Friday, February 22, 2013

Drawing in Steps

One of the things I've learned about drawings is that like a recipe they are done in stages.  When I first started drawing, I went at it full bore.  I pressed hard with the pencil, tried to draw the entire image right away and then add color.  As you can imagine, I was disappointed with the result and continued to do it again and again, trying to improve. Surely, it was just a matter of time before I got better... 
Well, time and practice did help, but so did learning to do it in stages.  For me this was a realization that made the biggest difference in my work.  I still need more practice (this is one of the nice things about drawing is that I love to do it, so practice is very fulfilling) but I am happy to say that I am still improving!  The funny thing about the stages of drawings is that each stage has lots of room for improvement... so stages within stages (and I still have all those to learn!)
But, here are the "basic" stages that I use when drawing that have helped me along.  These are just my way of doing things that seem to work for me, at least for now.
 I draw the basic sketch in pencil, lightly. I try for an outline and basic silhouette and place various things in position, like eyes and nose.
I go over the pencil marks with a thin black marker and then gently erase the pencil lines.
 I start to add color. Some people color the shadows first, other people color the light colors first.  I do a combination of things -- mostly dependent on the drawing.  I find the small areas of the drawing, in this case the beak, feet and neck and layer color in these.  Then I look at the large areas and add some of the shadows with a dark color.  Again, I go over it lightly.  I find it easier to make lots of light layers.  This is where I have learned to be patient.
 The next step is to add another layer lightly over the first layers.  I don't want to fill in the part with a solid color -- I want there to be variations, but without hard lines. I want there to look like natural shadows and highlights. (This is the part I am working on.) I have learned to try and picture things in multiple shades of colors instead of just a "blue wing" I try and look at it as "lower wing, darker tail feathers and lighter belly".  From here, I have to choose some colors - if I want a blue bird, I think about variations on blue (blue-green OR light to dark blue OR blue-purple).  Even though I want it to end up blue, these variations give me some room to work and create those shadows.
I think of this like frosting a cake.  Do I want the frosting to be in swirls, piped on the cake or spread on flat and plainly?
 From there I add color everywhere, leaving some parts exposed with background showing through. In this case, I did that with the top of the head, some of the feathers and the belly.
 I then look back at the image and think where I want colors to be brighter, so I add another layer lightly, over the areas I want bright.  I may go back and add a light color, so over the teal, I might layer a bright green. Because I am going over lightly and blending it, it isn't obvious, but instead brings some brightness to the image.
Lastly, I will add something to the background so that the image blends instead of looks like it is just floating there.  Here I added some shading of purple.  I have more ideas on ways to improve this sketch, so I take a few moments to think about what I want to do differently or how it would look better next time...

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