Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Little decisions

I have drawn the same building three times over the last three years. It wasn't intentional, and it's not a significant building. It just happens to be the scene out a window at a cafe I like.

When choosing what to draw, I will more often consider my own comfort and the availability of good coffee over any other consideration, including whether or not the view is worth drawing. I can usually find something of interest to sketch if the chairs are comfortable.

But in this case, I like this little scene. It's a bit quirky and feels very 'Melbourne' to me. I also like the building and the surrounding laneways. It's a favourite part of the city.

When I look at the drawings I can see their similarities. Each was drawn with an ink fineliner. The first one was probably a Uni Pin, can't remember the second, and the third was a Micron. I like switching pens to see how they go and I'm not very loyal to brands.

Even though on first viewing these drawings look extremely similar, I can also detect small differences.

The hatching is looser on this first one, and I chose to show the entrance to the lane which runs to the left of the Centre House building. I don't think this was a particularly successful decision, but that's okay. The drawing wasn't sketched out in pencil first, it was ink straight on the page, so I was pretty much winging it. I also didn't show the point at which the building met the ground, which was typical of my drawings at this time.

The next one was part of a panel page, which dictated most of my decisions. It was nice to have the freedom to only show a section of the building and not feel overwhelmed by 'grounding' it in context. I used a little watercolour wash on this one in addition to hatching.

I did this final one just last month and I can see it's more successful, both because my skills had improved and because I had a plan.

Having drawn the building before, I knew I didn't want to show the adjacent lane to the left, so I simply blocked it out with black pen. I used less hatching this time, but the hatching I did use is tighter and to better effect I think.

I also used grey and black pen to show some shadow, but not too much. The red awning was done in pen, the previous two coloured with watercolour. The fact that the little shop beneath it was closed meant I got to draw a very cool roller door covered in graffiti (and avoided the complicated counter of the open shop). And finally, the building touched the ground. As buildings are want to do.

So what did I learn from drawing the same scene thrice?

- Have a plan. Decide what I will and won't include in the drawing before I put pen to paper. This means a bit of editing has to go on in my head before I begin. There's no harm in sitting with a scene for a while before opening the sketchbook.

- Select (and limit) materials. If it's a pen drawing, make it pen. If it's watercolour, then it's watercolour. Or graphite and watercolour. Whatever. Just make a decision at the outset. Every time I decide at the eleventh hour a pen drawing could do with a bit of colour, I overwork it and it ends in disaster. It's not so evident here (I often don't show these disasters) but sometimes less is more. For me, anyway.

- Keep drawing. I can see a progression of skills over the year and a half these drawings span. The more I draw, the more confident I get in the decisions I make on the page.

- And lastly, experiment now and then. I can see that I haven't deviated much in my materials of choice. I would like to try dip pen or fountain pen for a more fluid line. And maybe try this scene using only watercolour (scary). But it would be good to step outside my comfort zone and see what happens.