the results you want, give stylized drawing a try!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

No Need to Beware of the Blob! Blob Drawing is Pretty Fun.

More like a treasure hunt than a psychological assessment, discovering images within random blobs or scribbles feels more delightful than many kinds of sketching.  It provides a good break if you find yourself frustrated with your work.  And when the drawing blahs strike (and they strike all of us at one time or another) and you think there is just no point to continuing to scribble in your sketchbook, try blobbing and then discovering what's there.

Since you have already made the mess, there's nothing to fuss about.  It's just pure fun.

I spilled some ink the other day and in wiping it up, I made quite a mess on a sketchbook page.  But after it dried, I went searching for the images, and here is what I found.

These three folks don't go together, which I figure is just fine when I look for pictures in blobs.  They don't need to. Sometimes my blob findings aren't even all oriented to the same up and down!

Jonathan Twingley (whose super interesting stuff you can check out here) recommends splotting some ink on a journal page, then closing the book.  You get mirrored blobs on two facing pages.  You can try to make related scribbles.  Or not.  Up to you!  It's all just a creative game.  Here is an example of two facing journal pages I recently did this way.

For me this process feels like magic.  I can't explain it very well, other than to say, I stare at the blob and wait for whatever is there to rise up from the depths.  It's kind of like something floating to the top of water.  

Almost every time, I think of the scene from the film Excalibur, where the Lady of the Lake rises from the depths to give young Arthur the sword of power, Excalibur.  

Not that my blob scribbles are Excalibur--but it does feel pretty cool when something you were not planning just shows up and a picture appears!

Another artist who does fine and fun work with blobs is Carla Sonheim whose work you can check out here.  She does a lot with what she calls "the art of silliness."

Hope this gives you some fun when you're feeling the drawing blahs.  Or when you just need a warm-up. 

Give it a try with some kids some time too!