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The Art of Drawing

November 28, 2009

(This post has a companion post entitled Street Scenes, posted the same day.)

I love architecture, and having worked as an architectural illustrator for a number of years in my earlier days, drawing buildings isn’t something I struggle with.  Perspective comes fairly naturally as well, because of that earlier experience.  But my commercial experience introduced a crutch that became a normal part of my work:  the artograph projector.  The projector saved valuable time when I was trying to meet deadlines.  Unfortunately, its use carried over into my fine art.  When I first posted work online over three years ago, it included many portraits of people and wildlife, almost all of which were initially blocked in using the projector.  Only the basic form and proportions were sketched in using that method, and there was, without doubt, much drawing and development of form done without it.  But because the initial layout was done with a projector, I quit referring to them as drawings, and instead called them renderings.  A number of examples of these are included in my little book Becoming A Painter In Only 45 Years.

The projector was destroyed in a fire several years ago, along with some forty years of artwork: sketches, finished “renderings”, a few bad paintings.  Although insurance would have paid for its replacement, I opted not to buy another one.  When I started painting, my chosen subject was the landscape, and I had no need for a projector for that work.  The barns, houses, and other structures that have been painted were sketched out quickly with a brush.

In this post, I’m going to include some of the sketches I’ve done in the last few days.  Many of these come from photographs taken by others in various parts of the world.  I suppose I’m a bit of a dinosaur in my love of classic European architecture.  It just has a charm to it that glass and steel boxes don’t.  This new experiment also gives me an opportunity to rekindle my love for drawing architectural subjects.  The figures in these are small, mostly just suggestions.  I hope to spend some time just sketching figures, and may post some of those in the future.  I have trouble forcing myself to just practice, with no thought of doing a finished piece of work.  It’s a shortcoming that I will have to overcome.

The difficulty, for me, lies in the inclusion of figures in my paintings.  I had taken life drawing classes in college, but since then, I haven’t spent much time drawing or painting human figures.  As a result, anyone who has followed my painting development so far may notice that I never include people in my landscapes.  Forty or so years of using a crutch reduced my confidence in that regard (art students take note).  But… if I am to attempt painting street scenes, I want them to have life, activity, people moving along the street.  And I don’t want to use a crutch. 

I have posted pencil sketches here before, but these are different.  Earlier posts consisted of thumbnails without even much suggestion of detail.  As I do the street scenes, I hope to include much suggestion of detail, even when there is none.  It also calls for more complicated subject matter, and that means I must draw, or at least do some meaningful sketching.

As I started spending some long needed time with a pencil, I dusted off a book from my limited art library: The Art of Pencil Drawing by Ernest W. Watson.  Ernest Watson was a master with a pencil.  He taught for many years at Pratt Institute, and he and Arthur Guptill founded American Artist magazine.  They then created Watson-Guptill Publications, producing a wide range of art books.  The Art of Pencil Drawing was first published in 1968, when Watson was 84 years old, and contains a wealth of insights into the art of drawing and sketching with a pencil.

I’ve read that Paul Calle does a complete, finished pencil drawing, at actual size, before he starts a painting.  I saw one of those quite a few years ago, and it was amazing in it’s detail.  I probably won’t go to that extreme, but I will try to do preliminary sketches, just to make sure I know where the difficult passages are going to be when I start a painting.

Here are some examples of what I’ve been doing in the last few days.  I’ve done them the same size as the paintings I’m doing (5×7), so I can understand what kind of detail I need and where the challenges are.

 As I develop more of the paintings, I’ll continue to post them.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. November 28, 2009 10:36 pm

    Ralph — I love your drawings in pencil — they are filled with life — I will check out more of your work later on — looking forward to seeing the paintings

    • December 1, 2009 3:34 pm

      Diane, thank you very much! With your resume and ability, your visit and comments are very greatly appreciated.

  2. November 29, 2009 5:16 pm

    Nice drawing Ralph! Awesome work!

    • December 1, 2009 3:32 pm

      Hi Brian! Thanks a lot. You’ve got some absolutely beautiful pencil work on your website.

  3. hayley permalink
    September 23, 2010 1:28 pm

    hi id like to study your work for my Alevels as i think the pencil work is fantastic, have your drawings got titles ? thankyou

    • September 26, 2010 11:31 am

      Those are all just simple little sketches, Hayley. No titles. If they’re helpful to you, I’m glad. Thanks.

  4. August 17, 2014 12:33 am

    beautiful work! the shading looks flawless! do you have more sketches you could post?

    • August 17, 2014 8:24 am

      Interesting that this should come back up, Tim. I do occasionally drift back to pencil work, and in fact am doing some sketches currently. It’s all pretty rough, but I’ll get some posted here soon. Thanks for the visit and the comments!

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