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Drawing: My general method (part 3)

January 21, 2011

If you haven’t read them already, you may be interested in my first and second posts for this topic. I’m talking a little about my drawing process, specifically for this picture.

[Please excuse the photos from this series–I didn’t know exactly what I’d want to cover when I took them, so I am now wishing I had some better shots.]


The first step I took was to make an outline of the main objects by following the grid on my page against the grid over the original image. In the above photo you’ll see a reminder of the original picture in the bottom left corner (imagine a grid over it) and part of my first sketch. I marked out where a dark shadow would be over the hand to help guide me later.


Next, I focused on the first hand. (No, I didn’t mean to position the kneaded eraser so it looks like the hand is tossing it across the page. :P) Now I’ll just talk a bit about drawing as I know it. I don’t really know how to organize my thoughts, so bear with me.

So much of drawing (in this style) is not drawing itself, but seeing what needs to be drawn. I have to really study the original that I’m drawing from. If I overlook a particular shadow or highlight, I can throw off the realism I’m after.

To give something a three-dimensional look, it needs to have plenty of shadows and highlights in varying degrees, just like what happens naturally. I try to note spots of dark shading, medium, and highlights, and then plan a range. The darkest shadows can be “black” and the lightest can be “white” (or paper-colored). I need to figure out good mediums for the other areas and be sure they still stand out from the darks and lights. If all of the shadows were just one tone, your picture is then just two “colors” and flat-looking as a result.

Highlights stand out when they are next to a shadow. To bring out contours, it’s good to have extremes next to each other. I usually need to exaggerate every darkness and lightness in order to make things stand out as they need to. Note that I put a darker shade behind the fingers so they show up against the background.

Smudging/blending is important, at least in my drawings. Art stores sell stumps and other products to help with smudging, but I find I do the most with either my fingers or Kleenex. I’m classy! I will often start with an overly-dark patch and then smudge to create the medium-range shadows near it.

Erasing is part of drawing. It’s just drawing in reverse! I go back and erase-in my highlights since I can’t help but smudge too far and darken areas that need to be paper-colored. I erase to bring out bright spots and define edges.


These two images were taken three days apart. When the left photo was taken, I wasn’t happy with my work. I almost always get to this point in a drawing where I know something isn’t right, but I can’t quite figure it out, and I start feeling hopeless like it’s too late to fix things. I was having a hard time erasing and blending, so I went to the art store and bought a couple of new supplies. The new pencil I got was soooo helpful in smoothing things out, and the clean eraser helped fix some problem areas.

I also had to go back to the original grid and re-evaluate where I had placed certain shadows and borders. There was some funky roundness on the fingers that didn’t look right, so I basically redrew in some of the crucial lines and started over with the shading. It just took some studying to see where I had gone wrong. I don’t know if you can even tell (these photos kind of suck) the difference in the two pictures, but some minor changes were done that made a big difference to me.


I had a challenge with my original picture, and that was the blurry patch in the foreground. It’s one thing to have blurry cards in a photo, but in a drawing it would just look weird. I decided to just use an actual card as my reference for the card being dealt. I laid down a card and took a photo at an angle that I felt represented the angle in the drawing (and the angle someone would be seeing the card if they were across from the dealer). Then I worked loosely from that photo. It’s far from perfect, but I was satisfied (I settle for way less than perfection in my drawings!). I did some vague lines to give the card a recognizable Bicycle look, but didn’t stress over the details. I’m just not really a details person when it comes to pictures.

And, as you saw before, this was my resulting picture (after some more shading, erasing, blending, etc. etc.):

Faaarrrrrr from perfect, but good enough for me. I don’t know how many hours were devoted to this drawing, but I don’t like to push things too far past the Line of Fun, so it couldn’t have been that many.ย 
I hope some of my notes were helpful, though I realize I wasn’t ultra specific in this entry. Like anything, it just takes practice (something I could use!) and a willingness to try different things to get your desired result.ย Thanks for reading!

[Some snippets of pictures I’ve made in the past.]
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7 Comments
  1. Anonymous permalink

    So, so nice. I didn't even think about the fact that the card was blurry so you had to use a real one. Interesting and cool. I love your artwork. You amaze me. Really. -R

  2. Anonymous permalink

    Oh, and in your snippets, I don't see the one of three of my kids … that was outstanding as well and I'm always proud to showcase it in our home — when I finally get around to hanging things in this house, I know it'll have a place of honor along with other photographs of yours I have framed. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for helping me decorate! -R

  3. Thanks..you're definitely too generous. Yeah I did forget that one, but I also was looking at it last night thinking it looked childish. And not because it's a drawing of children. ๐Ÿ˜› But thanks for liking it. Many of my drawings I don't even have the full scan of because I somehow lost a bunch of files at one point and I only have those little cropped thumbnails. It's a little sad.

  4. Wonderful! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Anonymous permalink

    Wow, this whole series of posts is just amazing and eye-opening to me. I didn't have even the slightest clue about any of this. Some of the most interesting stuff I've read in a long time! Thank you for posting and sharing this with us, it was really fun! And R is right, you are very talented, even if you refuse to admit it.

    -Dan

  6. Erasing in highlights seems like a great method to me!

  7. Mike and Dan – thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚ Dan, what an awesome comment! ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

    Brenda – yeah it's always nice to be able to erase!

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