This week I shall show you why it is best to use a knife, not a sharpener for your drawing pencils. I shall use our native pōhutukawa tree for my first example, as they grow in abundance here in Devonport. They love living by the coast (who doesn’t?). But seeing it is too early for their famed scarlet flowers, I’ll show you the branches and bark instead. I went walking yesterday, and took close-up images of some lengthy limbs, as thought these would be great for me to sketch, and show you what I mean by the nuance of line created by one pencil.
I love sharpening pencils, as it reminds me of sitting on the back step as a child, and watching how my father sharpened pencils – always using a knife. He was never without a pencil, which he kept behind one ear, whether for jotting down sales in his bookshop, or sketching a scene for painting. ‘A sharpener doesn’t give nuance to the lead’, he told me, and I only discovered the value of this statement when I became an artist much later in my life.
Many of you will know that I put out a book a few months ago. I was involved with two book launches, a radio interview and two library talks before the end of last year. I was extremely busy organising the advertising and the events, getting the book into bookshops around the country, as well as posting copies to those who had ordered from me. Yes, being the writer, publisher and distributer proved to be a job and a half. And, because of Covid delaying events in many libraries last year I still have more author talks lined up to do. I am really looking forward to these talks, as they are the fun part in the process. It really is a joy to speak about, read from the novel and share the experience of writing it with others.
With Covid19 locking us in our homes for weeks it was good to finally get together with our art buddies again. We started the class last Saturday with several very quick pen sketches using a model. The aim being to keep the pen moving constantly on the page. This method is called continuous line, or contour. Although contour usually refers to the outline, continuous line allows you to move around and across the form. With both methods it is usual to look at the model and then the page. Blind contour, is when you look only at the model while you sketch. A challenge, as it’s so compelling to look down at your sketch. Continue reading
Last week in art class we did an exercise on one point perspective. We were to practice the rudiments of eye-level-line / horizon line, and the point to which other lines travel. In short, perspective drawing. The word perspective may intimidate new sketchers. But perspective is really just a word which suggests that there are different ways of looking. And as artists, that is the most important thing we can learn.
To wind up this series of what I found in my art folders I have decided to show some sketches – people, plants, animals, and objects – which I drew in and around my house. I have always loved using graphite pencil and this aluminium teapot was a perfect object to draw, given its shape and sheen. I really like the contrast of light and cast shadow. I must have placed the teapot near the edge deliberately so the curve of the table showed in the composition. Continue reading
After doing a recent quick ‘selfie’ portrait, I sifted through some old art folios, in which I found a few very different images of myself. Two were pencil drawings, and the other a quick sketch in acrylic on paper. Over the years I’ve executed many portraits, in pastel, pencil and paint; some done as teaching tools, some commissions, and others as part of children’s book illustration.
With all portraits, and all figures come to that, I have generally used the same techniques to plot the sketch. But the most important technique of all does not involve pencil or paint. To become accurate with any portrait, you must look. Seems obvious? I am talking about really seeing here: the shape of the head, the face; whether it is thin, long, wide, plump. Is the skin tone fair, or dark? All these features need to be observed before a pencil makes a mark. And, then comes the hair. Is it dark, light, thick, wavy, straight? Is it wispy, framing the face? When you are becoming to know the person, it comes the time to select your tools (pencils in this case). It does help if you already know your model too. Continue reading