I don’t know about you, but I love to look at the sketchbooks of other artists. It is where I can see the thinking behind their final pieces. There is something so inviting about pencil sketches on paper that draws me in to their creative process. So, I thought it would be fun to let you into my own artsy noggin and take a tour of the steps needed to come up with this piece here:
First step – Getting inspired! Some people might think that creative folks can magically sprinkle ideas onto their canvas and a masterpiece is born. Wouldn’t that be nice? However, it just isn’t true. Creativity requires a workout, a sweaty workout with plenty of grunts and cuss words. (Ok, maybe not that sweaty) Just like exercising our muscles, creativity needs to be pushed and fed and coaxed. Depending on the person, inspiration can come from a variety of areas. The following is a list of areas where I can find inspiration –
Fiction Books and book covers
Nicnacs found around your desk
Of all the stages in developing art, this one is probably the stage most guilty of creating that dreaded BLOCK. Artists (And writers) have been known to say something like “I have writer’s block” or “I have art block” but the real issue is found in not feeling inspired. So, to me, it is important to take a little time on curating my environment to nurture creative thinking. I follow artists who inspire me on social media, I surround myself with inspirational movies and books, I keep my old work available on a shelf so I can thumb through it and surprise myself with some of the things I created in the “long long ago.” And I spend time (Usually in the afternoon during my mental pudding time) pouring over images, videos and getting ideas. Another tactic I use is to listen to inspiring podcasts and YouTube videos while doing my artwork in the morning. I also like to go out on walks in nature and take photographs to be used for future references. The point of this VERY LONG first step is to nurture your creative juices so inspiration strikes more easily.
Second Step – Sketch, sketch, sketch… A sketchbook is the place where I warm up and sketch out all sorts of objects, figures, and body parts like hands, feet, and elbows, I sketch out animals, plants, aliens, and fantasy creatures. I do studies in my sketchbook so I can learn the details and the ins and outs of a particular subject, like flowers or aardvarks. I think about the elements that I want in a final piece and practice drawing them. I do this by searching Pinterest (Or doing a Google Image Search) and sketching, or painting what I see. I want to know the ins and outs of the subject, what it looks like at different angles, and how it would look in different lighting. I’ve been thinking about actually creating Marquettes so I could have a 3D model available to use for lighting purposes, which would be very helpful! Next, I use a sketchbook to create thumbnails to determine the composition of a final piece. and finally I draw my primary pencil sketch (or blueprint) for the finished piece.
Third Step – Tracing When I have completed the primary sketch, I like to draw the outlines in a thicker and darker pencil, then I use a light box to trace the basic shapes down on archival, high quality, hot press, watercolor paper. I don’t trace a lot of details because I don’t want the final image to look traced. (If you’ve ever traced over a photo or image, you’ll know what I mean. It just looks wrong!)
Fourth Step – The Graphite Drawing This is no longer in a ‘sketch’ phase. This is the real stuff! So I draw the illustration in as much detail as possible, shading in the darker values, and leaving the lighter values. This stage, on its own, should look like a finished graphite piece.
Fifth Step – Ink This is my scariest step. After putting in several hours on my graphite layer, I actually take a brush dipped in diluted ink and start painting ink glazes over it. One mistake and all that work is ruined! But no pressure, right? I like the final result of this step. It adheres the graphite while still letting it show through a bit, and gives the darker values more depth, and allows the lighter values to really pop.
Sixth Step – (Yes, there are a lot of steps! I could walk to Starbucks with all these steps… just saying…) Watercolor!! Folks, I LOVE watercolor. Love love love it! So I look forward to adding the colorful touches in this final layer. I use a glazing technique and gradually add extra layers in the deeper areas. During this process, I might even grab a white charcoal pencil to add extra highlights over little areas here and there. Eventually the final product emerges. (Up top)
Final Touches – This is a minor step, but it makes the piece look more polished. At the end, I look around for areas that might need some finishing touches and I go over them with either color pencil or watercolor pencil and finally, I sign the piece.
I know this seems like a lot of steps and a lot of work, but thats the point. All creatives work hard on his or her craft. It just isn’t something that magically appears from thin air. Writers can spend many months or even years working on a book, artists can put in several hours and even days and months in a single piece. The same can be said for musicians, poets, designers, chefs, and any other creative field that requires something to be made from nothing. And I haven’t even touched on the amount of years it takes to be proficient at a craft. I’ll save that for another post!