Thursday, February 17, 2011

Coming up with a design

As promised, here is how I created the image of the ladies on the beach.

Disclaimer bit: this is just how I do it and assumes a level of competence with drawing. The bit where I show you the actual drawing techniques is another day's work.

So, as I said, I had a very short time to do this, so it had to be done in a foolproof, efficient way.

I started with my trusty pad of Daler Rowney "Ebony" artist's sketch book, in A3.

Why this pad?

1. The paper is really heavy and smooth. My drawing can do no wrong on this paper. It does lots of wrong things on other paper.

2. The size was right for the frame I happened to have knocking around. Having said that, you want to be careful not to go too small as this will restrict your ability to swoop your pencil around comfortably. And we're all about swooping.

Before I put pencil to paper, I have to do something really important. I have to close my eyes and find a quiet moment and I have to try to picture the finished result. The middle of the night is an excellent time to do this - no more lying awake fretting about your life. The downside of this is that it is so enjoyable picturing the lovely image that you will be very happy and calm and will fall straight back asleep.

Picturing the image:
That is really your gig, but I find it very helpful to pick a sort of theme - for my lovely ladies I like to get a very rowdy, vintage-y sort of vibe.

When I have pictured my image, the next step is to put pencil to paper. Aaaagghh! Don't worry: we have ways of making this successful and not scary (I have often found that the white paper thing can be very off-putting).

Ways to make the white paper thing less intimidating:

1. Use the back of a drawing you're not bothered about. In this way you are not fretting about wasting a big sheet of paper with a rotten drawing.

2. Banish all distractions - radio off, company asked to leave. If they won't go or you can't make them then you have to go off somewhere with your sketchpad. This initial bit is critical - once you have a strong drawing you can relax a bit, put the radio on, stick in the headphones etc.

3. So, you start with a B or, at a maximum, 2B pencil. Draw rough shapes of what you want. Not too heavy with the lines as you are going to be doing a LOT of rubbing out. (You need a really good rubber too - I use a Staedtler Mars Plastic.) The beauty of this technique is that the paper is heavy enough to withstand lots of messing about, rubbing out etc. so you can really afford to be free with your lines. Nice and loose! Relax! Mistakes are fine!

4. Draw away, think, draw, think, draw. Rub out all lines you don't like - which is why you mustn't lean heavily on your pencil or you will have a hard job getting rid of them.

5.Use your laptop to get your elements right: I googled things like "flowery swimming hat photos" and "vintage swimsuits photos". I think I started with "ladies sunbathing photos" just to get the basic shapes for the ladies.

6. After a while you will have a messy, but hopefully strongly-drawn, picture. You can pick out the best lines with a 3B if you like but a 2B will do the trick.

Next step: Tracing.

I use lovely heavy-quality tracing paper for this bit. If you use a lighter quality paper the whole thing will be very unpleasant - tearing paper etc.

1. Lay the tracing paper on top of your drawing. You must make sure the tracing paper does not move around. You can use masking tape to stick it down. If you don't, your non-drawing hand and arm will ache. I am too lazy to bother with tape and I always have an aching arm.

2. Draw the lines you like with great care and precision. Use a B for this - tracing paper makes your point wear down very fast, and you need to keep it really sharp all the time. I use a craft knife (I like a big heavy DIY knife) for this.

3. When this is done, turn the tracing paper upside down and trace over the lines on the back with a 2B - no harder as you need the lines to transfer easily.

4. Lay the result, right side up, on your nice heavy watercolour paper. I use Daler Rowney "The Langton" in 300g/m. Tape it down lightly at the corners.

5. Lightly go over the lines in a firm scribbly fashion with a B pencil. This will cause the line to transfer onto the watercolour paper. Check it's transferring ok before you do too much.

Next post: Making a nice drawing paint-ready!

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