Learning curves and painting with the pixels

When I bought a Surface Pro I romantically imagined drawing directly to the screen as I traveled; drinking in cafes by the Seine, jet-setting through airports and all that.  And, this will be feasible eventually, digital sketching turns out to be just as much hard work as any other way of drawing.  Just a little less messy.

Working in a new medium is always a mix of lovely and awful.  I’ve been taking the tablet to a weekly drawing portrait group I attend for a couple of months now. While still mild torture (I miss you charcoal) the processing is slowly becoming fun-ish.

After much practicing with different programmes, I settled on Autodesk’s Sketchbook as having the best interface for drawing live.  Photoshop is just too fiddly for quick brush changes and such with out a keyboard, and Sketchbook lets you work in layers (so an under sketch to paint over is possible), as well as having a interface easy to manage with just a pen, a nice selection of so-called natural media brushes available anda fair amount of control over how they perform.

Here’s a couple of examples, each about 1 1/2 hours drawing time, from live models.

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Faces, faces everywhere

Hmm, even at life drawing classes, when there’s a whole person to draw, I seem to be most enjoying just drawing the face at the moment.  The model today had a nicely classical sort of profile, with one of those scrubby little beards that are so irritating to draw quickly.

Charcoal on A3 brown paper, 15 min sketch

portrait sketch

Just another Thursday sketch

This week, the wrong side.

The friendly portrait group I draw with for a couple of hours most weeks is often nearly full by the time I arrive.  This means the spots that have a full or three-quarter view of the model are usually all taken.  I don’t mind at all.  The very first drawings I remember being fascinated by enough to try and copy when I was a child were profile studies, by the likes Holbein, the Egyptians and Aztecs, and Regency silhouettes.  I like drawing people in a way they rarely see themselves, but is so distinctly them.

However, I realised yesterday that I have a habit of usually sitting on the side of the room that gives me a left-looking profile.  The only seat available yesterday was on the other side, and it was weirdly difficult to get my brain to drawn an accurate right-looking profile.   So, note to self . . .

charcoal portrait

Black and white charcoal and white ink, on A3 brown paper, 2 hours

 

Fluffy wolf charcoal technique revisted

I said I’d try some more with the recently learnt slow-wolf approach to using built-up layers of black and white charcoal as an approach to creating a more finished drawing.  So I have.   This one is  . . . okay.  I stopped before it was really done, as each time I set a layer with the fixative, it had started bringing up odd lines and marks from layers below.  The fixative was likely either too thick, not thick enough, or the wrong one. Or something about this particular paper.  One of those.

So, overall verdict: not super fond of the outcome and it’s not actually finished, but, meh, getting there, a bit, maybe. Rinse and repeat? I may try another time lapse once I work through all the kinks.  And as for glasses, they are clearly a challenge I need to set myself more often *.

Also on my list of arty challenges, a friend recently gave me a giant box of pastels which had belonged to her grandmother.  Hundreds of colours!  I don’t know if I’m ready to draw in colour, but I suspect the layer/fixed/layer approach might work well with pastels too.

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* Assume some wise words here about how the most learning comes from those tasks we loath and/or desperately avoid.