It’s good if your drawing looks bad! You think l am crazy l know, but actually this is true.
I was still thinking about my last blog post and how we all go through times when we don’t feel happy with anything we draw. At least, l think that most of us do. And we can get down and beat ourselves up and think we will never get any better etc. etc.
I am sure that there are lots of you, who like me look at their work and think that they wish it was more realistic, vibrant, cleaner, creative ..... or a million other things.
lt seems like very negative thinking (and if we just get stuck on that thought it is), but actually this is something that l think of as very positive. Because the truth is that we won’t make any progress if we don’t see what is wrong!
And the reason l was thinking about this is because someone said to me the other day that they couldn’t see any difference between these four pieces below.
Now l know my progress is not fast, the difference between 2016 and 2019 is not that great, especially when you consider how much time l spend drawing. But l do see a difference, in the vibrancy, the sharpness, the use of color. And as l told you in my last blog post this progress (however small or slow) is what motivates me.
That comment made me think about what we see when we look at our work.
You see, how can you put right what you don’t know is wrong? An alcoholic can never recover from their alcohol addiction until they acknowledge that they have a problem. The beginning of any change in life is the recognition of the need for change. Until that happens we go along making the same mistakes we always make. It is just the same with art.
Seeing the flaws in our work is the beginning of progress. If l don’t recognize that l need to use more contrast in my work l will never add it. If l can’t see that a composition doesn’t work l won’t make a better one.
Sometimes l think l see more and more things wrong with my work, l realize now that this is part of progress, the better you get the more flaws you see, the more areas you want to improve. The important thing is to use what you see is wrong as incentive for change. Never get down about it, it shows that you are getting better.
In my last blog post l told you how l was feeling fed up because l have had so many disasters lately. It is so easy to get discouraged about our work. It doesn’t take much to knock my confidence. Four pieces gone to the cupboard of no return - that had definitely left me feeling bad. But it can be something as simple as looking through too much amazing art on social media or a strange comment someone makes. We all know the feeling. And when you start feeling discouraged you don’t produce your best work and feel more discouraged and start a downward cycle.
So what can we do to make ourselves feel better and quickly? This is one thing I do. It is guaranteed to make you feel better in a few hours.
Find an old piece of art. Make sure you take a photo of it, just as it is. And then spend a few hours working on it.
You want to know why this is so motivating?
Well, the first reason that this is a really good pick me up, is that it is fun. All the tedious under layers are done, all you are doing is tweaking a piece. The best bits!
The second reason is that it is quick (comparatively). A piece like the one above would take me around a week from scratch. But l spent just five hours working on the old piece to improve it. So you see results fast.
And finally of course you see the progress you have made, l can see that the colors are richer and deeper. I can see that l have added more detail. I can see much more contrast. And l can see that the whole piece is much sharper.
After spending a few hours working on this piece l felt so much more motivated and ready to start on a fresh piece in a much more positive frame of mind.
Such a simple thing to do. So, if you are feeling a bit demotivated go and have a look for an older piece and give it a try. You will soon feel so much better.
l don’t know what has happened just lately - but l can’t produce a piece l feel even remotely happy with! This is the fourth piece in two weeks to go behind the cupboard of no return! It looks like scribble! It won’t pop! And l am feeling pretty fed up with it!
The image you see is four days work, a lot of hours for something to end up unfinished!
l really try to finish every piece, but occasionally l start to feel as though by carrying on l am wasting my precious time. And l feel like that with this piece. I was so excited to start it as well!
You wonder why l am sharing another disaster?
Well, l am sharing it because l want everyone to know that we all get pieces that don’t work. We all get times when we feel not good enough! It is normal to feel that way sometimes.
So, what have l done to make myself feel better? Something l have done before which l find very interesting and very motivating.
I went through my artwork and found a piece from a couple of years ago that l was quite happy with at the time. Actually, l have been saving it to frame it. But when I looked at it again, it didn’t look so good! Two years down the line, l can do better.
So l have taken a day out and spent 5 hours working on it. It is a fun thing to do as all the boring work is done. I just get to play around with the fun bits, and yes, at the end of five hours l see a noticeable improvement. That is really motivating when you are going through a bad patch.
l will share it with you on my next blog, but l would seriously recommend this as therapy to anyone who feels they are just not progressing! I feel better and ready to move on to something new, which hopefully won’t end up behind the cupboard of no return!
So l have had a full set of Derwent Inktense pencils sitting in my art room unused for nearly two years! I was so excited to get them, l couldn’t wait! I tried them once - didn’t like them and gave up! I bought the Inktense blocks at the same time and for some reason liked them better. I used them for several backgrounds. But the pencils, l was really disappointed with.
I don’t like the feel of the color lay down, it isn’t very smooth. The dry pencils don’t blend very well. And l can’t sharpen them to a fine enough point or get them to hold it.
A long and major list of dislikes here! But over the past few weeks l have been looking at them sitting there and been thinking l should really give them another try. They are unique pencils, like no other on the market and one try is really not a fair assessment. So, determined to give them another chance l got them out.
This time l decided that rather than trying to get all the detail with the pencils, l would use them to create a base layer to work my usual coloured pencils over. They still didn’t lay down smoothly (although l suspect a more toothy paper than l use might help with that), they still didn’t blend well dry. But when l used my favourite Artnfly water brush pens to blend them, the colors just popped off the page. They blended together with the beauty and softness of water color. The base they created was amazingly vibrant.
l am not actually certain whether l like the absolutely smooth blending result l got because it looks almost like digital art to me (and l promise you l have done no editing to blend the colors more smoothly). I would like to try adding more detail with the Inktense on top next time.
The vibrancy and saturation of the base layer meant that far fewer pencil layers were needed. This saved a huge amount of time but l do miss the subtlety of only colored pencil layers and the texture that can be seen from many layers of pencil in real life.
My other issue with Inktense is that they are not light fast rated which means l would be unhappy to sell pieces drawn using these pencils.
However, after a second attempt with these pencils l feel that l should have further experiments with them. They are a very unique and interesting pencil to work with. And l am really looking forward to trying them again.
l am finally back with a post! I try to be regular with these things but l am not good at it at all! However, p have something l really want to share with you. I know l have discussed many times about not giving up on drawings, but here l have learned a little more!
l drew the Betta Fish below a few months ago, the fish you see on your left as you look at the photo. It took me around 80 hours, and whatever l did l could not make it look interesting. I exaggerated the colors l could see in the reference photo, l added more contrast. Yet every time l looked at it my heart sank. It was just boring to my eyes. Same, same, same mid tones that l didn’t even like in combination!
l have actually become very good at completing things and sure enough l made myself finish this piece, but l hated it!
So all that work went behind the cupboard of no return! Only this time something returned! I looked at it again over the holidays and at all the work l had put into it. I decided that whatever l did to it, l couldn’t like it less than l already did! So l took out my pencils and began having fun with color.
Now you obviously l was limited to some extent because this is pencil. You can’t make it lighter, you can’t change blue to yellow. But allowing for those limits l was free to play. I added greens and purples and pinks and just kept adding. I increased the contrast for more depth and sharpened everything up.
lt was really fun just throwing the reference photo out of the window and doing whatever l felt like. The end piece might not be very realistic but at least it isn’t boring! And l have saved a piece l spent a very long time on!
Lesson - don’t be too quick to give up on a piece, a little more time and a bit of creativity can take something you don’t like into something totally different.
Instagram is full of beautiful photos. And for those of us who love drawing animals it is especially amazing. We are spoilt for choice! But did you know that you can’t just draw any photo that you happen to like?
I really wanted to talk about this, because photography is an art. It requires tremendous skill and dedication to take great photos. And when a photographer takes a photograph it belongs to them, even when they have shared it on Instagram. It is still their picture and they own the right to it.
So if you see a gorgeous photo that you would love to draw, you must ask the photographer for permission to use it. And this needs to be the original photographer, not just someone who has shared it.
It isn’t always easy to find the original photographer, especially as there are a lot of accounts that share other people’s photos without giving any credit.
Are you wondering why l am reminding people of this? Well, just recently l asked one photographer for permission to use their photo and they immediately blocked me! Rather an over reaction l think, a simple ,’no’ would have been just fine!
The point is there are some people who don’t want their photos drawn and just imagine how nasty this person might have been had l drawn one of their photos without permission.
Having said the above l have only ever had that one bad experience. The photographers on Instagram are incredibly generous, which brings me to the other thing l feel really strongly about.
lf someone is generous enough to allow us to use their photos, l think the least we can do is credit them prominently, say thank you. I always think a little ‘photo by ...’ tacked on at the very end of a post seems quite mean. These wonderful people could be uploading their photos to stock photo sites where we would have to pay (and sometimes a lot!) to use them. Be generous to them in return.
l hope these wonderful photographers will allow me to keep using their photos. I really want them to know just how much l appreciate them and their talent and generosity and kindness. So thank you to all the amazing photographers on Instagram l am so grateful to you all.
Today l wanted to talk about something l haven’t really discussed in a blog before. I often get asked by others what they can do to improve their work. Well, firstly l think of myself still as a beginner and secondly l am totally self taught so l can only really pass on what l have learned for myself. So my advice is always simple!
The first advice l give everyone is to take more time. Learn patience. I have written about it often enough and it is the biggest guaranteed way to improve.
But the second thing that would improve the work of nearly everyone who has asked me, is contrast. It is another thing l am still working on!
l wanted to share this close up photo of a tiny part of the Nicobar Pigeon l recently worked. The photo you are looking at (even if you are on a tiny mobile screen) is bigger than the actual size in real life.
Very often when people show me their work it is really good, there is nothing really wrong with it. The drawing is good. The colors are good. It is worked neatly. But the thing that stops the piece jumping off the page is that the colors are all mid tones. They are all too similar.
I chose this section to show you because you can see how the very lightest parts are near white and the darkest parts are black. And although l do use pure black (over other colors) it is always used very sparingly.
Without the very light and the very dark to contrast against the mid tones everything blends together. There are no points to grab your eyes.
Imagine looking at a blank piece of paper. Just plain white paper. There is nothing to focus on. It is not very interesting.
Now imagine a black spot in the corner of the paper. Now when you look at that paper all you can see is the black spot! It jumps out in contrast to the white paper.
When we use all midtones we are effectively creating a blank piece of paper. Our eyes find it uninteresting. When we start to add contrast our eyes are naturally pulled to those areas. We make our work interesting,
The problem with adding contrast as a beginner, is that it is scary! We think we will ruin our pretty colors by adding dark ones. So we are timid and add just a little. But it is not enough to create contrast.
One thing that l have learned is that it is almost impossible to add too much contrast. The darker your darks and the lighter your lights the more your work jumps off the page.
So if you have been looking at your art and wondering what you can do to improve, give it a go! You will be amazed what a little courage and a few dark colors can do!
If you want to see pictures showing the difference as you build up contrast click the link below on making your work look realistic. You can see step by step as l work darker and darker on some tail feathers.
l love to share when l find a great new product, so here is one l want to share with you. And before l say anything, l do want to say that l am not being paid to review this product. I only write reviews of products l use and recommend.
Erasing colored pencil is not easy. I have written a whole article on it (and will put the link at the bottom of this blog for anyone who wants to check it out). So l am always excited to try a new product.
My first attempt with this Artnfly battery eraser was a disaster! I am clumsy and all l did was smear color around the paper and make a mess! I nearly put it back in the box and behind the cupboard of no return without a second try.
But that just didn’t feel fair to me. Give a product a fair try before dismissing it.
The first thing l realized was that l just wasn’t used to the speed this thing spins at! You need to use a light grip and barely touch the paper!
It sprays bits of eraser everywhere, so a little messy. But once l got the hang of controlling it, this actually did the best job of erasing of all my erasers. You need to be patient and let it work through the layers. (Don’t let the eraser wear down to the metal holder or it will scratch the paper leaving marks you can’t cover). I found that this will take a heavy layered color down to very pale and will completely remove a light layer.
It also erases the lines from my transfer paper exceptionally well. Better than anything else l have tried. And it is awesome at cleaning up colored pencil dust.
l wish there was a finer eraser option for those tiny little spaces and obviously you need a supply of batteries.
It comes with a number of replacement erasers, but l would buy extras as well. You can use about half of each one before they are too short to work with.
l actually find this is my ‘go to’ eraser now - and l nearly didn’t give it a second try! I love this product.
l know! It has been sooooo long! Alas, an awful lot of painting of the not so fun kind (the house!) has been in the way! And you know what l have discovered? It is really hard to complete a picture when you only get to work on it for a few hours here and there over several weeks. I don’t just mean the obvious, that it takes a long time. But it is really hard to get not only the motivation but also to carry on where you left off. I forget which colors l was using, in which order. I forget how l was drawing something!
I wished like anything it hadn’t been this bad boy iguana that l was drawing when all this extra decorating needed to be done urgently.
Are you wondering why l said that? I love drawing all types of lizards .... but, and it is a big but, for me they take huge amounts of concentration and time. I have to work myself up to it for months before drawing one. So many of the textures demand such a high degree of accuracy, start going the wrong way or the wrong size and suddenly the whole piece looks wrong! My eyes have to work really hard and they know they have worked hard at the end of the day!
So each time l had a few hours to work on this it felt like l was beginning afresh, familiarizing myself with my colors again.
I have promised myself as my reward for sticking with it and completing it that l will have the treat of drawing a hummingbird next.
lt reminded me yet again that patience is one of the most important things to learn when it comes to art. Whether that it the patience to complete a piece, the patience to add more layers, the patience not to rush. The more patient we can learn to be, the better the art we produce (whatever our skill level may be).
If you want to see how l draw lizard skin the link to my tutorial is below. And l will be back very soon with a new hummingbird!
lt is always fun to try new pencils, so l was very excited to try out these from Artnfly. They come in a box of 48 colors for a very affordable price. These are an oil based pencil.
You will need something to store them in if you buy these as the box simply doesn’t work as storage. You can’t see the colors, just the points as you look into the box. So l had to tip them all out to see the colors and they are so fiddly to put back into the box that l just didn’t bother! It is a minor niggle as you can buy a case or roll, but l do like to be able to see the colors.
Talking of the colors, for me this is the best thing about these pencils, they have some really unusual but useful ones in the set. Colors that may make it worth adding these to other sets you own. Colors are numbered not named (l personally don’t mind either way as long as l can identify a color) from 1-48. Oddly the numerical order does not follow any color pattern, so if you lay them out in numerical order the colors are totally random.
The set contains a beautiful aqua blue and a more teal blue, and also a gorgeous raisin color, colors that don’t usually appear in many ranges.
The colors seem to contain plenty of pigment and are quite vibrant. They are very soft and strangely, although they say oil based, they feel very waxy. For me this was a problem, l found them very difficult to layer and blend. Eventually l tried odorless mineral spirits (which l don’t really use anymore) and this did the trick. The colors blended and l finally got rid of the annoying white dots. They remind me very much of working with Prismacolors.
I wondered how they would sharpen, because as you see in my photo the wood case appears to be joined, but l had no trouble at all sharpening them in my Carl Angel 5. The core is very soft so the points did wear down quickly (very like Prismacolor). And l had to use my Polychromos to add all the fine detail as l simply couldn’t get it with such a soft pencil. This is not particularly unusual for me, l use Polychromos to get fine detail with Caran D’ache Luminance and Holbeins too.
The colors are not lightfast tested which may be an issue if you want to sell your work. Again l want to remind people that not light fast tested means just that, we simply don’t know, they may or may not be lightfast to varying degrees. This always comes up as an issue with more affordable brands and l think it is good to remember at this point that you are getting 48 pencils for around the same price that you would pay for 4 Luminance pencils. Lightfast testing would push up the cost of pencils and not everyone has the budget for top end pencils.
Coming in a cardboard box with numbers not names are also things that keep costs down.
For me l find it very hard when reviewing the more affordable brands because l am used to working with the best three brands in the world and it simply isn’t fair to expect brands that may be a tenth of the price to perform at the same level. What l can say is that you can get a good result with these pencils (if you have a few pencils with a harder lead for fine detail), it just takes a bit more work and some odorless mineral spirits!
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