In Gillian’s online class, Drawn to Expression, we created a lot of studies. This was new for me. I’ve sketched rough ideas that may or may not turn into a finished piece. But I never created multiple studies of an object or a portrait or a landscape. I definitely see the benefit in this approach.
One aspect of creating the various studies was returning to a particular piece, usually one that was not “precious” or complete, and reworking it. It’s kind of like a do-over. Can you take a “meh” or “blech” piece and make it more appealing? Pretty or beautiful, perhaps? Or, do you push it too far and turn it to mud? (Another lesson in itself for sure.)
I’ve started to think of this as looking backwards to move forward. Here is what I mean.
One Minute Sketches
Early in the class, we created one minute sketches. It was a good way to warm up the memory yarn. These were definitely NOT precious sketches.
Here I was learning how to use charcoal, understanding its quirks. These faces aren’t pretty and look quite rough. Returning to this sketch, and without a time limit, I used techniques Gillian taught to redo the faces. Were there characteristics I wanted to emphasize? How could I make the face more expressive?
Going from before to after often involved erasing some portion (or perhaps a lot) of the sketch or maybe using white charcoal or white pastel to obliterate some features.
20 Minute Sketch
It was fun to rework the one minute sketches. Though the size of each face was a bit constraining. So I decided to move on to a larger sketch.
Here is the before image. I got a little carried away with the graphite powder. It’s not a bad sketch. It’s not terribly expressive or loose in the use of lines.
And here is the re-worked sketch.
A lot of erasing, more graphite in other areas, and the addition of blue Conte pastel pencil turned him into a “sentimental gentleman.” (The Red Hot Chili Peppers “Show Me Your Soul” happened to be playing in the studio while I was working on this sketch.)
Family Gets a Do-Over
As happens now and again, I did not get into the studio for more than a week. I felt very out of practice, as if I’d forgotten how to draw. Of course, the best way to get back into the swing of things is to start drawing again. I had been working on a mixed media piece and decided to use the “family” in that piece for my sketching practice.
Here is how my face sketches looked after not being in the studio for more than a week.
Okay. Maybe they aren’t that bad. I’m amused, however, at how easy it is to revert back to “stiff” lines and wacky proportions. Ironically, the male faces were a bit easier to sketch than the female face. It’s usually the other way around for me because I rarely sketch male faces.
Fortunately, sketching is almost like getting back onto a bike after not riding for a while. Almost.
Here is the family of three after getting a do-over.
All this looking backwards in order to move forward is a great way to document your progress. It helps train your eye to look for what worked and what didn’t work in the study pieces. That, in turn, helps you to create a more finished piece.