What’s in a drawing?

Have you ever thought about what goes into a piece of artwork? In this blog post I thought that I would give you an idea of the process that I go through and what has gone into my progress so far.

As covered in a previous post, I began drawing three and a half years ago. I am self-taught; consequently, much of my progress has been through experimentation, trial and error, independent research, plus hours and hours and hours of practice on a daily and weekly basis. All of those hours helped me to familiarise myself with the ‘tools’ and how to use them (covered in an earlier blog post here). You can get an idea of my progress from the comparison below

Progress from 2015 to 2018

When drawing a piece, it all begins with a reference photograph and paper choice. I choose photographs based on their composition and clarity – for those familiar with my drawings, you’ll know that I like to include as much detail as possible, so it is important that the reference photo is taken in good light conditions. When it comes to paper, through trial and error over the last few years, I seem to have settled on using Strathmore Bristol, vellum and smooth surface.

The first stage is to sketch out the main features of the subject – this in itself can be time consuming. It is important at this stage to focus on the main areas of contrast in addition to proportion. From there, it can depend on the subject as to where I begin drawing, but the typical process is to begin either from the top of the paper and slowly work my way downwards, or to go from left to right. This ensures that I am not going back and forth over the paper, which increases the chance of damaging the fibres, or dulling the detail. I always use a clean sheet of paper to cover the areas I am not working on, to ensure that my hand doesn’t come into direct contact with the paper.

I draw in the darkest areas first and the lighter tones after that. There is then a delicate process of balancing the tones against each other and adding in the detail with graphite and other tools.

When drawing animals, I like to draw the eyes early on in the process. They are typically the heart of the drawing and once they are in place, I find that the drawing comes to life and the other features follow on from there.

Each subject is different. So with animals, for example, I pay careful attention to the direction of the hairs – they can be surprisingly complex in terms of the variation on an animal’s body in a comparatively small area.

There is also a need to use a variety of techniques throughout a drawing, in order to develop texture. Something that is often a voyage of discovery, using a bit of intuition along with trial and error, to create textures that I haven’t drawn before. The final stage of the drawing is to make sure that the detail is in there and that the tones balance correctly against each other.

Each drawing takes a minimum of ten hours – based on a small 4×4″ drawing. Larger pieces take significantly longer, as you can imagine.

Drawing stages

Once the drawing is finished, I then mount and frame them myself – again a process that took a lot of trial and error to perfect, before settling on my ‘signature’ style of a black mount and frame. It takes anywhere from half an hour to an hour to mount and frame the artwork.

Finished drawing mounted and framed

There is then the final stage of carefully packaging the artwork to post out to the client.

I think it is fair to say that producing a piece of artwork is a labour of love – the product of hours of honing skill and technique. I always strive to improve with every piece that I produce and hope that the dedication and attention to detail comes through in the finished drawing.

If you would like to find out more about commissioning a drawing, you can find further information here.

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