For a long time I’ve understood the basic concept of doing a drawing in stages where you begin drafting the basic composition and shapes with a tool that leaves a light mark then use the draft as a guide for detailing with a darker marking instrument. Since I’m only using pencils, this means that I typically sketch things out with a harder graphite (like a 4H) then switch over to something significantly softer (typically a 2B), but a consistent problem I’ve found is that softer graphite tends to dull extremely fast, which becomes a problem on the scale that I’m drawing when I want to produce finer detail.
After reading a bit more about the way graphite works (there is no shortage of treatises on the qualities of various tools and media in books about drawing, as I have learned) I decided that I would try doing details on a couple sketches with harder graphite; the original intent was to give myself some room for error while I worked out how to pose my figures before hanging clothes on them (clothing is fun to do, but I definitely still need to see where the limbs and muscles are first). Somewhere in there I just started using the harder pencil for stronger lines, and I was pleased enough with the result that I’ve kept at it.
Along the way with that, I also finally started thinking about how to do some proper shading to give my drawings a better sense of volume. It’s minor stuff for now (I find that I kind of obsess over light sources, so I’m trying to keep things simple), but the difference in quality’s been noticeable to me. I feel like there’s depth that was missing before, and I’ve found a technique for shading that just doesn’t look as sloppy as what I saw in some of my stuff from a few months ago. I will say that my faces continue to be very weird, and I think it has something to do with how I measure proportions versus how much space I think specific features are supposed to take up. Basically, I think that I’m consistently drawing eyes and noses significantly smaller than they should be, and then when I try to adjust I find that the whole face either looks stretched in weird places or the outline of the head is far too big. Anyway, here are some recent sketches I’ve done at various stages of completion.
On a completely separate note, I’m having a lot of fun learning how different photo filters on my phone help make pictures of my drawings easier to see on a screen. Those light pencils sure do a great job of not showing up in the final draft, but it’s a real pain getting them to be visible on in-process stuff. For this picture, I was really pleased with the pose because I attempted it after doing a lot of practice drawing from reference photos, and it was really satisfying to put together a figure with a dynamic pose.
My earlier comments about weird faces are apparent here, but if you set that aside, the hair’s working, the arm has decent proportions with the foreshortening, and the other character details are pretty good. I had a pretty rough time with the positioning of the hands on the handle of the sword, so that’s a thing that could be better (I spent a lot of time thinking about the way I used to hold a golf club when I went golfing as a teen). It’s also obvious here that I switched over from the sketchy lines I use in a lot of my older stuff. The effect looks much more polished.
And here’s the finished version with the shading added. There’s definitely some messiness around the head with guide lines for the sword that didn’t fully erase when I was doing clean up, but I like it. The character’s Illyana Rasputin from the X-Men in a variation on her ’80s look. And because I was on an X-Men kick, here’s another one that I did in the last week.
Nightcrawler is a fun character because he’s agile enough that you can justify drawing him in a lot of fun poses. Here I wanted to play around with his love of old movies; he’s more of an adventure guy, but I figured he’d have a soft spot in his heart for classic Hollywood musicals. You can faintly see in this image the outlines of the figure’s muscles that I sketched before putting the clothes on. Like I said, clothes are fun, but I don’t trust myself to make them look right if I’m not hanging them on a model first.
I really like how this one turned out after the shading was done. It helps that the lighting of the photo enhances the overall effect of Kurt frolicking under a street light. While I was working on this one I kept thinking about how cool it would be to include some more details in the background, but then I got on this whole perspective kick and decided that determining a vanishing point after the fact would be murder, so that was right out. It did mean, however, that I immediately started thinking about working perspective into my next piece, which is still in progress at this point. The early drafting stage is below.
The best thing I can say about doing perspective is that it’s a lot of fun to see three dimensional space just sort of appear on the page as you put in the guide lines for objects. The worst thing is that I spent about a day stressing over all of that before I pulled out a stiff ruler with a good perpendicular angle instead of trying to use scrap paper to line stuff up. You can see here that the figure is still naked as I hadn’t begun to do the dressing yet (this is another piece of fanart, but it’s for a character with a pretty specific look to their outfit, so I wanted to get some references before I jumped into that).
Now that I’m on summer break, I’m looking forward to spending a bit more time on drawing. It’s a nice alternative to staring at screen, and it works out some different brain muscles from writing, which is especially nice. Also, I’m planning on attending my first life drawing session next week, which should be a lot of fun.