Monday, January 21, 2013

Nothing Behind The Photographer

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I had fun doing today’s post, but it was almost all accidental.

It’s been a long time since I did a cartoon, so it was fun to get back to little sketches and captions. And it’s been a long time, too, since I did any kind of drawing.

I had thought of this caption a long time ago, back when I first saw that photograph of Marion Cotillard from some fashion magazine.

But I never really set out to do either a drawing or a cartoon this weekend.

What happened was, I got to thinking about the differences between drawings that start with careful guidelines and drawings that start just directly with the features of whatever the final image will be. These days images are usually so highly structured that you don’t often see an image that wasn’t built on careful guidelines. Even ‘naive’ art these days is often a professional artist tracing over a photograph onto a new layer in Photoshop using a high-res tablet.

So I did a sketch freehand based very, very roughly on that Marion Cotillard photograph. I liked the sketch, but when I was thinking about putting it on the blog, I noticed that I had skewed the features of the face away from the centerline. Even though that had been kind of the point of the sketch to begin with, to just take it as it comes, I’ve become so used to seeing “solid” images that almost without thinking I crumpled up the drawing.

But then I felt stupid. I mean, the point of my sketch was just to do a quick, fun sketch and then, when I actually had a quick, fun drawing, I tossed it away.

So I was mad at myself and I made myself sit down, again, and do another sketch, also freehand and without guidelines, just on a regular sheet of plain copier paper.

This new sketch, too, was less than perfect, but I kept at it because I reminded myself it’s just an exercise, just for fun.

But then because I was using a plain mechanical pencil rather than a graphite drawing pencil, as I fussed with the image a little the graphite began to smear and erasers weren’t working too well at picking up the cheap graphite.

It occurred to me that if I did one or two quick watercolor washes over the image that would ‘fix’ the graphite to the paper fibers. So I did that. Then I could even erase one or two little places.

So then I had a graphite and watercolor drawing and it wasn’t great but I didn’t want to just toss it away. So I figured I could put on a caption—again working freehand for the letters without careful guides just baselines—and make it a kind of rough cartoon.

And that’s the story of today’s post.

This was fun. I haven’t come to any conclusion about careful drawings versus quick sketches. I prefer to look at careful drawings. But I have more fun doing quick things like today’s rough sketch. I suppose the real goal is to develop enough skill so that better, really well-crafted images can be created quickly and off-the-cuff.

But I don’t know if that can ever happen for me. I like cameras, too, so when it comes to buckling down and acquiring skill, I remind myself I can just take a picture if I want “skill.”

So I don’t know. But I enjoyed doing this.

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