Daaa Dummm daaa DUM, Daaaaa Dummm daaa DUM: Paint By Numbers Perry Mason

January 10, 2013


Left: Sketch of Raymon Burr in "Perry Mason." Dry Stabilo All (orange) on Richeson Recycled watercolor paper, 8.5 x 11 inches.

OK, it's not "paint-by-numbers" but it looks like the canvases for those kits doesn't it?

I drew this image of Raymond Burr when I had been fighting a killer headache all day (but really wanted to sketch something). 

I had been working in brush pen and NO ONE was looking like themselves. Dick came in after his swim to chat. I whined quite a bit about the sorry state of affairs. He shook his head and went to the kitchen to make himself a sandwich.

I put down my pen and picked up an orange Stabilo All pencil. Since I hadn't been getting anywhere with the brush pen it was time for a change. I stopped the TV when Perry turned to look at Della…

I started with the right eye (on the viewer's left) and worked out from there, more slowly than I usually work, though the sketch was done in less than 10 minutes. 

It's essentially a contour drawing of all the different planes in his face. I worked very deliberately rechecking spatial distance before I put a line down. (I had to lower the chin after I drew it, but there is a plane of shadow there too, so that doesn't bother me.)

Black and white TV from this time period is fantastic for this. Everything was lit for drama. (I also put in the shape of his cast shadow on the wall.) (You can see an earlier sketch of Raymond Burr done with the Aquash Brush Pen here and read about my fascination with the TV show.) 

Part of me wanted to paint this right away. Part of me couldn't bear to cover up the lines. That second part of me won and I decided to keep it this way. It makes me smile. Which is a great result on a day like this.

Also slowing myself down and being so deliberate had the effect of breaking the headache up. I was able to get 5 hours of computer work done as if nothing had happened. Enough work that I felt it perfectly reasonable to go and sketch some more (this time peppers from the fridge).

But this sketch still makes me laugh. 

    • Barbara
    • January 10, 2013

    On the danger of this being a dumb question….

    When you sketch in front of the TV, you don’t stop the program, do you? I know there are gadgets that allow you to stop a program while it keeps recording in the background. Or you could record it, then play it and stop where necessary.

    That is possible, but from the way you usually work, you sketch from life animals directly in ink. So I can’t picture you taping a program first before sketching. Which would mean that you would sketch the actors while they move! 😮

    I can hardly wrap my mind around that. On the other hand, I could not wrap my mind around sketching directly in ink animals that might be polite enough to stand around for a while on occasion but often just move around. Or even sketching a still life directly in ink. Still, I did that because you inspired me too and it was one of the most important steps I took in my quest to learn how to draw.

    Guess I should give that a go as well….

  1. Reply

    Barbara, there isn’t a short answer to that, but it requires a bit of history and discussion of intention.

    With nature items such as birds or animals on safari (on a wilderness program for instance) I almost never stop the action because I’m trying to practice sketching as it would be if I were out and about in nature. I’m working on getting the impression as well as developing my visual memory.

    There is a problem though, that the camera man in any situation never looks at the object you want to look at for very long. So sometimes there’s rewinding.

    In the 1980s and 1990s I had only the TV and a video tape machine. You don’t want to stop tapes (or so I was told) and put them on pause for long because the tapes stretch. So during that time I didn’t even try to pause the tape.

    As machines improved, opportunities and ways to work multiplied. When my friend Linda got a CD player in her lap top in 2000 the whole world opened up because we could stop the action wherever we wanted and because of digital counters return to the same point over and over exactly. We could also turn the lap top upside down and draw upside down, which was great fun and is a fun drawing exercise and a great game (if you have a lap top).

    So since 2000 I do whatever I feel like.

    I’ll sketch interview shows where people keep talking and the camera cuts from one to the other, while the action is happening, and do several drawings at one time (though I don’t do this as much as I “should” and I have friends who only do this and they are very determined). And with nature type shows I’ll still let the action play and pretend to be on safari.

    But since the conk on the head I find that I have an easier time of it with stationery images (I don’t have the visual memory I used to have and I don’t have the mind-hand connection). So for people, like Perry, I’ll actually stop the TV action. (I’ll do this when I watch DVDs too.)

    In this way it becomes similar to how I sometimes work from photos at my computer—I’ll put up my photos from some adventure and then sit back and sketch from those.

    I believe that working both from life and photos (well and also sketches which you’ve made for reference) is all part of the sketching package.

    I also believe, however, that it is most useful for people to learn to sketch from life first. There is something about the flattening that happens with 2-D representations like photos and video/film that changes the way things are perceived, and also distorts things. If you have made a habit of drawing from life your mind can compensate for some of that.

    It is also much more fun for me to draw from life than from photos/video/film. But I no longer have a life model living at home (Dottie) and I have an insatiable desire to draw for hours everyday (especially if what I’m working on that day doesn’t involve any drawing or involves drawing I’m personally uninterested in); so drawing from photos and video gets me drawing, keeps me sane.

    I rate things in this way from my preference and how I feel it has helped me over time:

    1. drawing from life (zoos, pet stores, farms, the State Fair, animals and birds in the parks, all those sorts of things). (Though I have to save I have recently been banned from sketching in my local pet store—they just don’t want it and it’s their store, so obviously I didn’t fuss, but it is quite sad. Nursing homes, I’ve found, usually have large aviaries and I’m making do with them.)

    2. drawing from taxidermy at places like the Bell Museum (or Cabella’s) (because there the animals are 3-D but they aren’t going to move and get away from you, and you can sit on the floor and look up at them and get an idea of different angles and how they occupy space.

    3. Using photos/film/videos for drawing practice.

    I make a habit of only drawing from my own photos because those items may actually become paintings. Drawing from film/video I do for practice.

    Something to keep in mind when working with live animals in the above circumstances (particularly zoos and the Fair) they are in enclosed spaces and will return to the same stance frequently so you just have to keep watching and waiting and draw another few seconds on the face looking at you for instance, and then when they turn away, well you can look at their paws and draw those for detail studies, whatever attracts your attention or whatever you think you’ll need to observe for later.

    So in that way, even though the animal is moving it isn’t difficult at all because they aren’t moving much, and over time you develop quite a comfort zone.

    The black rooster shown on a page spread in the video flip through of my State Fair Journal 2013 which I posted the other day was drawn from life while it was in a crate that was about eye level height with me. He moved around a little bit, but after watching him for a bit he felt my energy and he calmed down and he moved much less, and he always returned to the same position (Chickens are always keeping an eye on anything they think might be a threat, hence the numerous profile views I do of birds—because they are eyeing me.) When he shook, or glanced elsewhere I worked on some part of the sketch that was unchanged by the bird’s actions, or recalled from memory what the angles were in that area. Then when he put his head back into the position I was looking for I’d draw more in the crucial bits.

    And so it goes, until you get to the point you’re either finished, or you’re finished because you’ve got what you want.

    Come back to the blog on Monday and you’ll see a video of my Wisconsin journal where I drew a friend’s dogs from life for 3 days. I write about that in the post that goes with that video, working on portions, stopping, etc.

    Oh, and I almost forgot, but it is very, very important. I stop for roadkill, get out and draw it. I’m very careful about it, i.e., I won’t touch things because of disease and parasite transmission; I won’t stand down wind of something; and I obviously won’t stand in the middle of the road. But I have spent many a productive hour sketching from roadkill. It gives me an opportunity to see the animal up close and personal, including all the various parts, and it allows me to honor the dead animal. (It also allows me to study decomposition and insect cultures.)

    Drawing from photos/film/video can never show us the whole picture the way our eye sees it. If you go somewhere and take photos that you intend to draw from later, I suggest you also take time to make some sketches as well, before you leave—sketches of what the animal’s eyes look like, or how the hair grows on the neck, etc. There are so many little details that you can see in life and sketch quickly, even just jot notes down about. And all of that will help you later when you need to draw or paint the animal but are no longer standing there with the animal, and all you have are some poorly exposed photos. Get out your sketches.

    I’m thrilled that you followed my suggestion and sketched directly in ink. I think it is one of the most important steps one can take to learn to draw. It doesn’t matter if you’re sketching still life set ups or animals that move. Committing with the pen directly is a great thing and helps us quickly train our eye and hand.

    Now maybe you’ll find time to incorporate some TV sketching as well, whether it’s moving or stop action. It will be another bit of the kit. It’s important to keep working.

    Thanks for writing in with a great question.

    • Barbara
    • January 11, 2013

    Thank you for answering me my question in detail with so much useful background and suggestions! 🙂

    I will certainly sketch from moving and stopped action TV, beginning with my favourite shows. Animals, flowers and people are the three themes I’m most interested (landscape usually leaves me cold – who needs a background anyway?). I have made a lot of progress with animals and flowers and to some extent people over the last year but I am still struggling hard to get the basic proportions right and get away from rigid, masklike features. Stopping a drama show will hopefully give me more expressive poses and stronger emotions than you can find in many photo references.

    The biologist in me is delighted to find that I’m not the only one studying roadkill with interest.

    I’m looking forward to the video on Monday! Until then – take care!

  2. Reply

    Barbara I’m glad you’re going to add this to your sketching process. You talk about masklike features—you might want to go to the library and find books of photo references for artists that deal with the face, to use those for practice. There are a lot of such books now as well as “virtual pose” books which allow you to turn a photo of a model in space. And there is a growing list of books of photo reference for “fantasy” artists—actors in various poses and costumes. All of them might provide something fun for you to work from.

    If proportions are something that is bothering you I would recommend that you try something like Charles Bargue drawings. I wrote about them here and also linked a short video of someone working one.

    And of course I would recommend, if you live in the Twin Cities, going over to take classes at the Atelier. Depending on where you are you might have an atelier type school near you. They’ll have lots of exercises and PRACTICE for you to get your proportions right.

    I have some other drawing books here that I can’t recommend yet as I haven’t read them, but they are basically along those same lines. And of course working with Betty Edward’s Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is a great way to improve in areas of proportion.

    As an artist I’m glad to hear of a biologist out there interested in road kill! It is fascinating to sketch. I forgot to send the link to my favorite sketch from roadkill
    It’s a colored pencil piece done on vellum. It was so sad to see the little guy, but it was wonderful to have a chance to try and get some detail down about his foot.

    Good luck with your sketching.

    • Barbara
    • January 14, 2013

    Thanks for even more great suggestions! 🙂

    Sadly, I don’t live anywhere near the Twin Cities. 🙁 I don’t even live on the same continent. (I’m from Germany.)

  3. Reply

    Barbara, well I’m sorry you’re not here because you would have lots of options as several of Richard Lack’s students have set up schools in the area.

    You could google art ateliers in your area. There must be some in Germany. Or maybe email some of the ateliers in this country and ask if they know of any. There’s this school which has locations in the US, Canada, Edinburgh, and London. They might know of someone in your area.

    The Atelier system is a European creation so there will be some somewhere, though perhaps not in your area. It’s worth a bit of a look.

    In the meantime check out that Bargue video and keep practicing.

    • February 1, 2013

    Lovely, Roz. Something about it reminds me of Egon Schiele.

  4. Reply

    Thanks Liz, that’s very interesting. I wouldn’t have thought that, but then once you mentioned it now I can totally see that!

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