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.
Working Digitally “All art is but dirtying the paper delicately.” —John Ruskin
During the past fifteen years, the way artists work has been transformed radically due entirely to the unstoppable evolution of computer technology. As a student in 1990, I was so opposed to using the computer as an artistic tool I designed an entire project that vilified the concept! (It wasn’t very good.) Within a few years of leaving college I found myself working in a studio producing 2D graphics using Photoshop, but still reluctant to actually draw with it. That was until two of my friends sat me down and forced me to try out my brand new graphics tablet and stylus, something I’d avoided for months. They wouldn’t let me leave my desk until I got to grips with it, and after forty-five minutes I was a convert. I was forever grateful to them for encouraging me to work outside my comfort zone—so Sid and Nick, here’s to you guys! This is the way I still work, almost twenty years later, happily swapping and changing between a real pencil and its digital counterpart.
Now, although I remain steadfast in my opinion that digital drawing is not as satisfying as the real thing, it can nevertheless offer a quick way to explore ideas with the added value of being able to make instantaneous changes. This unique selling point made working digitally absolutely invaluable, and once I began to see the benefits of this built-in “safety net” I never looked back. In fact, during the time I was developing my new computer skills, the digital functionality became so ingrained that I found myself automatically trying to press Ctrl+Z (Undo) if I made a mistake while drawing with a real pencil! So, this duality caused a bit of conflict in my brain as I attempted to remold my working methodology to encompass this distinctly new way of working, but the gains were worth it.
Personally, although I still do all initial roughs (comic page layouts, etc.) as pencil thumbs in my sketchbook, I’ve found myself incorporating digital working into the process a lot more over the past few years. Final drawing is still always traditional for me, but a lot of the bones of how I work out a composition are digital in nature. My nineteen-year-old art-student self would not have believed this, but I’m not sure I could go back to being just a traditional artist again—at least, not easily.
I’ve included a couple of images I produced entirely in Photoshop. The first is a template I did using a basic round brush with opacity set to 100%. I set the foreground color to black, and the background color to white. After I’d built the initial skeleton of the character template I began to add definition, keeping the brush quite large except for the face where a little more detail would be useful. I then commenced swapping between the fore- and background colors to keep making adjustments until I had a body shape and posture I felt I could work with. Next I continued to make a few further additions to the costume before adding flat color to give some definition to the character. This was great fun to do, and although it lacks the nuanced texture and physical feedback of working with pencils, it was very quick to do, and I now have something I can develop further (you might recognize the pose from earlier in this chapter). Plus, when I’d finished drawing it, my hands were clean!
BELOW These color sketches by Martyn Rotherham were all completed using Photoshop.
Excerpt from Character Design From the Ground Up © 2014 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.