It’s always satisfying, not only to see a project completed, but to celebrate the progression of an idea – from initial spark through to finished work. And in this case I’m celebrating the completion of the artwork
I once bought the perfect artist’s sketch book – with a black leather-look cover and wonderful thick, acid-free pages. But when I unwrapped it and set it carefully on my art desk it would not work. Every time I opened the book blank pages stared at me – expressionless and fixedly white – until I closed its cover and placed it neatly on my shelf. There it observed life for a year or two, while I sketched happily on any other paper. Only when its spell had faded somewhat, did I open it again. Even then, I had to coax it into action by beginning journal style. On the first blank page, I washi-taped a smudged 2b thumbnail sketch (something I’d prepared earlier) on a ripped-edge scrap of lined foolscap. On the second blank page I taped a post-it note drawing of a smiling face. By the third page my drawings had escaped the additional scraps and sticky-notes – spreading outwards over the pages of that sketch book. Perhaps the hurdle was my conditioned love of …
Today, photos of two pencil drawings. Each with a different purpose – each a step towards print ready, finished art for a children’s literature poem – at different stages of my illustration process. The first photograph depicts a thumbnail sketch – combining layout and my initial spark of a visual idea. Here I’m focussing on the position of elements – the illustrative content and the text for a single page layout – both are intertwined. For the illustrations on the page, I’m focussing on characters and what they are doing – suggesting facial expressions – and any other important visual items. Often, I’ll highlight what I consider important elements with clarifying arrows and notes, because my ideas sketches are quick – mostly a reminder to myself – simply getting the idea down on paper. The second photograph also depicts the child from the thumbnail sketch in the first photo. Design and position on the paper are not important – here I’m focussing on rendering the child and reliant on reference pictures I have in my own photographic library. I shoot a lot of photos – subjects, people, animals, landscapes, …
On recent Summer holidays during time spent without wi-fi – in contrast to bay window views of a windswept New Zealand coastline with dolphins in the waves beyond the dunes – I found myself cat watching. A ball of contentment, my feline host made it clear that chair sitting (on velvet upholstery) was her everyday super power – and who could argue? Instead, I chose one of half a dozen vinyl perches. Then lulled by sounds of the sea, the cry of gulls and purring – I started to sketch. So, what is a sketch? Using my own super powers of observation, I picked up a ballpoint pen and began with those closed eyes and an amazing number of whiskers – referencing them and her nose. I positioned her ears; sketched the shape of her cheeks which lead to her tail tucked-in under her chin, there with her paws. After that, another sketchy flurry of light pen lines to suggest her overall shape, and I was back where I started. But it doesn’t end there! When does …
Today, I am Cat Lady and the everyday I photograph, sketch -the everyday of my haiku – is a day of Summer. My day cat sitting by the sea.
So why draw birds, or other back yard wildlife you may encounter? This kind of ‘life’ sketching is an exercise in observation – getting to know an unfamiliar subject. It’s a challenge – like the changing light. And like the wind blowing your paper, birds and wildlife move – constantly adjusting your point of view. This kind of drawing requires an amount of simplification – a kind of spontaneous editing of lines before the pen or pencil contacts the page. And the more you practice sketching your subject, the more intuitive simplification becomes. From the outset, you are there to observe – to filter visual information, keeping the important bits because you haven’t time for the rest – to see your subject as a series of shapes and quick lines. And perhaps…if you’re lucky, you may capture a little of it’s essence on paper. ©Annmarie Scott 2016
Above you’ll find a preview – an early version of a new card illustration inspired by the pair of hungry ‘white clouds’ in the nest outside my window. Who could resist drawing these chicks? See photo below. Related Blog post: The Waiting Branch, One or Two?
It began in a coffee shop with a flat white and a thumbnail sketch in a recycled milk carton notebook. She appeared as a vignette.
Here’s a page from my sketch book – a somewhat stylised girl with a watering can. I was playing with a short series of illustrations that required a child actively engaged in a garden. And so, this week – a few questions to think about when character sketching for an illustration. Firstly, what makes a character? Secondly, why draw your character from different points of view? Is it the same character each time? And if so, what makes it the same character? ©Annmarie Scott, 2016 Related reading – Previous Sketch Book Friday Post
What’s unique about this ink drawing, is that it’s been done with a twig from the ground under the nesting tree.