What is Drawing and Sketching?

Drawing is not just making lines with a pencil to represent a figurative scene. Drawing can be done with tone, line, texture, colour, pen, stick and ink, pencil, charcoal, brush, pen, pastel, crayon, in fact almost any medium.

There is often a very fine divide between drawing and painting, as a drawing may be tinted or coloured. Drawings are usually associated with the above mediums, but you may well ask yourself the difference when using a brush as to whether you are painting a line or drawing it? Painting, for our purposes we will assume that a colour work covering nearly all the surface and done with a brush and paint, pastels, or laid by tools such as rag, knife will constitute painting. A Drawing we will consider as done in linear colour, or a little tinting on a drawing, linear work, tonal work other than in paint, or textural work other than in paint. Sketching should not be considered an excuse for a bad drawing, merely a fast and perhaps looser drawing which is slightly governed by constraints in time and has to give maximum information in its limited content. An artist such as Munch with his style of using linear strokes of paint almost seems to border on drawing with paint!

Neither does drawing mean a photographically correct representation of a scene. Drawing can lean towards the abstract, even decorative.

I will explore drawing under the following headings =)
Materials and Tools, The Illusion of Perspective, Shapes and drawing skills, Techniques and examples in Line, Tone, Texture.

A drawing of an artist done approx. 440 B.C. – Almost Art Nouveau in appearance! A drawing by Degas 1865, then a tonal print of a painting by Munch “The Scream”, almost seems like a drawing?

Materials and Tools: What can we draw with?
Aboriginal sand paintings are done by carefully sprinkling coloured sand. A stick will make a mark in the sand on the beach, the tatooist on the human body! The answer is that almost anything that can make a mark can be drawn with.

Not only can all of these different mediums be used on their own for different effects, many can be used together.

We will concentrate, here, on the most commonly used and readily available drawing materials, but you should not be afraid to experiment further yourself whenever you wish.

For most ordinary drawing purposes with pencils, ordinary white drawing cartridge paper is most commonly used. The term sketch pad refers, usually, to a book or pad of cartridge paper that can be easily taken anywhere for drawing. Some are of slightly higher quality and thicker paper is used. This is useful if a little paint is to be used, but beyond that and into watercolours you may need to get a proper watercolour pad! Sugar paper is another cheap and lower quality coloured paper that can be useful when a tonal or coloured background is needed. Hand made papers are expensive but can be purchased in wonderful textures and surfaces, some including seeds and petals in their makeup. Brown paper can also be a good ground to draw on and will allow some lights as well as darks to be used.

Pencils are not made of lead, the black colouring is Graphite. This comes in different hardness, the softer graphite giving a darker mark. They are coded with H and B grades. Think of these as standing for H for Hard and B for Black! 4B is very Black and soft 2B is not so soft, H.B. is in the middle and 4 H would be like using a needle to draw with and give a faint line.
I would suggest having only an H.B, a 2B and a 4B in your box for drawing and shading. Softer darker pencils can be used by choosing charcoal pencils. These have a much richer blacker mark but lose the silvery depth of the graphite. A pure stick of graphite with no wood encasing is available, it is the same size as a pencil and can be sharpened in the same way. This is simply called a “graphite stick”

Charcoal sticks are made from thin twigs of Willow, heated with a lack of oxygen. It is useful to rake around in an expired outdoor wood fire for a possible lump of charcoal to draw with. It is also possible to wrap a piece of willow up in tinfoil and bake it in the oven, but an extractor fan is wise as the resulting smoke can be evil! Different woods will give different effects of charcoal.

Stick and Ink.
A piece of dowel or simply a piece of twig from a tree, which is sharpened, then dipped into a bottle of Indian Ink, will draw a lovely line. This is far nicer than the line drawn with a felt tip and is very useful for fast flowing drawings of moving animals.

Pen and Ink.
A traditional way of drawing than if used with waterproof ink can be tinted with watercolour or coloured inks at any time. New, fine line pens are now available in waterproof inks and are more easily transported and used – but their permanence is still suspect and after duration in sunlight they can tend to go brown and vanish.

Aquarel or Water soluble Pencils.
These are coloured pencils that can be blended with water as they are used or later. They are usually softer than ordinary coloured pencils.

Coloured Pencils.
As they sound, simply coloured pencils. They are usually fairly hard.

Pastel Pencils.
If softer coloured pencils are required, especially for working on sugar or coloured pastel paper then these will be useful.

Brush Drawing.
The brush is a wonderful drawing instrument. The Japanese have been taught to write and draw with a brush before a pencil! It gives a versatility of line that cannot be obtained any other way. Used with inks or paints both flowing and textural marks are possible.

Drawing Board, Clips/Low Tack Tape/Drawing Pins.
A board large enough to hold your paper and with a smooth surface. A piece of hardboard is cheap, will do, and is light, but a board of one inch ply is better still and will not warp, especially if paper is stretched wet onto it. Hardboard will not like drawing pins and is a bit thin for clips.

A rubber can be used for blending and smudging as well as rubbing out. I would advise a putty rubber as being most useful. It can be cut in half and one half kneaded into a clean point for fine rubbing out and highlights, the other for getting messy and blending.

Conte’ or Inscribe pastels are the obvious choice for drawing, other than pastel pencils, as they are fairly hard.

Pencil Sharpener or Craft Knife.
Clearly you will need to sharpen your pencils.

Camera Obscura.
This simply refers to a piece of card about five inches long by four inches high with a window cut out of it to see through and choose your composition through. It aids you to gauge scale and the relative position of objects one to another. You can mark the facing inside window into halfway and quarters and eighths. Some artists even make the window into a grid by gluing dark cotton across at these measurements. The use of this and checking scale with a pencil will be dealt with later in these notes.

Plumb Line.
Very few artists use this, but a lot of sculptors do. Most artists simply gauge a rough vertical with a brush handle or pencil, but a piece of string with a small fishing weight at the end can be very useful if you are not sure of a vertical angle, figure or building.

The Illusion of Perspective
Each mark that we make upon the paper that is supposed to represent a real scene or object, and therefore fool the eye and brain, is a lie. It is not creating a real scene, merely the illusion if a scene. What I am going to do here is to show you how to “lie” more effectively! Perspective is an invention by artists to give the illusion of distance and receding objects.

The paper’s surface is a one dimensional plain, it is flat. We are going to give it the effect of being two dimensional, of going back, by the use of line, tone and texture. Painters can also use colour and potters and sculptors can take the surface forwards and back to produce low relief and full sculptures that are three dimensional, seen all round.

I will divide this into two halves of basic and advanced perspective.
The basic will give you all you need to know to start drawing most landscapes and still life, whilst the advanced you can attempt with a bit more experience and if you need more of a challenge?
See how many deliberate “perspective” faults you can see in this picture?

The Horizon Line.
This is the foundation stone to most perspective laws and scale. The Horizon is not where the sky meets the land, as there could be mountains! The horizon is where the sky meets the land if the land was absolutely level all of the way until the gentle curvature of the earth means you can see no further and the sky meets it. E.g.

In Fig. 1 the grey area represents the earth’s curved surface, at the very point that the girls eye level sees over the top of the curve it is the horizon. When we view it from her point, as in Fig 2. it becomes a level horizontal line. Anything at the same level as this horizon and on the same ground level, is the same height as she is, or we are. Therefore the figure on the left is only half our height! The two lines that appear to make a road away from us in Fig 2. are parallel lines which will meet at the horizon, this is called the Vanishing Point. Here they would disappear over the horizon due to the roundness of the earth. Having just one vanishing point, like his, is called single point perspective. The next illustration will demonstrate this in more detail.

 In the illustration above you can tell the door is slightly higher than the person’s head as it is above the horizon. All of the lines that recede go back to the one vanishing point. The others remain horizontal, the two trees are the same size, even though one is smaller in the distance. You know this by it’s height above the horizon being the same as the one closer to us to scale and eye level. They are approximately twice as tall as the figure?

 In this drawing you see two point perspective, there are two vanishing points. All of the receding lines go back to the two vanishing points on the horizon. Again you can tell the scale of people on the level ground, as their eye level is the same as yours. The smaller figure (3) would have to be a child or someone in a hollow? I have shown a figure (2) on top of another’s head to show that the house is twice the height of you. The figure in the distance (1) is a bit taller than us as the head is slightly above the horizon, or they are on a slight rise.

In (1&4) above, you can see how a cube and a tube would be extended back to a vanishing point. In (2) how a vertical tube would be cut into sections at different levels. This would give you the ellipses for a table top (3), tree, still life object such as a cup or bottle, tower or any tubular form. The tube (5) does the same but explains that this is still, actually, happening in perspective like the cube going back. The ends of ellipses are always rounded and never become a point! Where it is cut off at the horizon line it would be absolutely level.

Now let us look at how to make things seem lower or higher than us. For instance a valley and some hills?

As things recede into the distance so they become smaller and appear to become closer together. Three is a very simple way to make equally spaced objects do this correctly. This could be used on fence posts, railway sleepers, trees, or anything that is equally repetitive. (A) & (B) are a single point perspective going to a vanishing point. Th first and second lines are drawn as fence posts. A diagonal is then drawn from the top of (1) at (A) to the bottom of (2) at (B). After (2) the diagonal is drawn again at exactly the same angle to reach the base line (B) and that is where the next fence post will be placed. The single vertical line on the right has had a diagonal dropped from it ready for the second post. This would then be repeated, the posts will automatically become closer as the perspective lines converge.

Tip. Verticals in normal perspective remain Vertical. A common mistake is to let fence posts fall over at an angle!


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