Working Traditionally “We all have 10,000 bad drawings in us. The sooner we get them out the better.” —Walt Stanchfield
When my interest in making art became serious and I knew that I wanted to turn it into a future career, the only option available was to pick up a pencil and a sheet of paper and draw. This might seem old fashioned to many young artists these days, but to others of the “Digital Creation Generation,” drawing traditionally has developed an exotic allure that I find both encouraging and ironic. In an age where using a computer to draw is the norm, those who choose to use a pencil and paper are sometimes seen as “forward thinkers”!
There is something special about working with a pencil. The tip will blunt at different speeds and in different ways depending on how you use it, and at what angle you hold your hand. These variables and the everevolving shape of the tip offer an almost endless variety of textures, line shapes, and finishing effects that are always surprising—and all of the above can be changed again depending on what paper or art board you work on. For sheer expressivity and breadth of varied application and technique, it has no equal, at least for me, and every project I undertake begins as a pencil drawing in a sketchbook. It is possible of course to recreate many of the exercises in this book using a stylus and tablet, but it is my hope, if you haven’t already, that you’ll invest in a set of pencils and discover for yourself how versatile and rewarding working traditionally can be. There is simply nothing to compare with it.
One of the common criticisms I’ve heard about traditional methods is that they can be messy. I can’t deny that, and barely a day goes by that I don’t have to clean up after a nasty case of “drawer’s hand.” (This is where the action of moving your hand over a paper covered in pencil creates a smudgy mess between your outer wrist and little finger.) That said, the messiness is an essential part of how you interact with your art, and besides, I’ve made numerous random serendipitous technical discoveries due to the messy nature of working traditionally. This simply isn’t possible when using a computer. When working with soft pencils, crayons, chalks, and pastels, you have the option of using your fingers or a cloth to adjust textures and create effects, and excess smudging can be removed or worked into using a variety of erasing techniques. From a purely gratifying perspective, finding your desk covered in bits of eraser, pencil shavings, and other detritus, as well as dirt under your nails and even on your face after an artistic session is an indicator of a day well spent. It’s a tangible sign that you’ve really connected physically with your work, and this engenders a state of mind that is invaluable in relation to how you approach future design problems.
ABOVE This sci-fi character design was drawn using a blue Col-Erase pencil over a printed digital template.
ABOVE This penciled panel from a comic clearly shows how messy traditional working methods can be.