With my new goal of being a professional illustrator and designer, I have been working at improving my understanding of human anatomy. Up to now I have felt reasonably competent drawing from life, but when it comes to drawing without a model, my results are sometimes embarrassing. I got a great book from the public library called Secrets to Drawing Heads by Allan Kraayvanger. It has been really helpful –better than many other books on the subject that I’ve tried to work through in the past. I went to the library two days ago to draw the people there:
My concentration has been on heads so far, but I also need to improve my understanding of the body. That said, it isn’t the first time that I’ve studied it, but it is plain that I have not learned it well. I made this first sketch to go with the latest poem (see Illustration Iteration):
It actually reminds me of a Chagall –no offense to him.
At another sitting, I was drawing a couple of ideas from my head –a body reaching forward and unstable vs. a body that stays well-centered and well-balanced. (I’ve cropped out the unstable figure.) The drawings were amateurish again. But when I made a little sketch in the corner of a skeleton in the stable posture, it was SO much better –and that was from what I already knew. What an improvement!
I went back to my poem sketch. I decided to try again, this time sketching out a skeleton first. (Woah — “sketch” and “skeleton” — Are those related words? It would make sense that they are, but I never thought of it before!) Voilà! Much better again.
So it looks like I really do need to start with anatomy, which means I can’t be lazy and skip that step. At least, not for a while. Even if I decide to go with a more abstract human form, this knowledge can only help.
My shirt stamping process is more streamlined now that I’m doing more. The problem is that I’m working with only one palette and two rollers at the moment. That’s a lot of cleaning to do between colors.
I’m learning that the best way to approach it is to start with one color and mix and modify as I go –that is, if I’m starting with pink, I can pretty easily had a little yellow and get a nice orange. Today I had a purple which needed white in order for it to show on the black fabric. From there I added even more white, then green. Not bad!
It also helps if I do more than one shirt at a time. Today I did three shirts. The last one I did only because I didn’t want to waste the ink.
Stamping shirts has an advantage in that the design can extend beyond the traditional rectangle of the silkscreen. I really enjoy playing with that.
Here are three of the shirts, front and back. (You can’t say you’ve seen one unless you’ve seen the back, too!)
In my last blog post I wrote that I was afraid to make a larger and “final” illustration for “Saturday at the Canal” by Gary Soto. I’d made a thumbnail study which I really liked. I didn’t think I could be as happy with another rendering. Well, I jumped in and did it anyway. Here’s the result:
This drawing is about 9.5″x12.5″. I had to draw and redraw it in pencil. Then I was afraid to ink it because I was happy with the pencil drawing. Then I inked it and I was afraid to color it because I was happy with the inking. It just shows how at every step, you can grow attached and be afraid to lose it. Every change I made could have messed up what I was satisfied with. The whole process is about letting go. And letting go again.
The nice thing is that I’m pretty happy with it. I was especially pleased at how the light on the water turned out. I’m less pleased with the sky, but it’s not terrible.
The question now is: do I stop here? Do I make another? How do you know when it’s time to let go and move on to the next illustration?
The idea of being an illustrator always scared me to death. But when I recently wrote up a list of “what I would do if I knew I could not fail,” I put down “Illustrator.” I was shocked to see it written there. I’d been running from illustration my whole life. “No! I couldn’t do that,” I always said. I always thought that an illustrator has a picture in his/her head and then puts it down on paper. Flawlessly. The first time. I don’t know why I thought that, but I did.
So now that I’m thinking about it a little more realistically (I hope), why not be an illustrator? Wow, I would love to do that! I have always loved children’s book illustrations, spot illustrations, magazine illustrations. You name it. And it’s closest to what I do. Haven’t people been telling me, “Your work is really more like illustration, isn’t it? Did you ever think about being an illustrator?”
But it still scares me.
I am exploring illustration ideas now. My first idea was to illustrate poems that I like. I thought I could maybe do a dozen or so and then put them all together into a hand-made book. Might as well give it a try.
Please know before you look at these drawings that I am being VERY COURAGEOUS by sharing these. The first one is terrible. Truly terrible –and the reason why I’ve always run (screaming? yeah, maybe) from Illustration (with a capital “I”). I’m not too happy with the second drawing either, although it is an improvement. The last two are just small thumbnails to try out some color and slight composition variations. The second of these… sigh. I like it. BUT…
But what, you ask? Well. It’s a thumbnail. And I like it. And I’m afraid to try to do it again on a full-size (or even half-size!) sheet of paper. Because how can it be as good as the thumbnail? Okay, so the thumbnail is not a masterpiece or anything, and yet I’m attached to it. I’m too attached. I can’t seem to let it go. And that’s the problem right now. I need to let it go so I can make another. (And another. And another.)
Why do I find this so gut-wrenching? Is this normal? Do you go through this?
By the way, the poem is called “Saturday at the Canal” by Gary Soto, if you’d like to look it up.