Today I’ve got a new drawing from my series A Plague of Dragons to share with you and I want to talk a little bit about getting lost and found again in art. The above image was drawn on Strathmore Smooth bristol with 2H and HB pencils. The image below shows the various iterations the drawing went through before arriving at its final form.
Rough Sketch with Concept Work-ups
Have you ever stepped away from drawing for awhile (perhaps for a long stretch of painting, or a vacation, or just life) and when you come back you find that you have somehow forgotten how to draw? What tools do I even use anymore? What order do I use them in and on what paper?
I think this affects us all from time to time. I had a stretch last year where I just wasn’t enjoying drawing anymore. And it was more than just, wait-a-minute, have I forgotten how to draw? I felt like I had lost what had originally made it fun for me. It was after several months where I had really tried to push my drawing abilities to see if I could make my work more time efficient, my linework cleaner and my lighting more dynamic. With each new try I would think, maybe this time I’ll find that secret paper surface the illuminati doesn’t want me to know about, or the silver bullet pencil that Da Vinci used. By the end of it I had all these laborious rules set up for myself, each drawing had to follow a very precise procedure using a variety of different pencils and highly specific techniques.
But somewhere along the way I had stripped away all the magic and soul in the pursuit of this sterile, clinical method meant to achieve reliable, professional results.
This isn’t to say I regret doing all the experimentation. I feel like I have learned a lot of new tricks and I always feel like a better artist after excursions like this. Curiosity (I think) is fundamental to being an artist. But is this loss of soul the price of knowledge? Is simply something that naturally occurs when you grow?
Early on, much of the ‘style’ (for lack of a better word) of my drawing was heavily inspired by old illustrators like Franklin Booth and Joseph Clement Coll and even Dore. Their lines were handled like brushtrokes and it creates this wonderful sense of movement. I loved Booth for the scale and sweep of his work, Coll for the inventiveness of his design, and Dore for his otherworldly drama. Looking back again over their work helped me to recall again why I loved working in this medium so much. After digging through their work again, I realized I’d had everything I needed all along. I decided to bury my fancy new techniques, as well as all of my notes, charts, graphs, and even some expensive rare artifacts, (possibly a cat and some shoes, I can’t be sure) and went back to the old basics that first made me fall in love with drawing. Just making a mess with a pencil on some basic smooth paper. It has been nice getting to know those roots again.
So to wrap up, I’m glad I went through all the effort to try some new techniques and push myself last year. I know in the future I’ll probably go off again chasing some mathematical formula for artistic perfection or an Infinity Stone for Drawing (Thanos doesn’t even know about it, but I do! It’s location is written backwards in a Da Vinci drawing). But for now, it is just really good to remember what made me fall in love with drawing in the first place. So this post is a thank you to those greats for serving so long as guiding lights for me.
The entire series of images will be appearing in my forthcoming Sketchbook, “A Plague of Dragons.”