6D Minimal Setup: Feedback

December 23, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Back to Lesson Index

Well, this week’s sketches were a real treat for me! I am such a bag-aholic that it was pure delight to look through all the sketches.
Week6 Flickr 3
Once again, I am struck by how different we all are, not only in our individual styles which are unique to us but in the approaches that make us feel comfortable. So there are those that fear ink only, and those that find it more relaxing, those that loved measured setup and those that find gestural setup the right balance. I do believe that we do our best work when we are comfortable with our tools and our method of work as this means we are putting all our energy into observation and response. Of course, it is good to push and extend ourselves, to be always improving our skills, but never take away all your props if it results in a crashing to the ground!

The bag sketches

What was fascinating when I looked through the work on the Flickr group was how many people restated the bag straps between the setup and the ink lines. It got me thinking why.
We know and understand the body of a bag from our daily usage of it. We have a tactile experience of  how high, how wide and how deep it is. Whilst we must be careful to draw what we see from the particular angle of our viewpoint, our tactile knowledge does help us see better. The straps on the other hand must be very carefully observed as they are very different from our mental image and general usage. We must careful observe the edges and how they twist and turn in front of us. Having an awareness of the parts that are more tricky helps us focus our visual brain. I recall thinking during my demo “I have to concentrate on this part” when I came to draw the straps.
Week6 Flickr 2


There were lots of great shapes and interlocking forms and I am particularly impressed as this is a very hard subject to draw accurately. The most common perspective error occurs at the bottom edge of a roof – people consistently draw lines going in the completely wrong direction.  By focusing on edges and angles or simply shapes, your lines have been going in the right direction – a huge achievement – well done!

Those that did the ‘shape first’ version generally found that the result was surprisingly believable, and this again is a result of turning the ‘object brain’ off and trusting the visual brain to see angles.

Week6 Flickr 1

Other questions

Seeing Angles
I am becoming more and more convinced that the most important skill in drawing is the ability to see angles and convert them to lines on the page.

Trying to convert what you see into the angles of a clock face is probably the easiest. To see the angle, I draw in the air over the top – this helps me to abstract it into a line and use my visual brain, I then mentally convert it into the angle of the hands of a clock and draw it. The other techniques we have considered – relying on eye-hand coordination and using plumblines are also very useful. It depends on the exact subject you are drawing as to which technique will be the easiest.
Perspective helps a lot when drawing buildings and other geomtric shapes but the basic skill you need (before perspective) is … of course the ability to see the angles as accurately as you can.

What subjects require more careful setup?
The hardest subjects for me are ones with simple but strong geometrical forms, anything symmetrical and anything with an ellipse – the lighthouse example from Lesson 4 is a good example of this. These are the subjects that I feel need a certain degree of accuracy and therefore more measured setup.  A highly complex and decorated building would be a lot easier – there are more places to hide any inaccuracies or wonkiness.

Does Measured Setup help your general looser sketching?
Any one technique will help the others but I think specifically that a little dose of measuring goes a LONG way to improve your visual thinking. For example, the measuring I did of the foreshortened turquoise tube in Lesson 5 made me realise how short that length appeared and this will help me see more accurately in similar situations. A little bit of measuring goes a long way!

Working with Centrelines

LizSteel CentrelinesI would put a centreline down if it were a symmetrical object and/or if the centreline aligned through a number of different elements. This is often the case with classical buildings where the window shapes change from storey to storey. And of course a tea cup and saucer is another subject matter that benefits much from a centreline approach! The centreline is put down first and forms the basis for all the subsequent lines.

The reference in last week’s feedback post was regarding measuring between centrelines of objects. This is a harder thing to ‘see’ since you are measuring between invisible guidelines rather than measuring edges that are clearly visible in front of you. For the ‘bathroom composition’ there was no great advantage to working that way, but there are many situations (especially with architecture) where it would be an easier method.
I say ‘great advantage’ because the reason to work this way is to ‘ground’ the centre of an object in relation to the next object – rather than relying on getting the edges correct.

Choppy watercolour painting

640_LizSteel Choppy Watercolour Try to get more pigment and more water in your mixes and then load your brush as much as you can ie. soak up as much paint – note: a natural hair brush such as a sable will pick up more of the mix. Then try to cover the shape with the one brush stroke. If you don’t want variations then don’t lift your brush but  keep moving the bead of water to the end.

There are a lot of different ways to help with looseness… and it does take time. The question to ask yourself if what is causing the tightness?
A few ideas:

  • way you hold the pen – holding it like charcoal, or further back (more at a 45 degree than upright) or gripping loosely
  • trying to always work from the shoulder rather than wrist even though working small
  • using continuous line
  • setting a time limit for your work so you are making your lines quicker
  • making sure you abandon ALL expectations of accuracy
  • adding colour first and then adding line over the top
  • warming up using lots of doodle type exercises – drawing circles etc…

Is looseness most of all an attitude? It is something that comes over time… “I am comfortable, I am relaxed, I am confident with my tools – not always confident that my work will be great but I am at ease with the process of making.”
I think my looseness comes from years and years of design sketching – the pressure for me was coming up with a design, not the drawings…the lines were therapeutic and at the same time the only way I could work at a solution.

Things I do about ugly drawings
1. If I am  experimenting or trying something new, I draw at the back of the book, That way any people flipping through don’t see it but it is still in the book so I have a record of when I did it.
2. When I think it is going to get ugly –I  pause. Sometimes by keeping going I can recover it, other times I make it worse. I might make the wrong decision at times but at least it is conscious and not a panic attack. The habit of pausing and considering the work is a very powerful skill to have.
3. If I have a disaster out on location, I take a photo of the scene and then redo it when I get home
4. I try to make a nicely designed spread to hide the sketch – add a border, some text, a heading. If the overall page is pleasing to me I don’t notice the sketch so much.
5. I rarely rip out a page (maybe once a year!) and rarely collage over but I do put some tape closing up the ugly spread for the life of the sketchbook. It is still there but I am not looking at it while I am working through the book. After the book is completed and goes on the shelf I normally take the tape off – it is often not as bad when I come back to it. I often learn a lot when I review it after the negative emotional connection has been released.

We all have ugly drawings – I don’t think they ever go away (well perhaps if you develop a formula and stick to it over and over again… but that would be boring!) The more we work the higher our standards are. Risk taking and experimenting are much more fun!

Keeping up and Sharing Work

For those that are overwhelmed by the work on the Flickr group
Remember my No. 1 mantra: We share but not compare
I can’t stress enough the importance of this attitude, especially for beginners. Don’t compare yourself with people who have been working at their craft for years. We’ve all been beginners, we’ve had many failures and struggles and continue to do so! We all still have so much to learn and re-learn. Be Inspired, not overwhelmed, by the work of others!
The rest of my lecture is here

Trying to keep up with the Lessons

Whilst you have to be true to the way you learn best, my advice would be:

  • Don’t try to master everything in the lesson every week! The lessons are multi-layered so there is something for everyone.
  • You can’t really absorb it all in one week… or even in one month. You need the time to work it out for yourself and absorb into your way of working.
  • I think it is better to get the general overview and think about the week’s concept, and then move onto the next so that you are getting the full picture. It is like reading a book and then going back to re-read and study parts in detail.
  • The outdoor prompts for the first half of the course are less important than the indoor exercise. The indoor exercises are designed to really explain the concept and my goal was to make that part of the course more achievable on a weekly basis.

Tomorrow’s lesson contains two full demos showing how I put all the concepts for week 1- 6 together. There is just one simple prompt and no new concepts till Lesson 8 on Wednesday 7 Jan.

PDF Handout

SkN Foundations 06 Feedback

Happy Holidays everyone!

Back to Lesson Index