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Getting started

So how do you get started with a drawing? There are many ways to accomplish this. First you must decide what it is you are to draw and whether it is from a photo or life. The techniques for each are quite different. Since I work from photos primarily I will continue along that line

Most people will use a line drawing to construct their image. These need to be done very lightly with a soft pencil so it can be easily erased or blended into the toning process. Some artists will do an involved line drawing indicating major tonal shifts as well as main feature boundaries. Others will simply do feature boundaries. I do not use many construction lines when I work. Instead I often use a projector to get the scale set and plot the left side eye very basically. Then I will sculpt it until I am pleased with the shape and appearance. Then use that for measurements and move outward from there.

Free hand. This is the most difficult and generally least accurate method of doing a line drawing.  Experienced artists or exceptionally talented/skilled ones can do outstanding freehand drawings but the beginner is advised to practice free hand style, but urged to use one of the other transfer methods until they have developed the skill necessary to do a freehand line drawing.

Whiteness. Different papers are made with varying degrees of whiteness. They can range from yellowish to a bright white. This has little effect on the drawing itself, however if you wish to release prints of your work, the whiter the paper the better.

Projectors. There are a number of these on the market although they are somewhat pricey. The less expensive projectors have some resolution issues due to the inexpensive optics. Images tend to become distorted and blurred on the peripheries. I would not attempt to try to do an entire drawing under one of these. In addition to the distortion, the heat would become too intense. I use one strictly to position the image in scale on my paper and to position the one eye properly. After that I do not use the projector any further in the project. I do this to save time as it is undoubtedly the fastest method to get the first graphite on the paper.

Grid  Method. This is one of the most popular and most accurate means of transferring a photo reference. It also allows for changing the scale of the drawing with great accuracy. To use it you will need to either print out your reference and draw the grid on that or make an acetate overlay with a grid on it. The size of the grid is important as far as the detail required. I made some acetate overlays using AutoCad and printing them on a laser printer. You could also use a program such as Excel to do so. Or you could use a sharpie and draw it yourself with a straightedge. The trouble with using a sharpie is that it will bleed/blotch if you stop moving and the line is directly proportionate to the pressure you use which will undoubtedly vary along the length. Lastly you could draw the grid on a printout of your reference photo. Just be sure to start the grid in a corner. Then determine what size your production piece will be and use math to decide the size of the grid to be drawn on that. For instance, you have got the grid on your image and you are ready to resize it to fit your production paper.

Here the image is 4"x3" with a ½" grid drawn on it. We count the grid as 8 squares across and 6 vertically. Let’s say you wanted to do a production piece that was 12x9. You would divide the 12 by 8 and the 9 by 6. This would give a grid of 1.5" on the production piece. You would measure this off with a ruler and draw the grid VERY LIGHTLY on the production piece. It is CRITICAL that you NOT use a hard pencil for this. Hard pencils will emboss the paper even though they are very light. It is strongly recommended that you use something like a 2B pencil to draw the grid but do it very lightly. This way the grid lines you draw will be absorbed into the drawing as you tone or they are easily erasable. If you use a hard pencil thinking it is very light, you will emboss the lines in the paper and they will show through the final drawing with nothing to be done for it. Here is my first grid transfer in which I did exactly that. You can clearly see the grid lines in the paper.

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